9 Alternative medicines for osteoporosis

The decrease in bone density and the thinning of the tissues which comprise the bone is called osteoporosis. Because of osteoporosis the risk of fracture in the bones increases. The disease alters the micro architecture of the bone in an adverse way and the variety and amount of protein in bones also gets affected.

Factors which can contribute positively towards causing osteoporosis are low calcium diet, hormone deficiency (in women), a diet with low amount of calcium, smoking, no exercise and certain medications.

The risks of osteoporosis can increase with age and can be reduced by medications and lifestyle changes. The alternative medicines and therapies are also available for osteoporosis. These include dietary changes, nutritional therapy, Ayurvedic therapy and Chinese therapy.

1. Vitamin D

Vitamin can be beneficial in treating or preventing osteoporosis. Vitamin D helps in better absorption of calcium in the body which in turn helps in increasing bone strength. The vitamin also helps to prevent loss of calcium through urine. Spending time in sun can be beneficial for the body as the body can synthesize vitamin D in the presence of sunshine (sun rays are also called sunshine vitamin). A fifteen minutes exposure to the sun rays twice a week is sufficient to produce the optimum amount of vitamin D which the body stores for use. Sunscreens can hinder the production of sun rays and therefore should be avoided during those 15 minutes (the sunscreens can be used at other times once the necessary sun exposure of the skin has been done). There are some groups who will need longer duration of exposure. These groups include those who are above the age of 65 years, people with dark skin, people who are obese or overweight, people who always apply sunscreen when they are outside their home and people who live on the higher altitudes in the northern region (during the winter months).

2. Herbal medicine

There are certain herbs which have effects similar to that of estrogen are useful in treating osteoporosis as they can offer protection against bone loss. They can also have some risks associated with them which are similar to estrogen and therefore should be taken only on doctor’s advise. The herb black cohosh is found in two forms with botanical names Cimicifuga Racemosa and Actaea Racemosa. The herb has varying degree of effectiveness in relieving menopausal symptoms. By its actions, the herb does not appear to increase the risk of breast cancer in women like supplemental estrogen does. Isoflavones which are extracted form the herb red clover (botanical name trifolium pratense) can slow the rate of loss of bones in women. More tests are being conducted to measure the effectiveness of the drug. Other herbs which can prove effective in treating osteoporosis are:

1. Oat straw (Botanical name Avena Sativa): this herb can stimulate cell growth by enhancing hormone growth in the body.

2. Kelp (Botanical name Fucus vesiculosus): has been found to be effective in musculoskeletal disorders. These herbs are also rich in minerals and can help in treating osteoporosis.

3. Horsetail ( Botanical name Equisetum arvense): this herb contains the mineral silicon which can enhance the strength of the bones.

3. Fruits and vegetables

You can improve your bone health by feeding on fruits and vegetables. They contain important minerals like magnesium, potassium and vitamin K which can help you treat or prevent osteoporosis. Some studies have revealed that eating of potassium rich fruits and vegetables can help in lowering the risk of fracture in old people. The precursors of the bicarbonate ions care found in high amounts in fruits and vegetables. These precursors are helpful in conserving calcium in the bones.

4. Calcium

The body requires calcium for building bones. Different age groups of people have different daily calcium requirements. For children, it is 800 to 1200 mg daily, for adolescent girls it is 120 to 1500 mg per day, for premenopausal women (in the age group of 19 to 50 years) it is around 1000 mg per day and for adults between the age group of 51 to 70 years, it is 1200 to 1500 mg per day. Older women should have 1500 mg of calcium each day. Those women who are on estrogen require only 1000 mg of calcium a day. Calcium can be obtained in adequate amounts from; the low fat dairy products like yogurt, milk and cheese; from dark green and leafy vegetables like spinach, collard green and broccolli and from other food products like almonds, tofu and salmon.

5. Vitamin K

Vitamin K is essential for bone metabolism. It acts as a co-factor for carboxylase activity and as a facilitator in the conversion of glutamyl to the residues of gamma carboxyglutamyl. It also helps is synthesis and excretion of osteoclacin that increases bone formation. Vitamin K can increase the bone mineral density on those people who are osteoporotic. Its deficiency can cause loss in bone density which can result in fractures. Vegetable oils like canola and soybean oils, green leafy vegetables, cheese meat and fermented products such as natto are good sources of vitamin K.

6. Strontium

Strontium, a component of bone, can be helpful in preventing osteoporosis. It is required only in small amounts (1-3 mg/day) and is contained in food products like fish, Brazil nuts, parsley, mollasses and lettuce.

7. Isoflavones

Isoflavones come in the category of phytoestrogens. They are basically the plant chemicals which exert effects that are similar to estrogen. Therefore, they can save bone less in the same way as estrogens do. The soy flavones might not give the adverse effects of supplemental estrogen when they are taken as part of diet. Some food products that can provide you soy flavones are soybeans, soy milk and tofu. Those who have a medical history of having cancers that are related to hormones should consult their doctors before consuming soy.

8. Omega 3 fatty acids

Foods that contain the essential fatty acids can increase the bone mass or maintain it at optimum levels and can be beneficial in curing osteoporosis. These fatty acids can improve the bone structure of the human body in many ways. They can give more strength to the bones, can lower the amount of calcium that gets lost while urination, can increase the absorption of calcium in the body and can enhance the growth of the bones and cartilages in the body. Food products like fish (including cold water fish salmon), nuts, chicken and salad dressings can be a good sources of omega 3 fatty acids.

9. Juices

Orange juice can provide you good amounts of calcium and vitamin C which can aid the process of rebuilding of bones. Vitamin C also helps in prevention of osteoporosis and is essential in this regard. The calcium fortified orange juices can provide you healthy nutrients for bone building. Pine apple juice can provide you manganese, a mineral whose deficiency predicts osteoporosis. Nuts, beans, cereals, tea ,spinach and oatmeal are also a source of manganese.

Excess vitamin A consumption; excess protein consumption; consumption of caffeine, sodium (in the form of salt) and refined sugar; smoking of cigarettes, alcoholism etc. can aggravate osteoporosis, can cause bone loss and therefore should be avoided. Eating of food that has high amounts of iron, zinc, fiber and unsaturated fats can lower the amount of calcium absorption in the digestive tract. You should also consult your doctor which foods to include in the daily diet so as to make it more efficient in fighting osteoporosis.

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