Osteoporosis or low bone density is an ailment suffered by 55% of women and men in the USA over the age of 50. Women are six times more likely to be affected than men by this disease. Osteoporosis occurs mostly in individuals between the ages of 50 to 75 years and therefore mostly in postmenopausal women. While there are other groups and ages diagnosed with osteoporosis, the main age affected is 50 plus and the main cause in postmenopausal women comes from a lack of oestrogen.
Why this Happens
Bones contain minerals which make them hard and dense. Important to strong bones is an adequate supply of calcium and other minerals such as phosphorus, an adequate amount of hormones such as parathyroid hormone, growth hormone, calcitonin, and oestrogen in women and testosterone in men. Vitamin D is also essential as it helps the body absorb calcium from food and direct it to the bones. Weight bearing exercise is also important to maintain bone density. It stands to reason that an improper diet, lack of exercise, smoking and excess alcohol are all detrimental to bone strength. Certain drugs can also put you more at risk such ad corticosteroids, some medicine that treats epilepsy, heparin, chemotherapy drugs and antacids that contain aluminum.
There are a number of supplements that can help with the prevention of osteoporosis. Calcium and Vitamin D are two I recommend. If you have osteoporosis I recommend 500mg three times a day. For prevention up to 500mg twice a day. Do not take the daily dose in one single intake as our body only has the ability to absorb a certain amount of calcium at one time. Vitamin D is also beneficial in the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis. I recommend between 400-800 IU in order to increase the uptake of calcium from the intestine.
Osteoporosis from a TCM standpoint
The three main organs involved include the Kidney, Liver and the Spleen. Kidney Jing, our Essence, is vital for strong bones, the Liver stores blood, the Spleen produces blood. As a therapist my aim is to nourish the Kidney Jing and Liver Blood to strengthen the bones and increase bone density. The Spleen is often the first organ system that becomes affected at the onset of the disease as blood production starts to become depleted. Therefore the treatment plan encompasses tonifying the Spleen Qi (energy), and nourishing Kidneys Jing and Liver Blood.
Chinese Herbal Formulas
There are many Chinese herbal formulas which include herbs that increase the utilization of calcium, thereby strengthening the bones, preventing fractures and promoting healing. Certain herbs like Lu Rong, and Gui Ban are directly related to helping with the integrity of the bones. They are both rich in calcium and magnesium which are essential for bone health. Lu Rong has also been used for centuries to regulate growth and maturation. Other herbs used include Gou Qi Zi (Go Ji Berries) and Xu Duan which have a synergistic effect in the treatment of bone fractures and soft tissue damage.
Diet is very important in ensuring strong bones, as well as mild exercise, weight management and ensuring a clean lifestyle. In order to support the prevention of osteoporosis I recommend calcium and Vitamin D supplements and Chinese medicine herbs and acupuncture. Avoid drugs and alcohol where possible and exercise outdoors so as to top up on some natural Vitamin D.