Krista suffered from severe osteoporosis and bone loss for eight years. She is a certified nutritionist and published author.
Is Osteoporosis Inevitable?
Bone loss is a condition we've come to expect as we gracefully transition into our senior years. To get a diagnosis of osteoporosis, especially if we're female, just seems to go with the territory. There are few questions asked as to why it happens, or if we can reverse the damage. The treatments for bone loss range anywhere from medications and shots that claim to stop or reverse it, to cement injections and surgeries to repair it.
I'm going to dispel the myths and argue that not only can bone loss be stopped naturally, but we can reverse it with some easy changes.
Of course prevention is the number one way to put bone loss on the back burner. If we never get it, there's no need to worry about treating it. But let's face it, most of us aren't concerned with a problem until it's an actual problem, and with certain issues such as bone loss, many people think it's an irreversible condition they must endure and take medications for.
Osteoporosis and bone loss is NOT simply a condition of aging. Although some bone loss may be expected throughout our lives, there are causes that bring it to the point of becoming a disease.
What Is Osteoporosis?
According to WebMD, there are many factors in combination that can cause osteoporosis; such as low hormone levels, low calcium, low vitamin D, medication use, inactivity, smoking, other primary medical conditions, and alcohol use. In essence, a less-than-healthy life, or lifestyle.
Even if only a few factors are eliminated, a person can still recover from bone loss. I believe there are only two major factors that need to be changed in order to begin healing even if a person has every factor that the experts think contribute to it.
Bone Density Graph
My Experience With Osteoporosis
I developed severe osteoporosis during my month-long stint with radiation therapy to treat cancer. The pain and symptoms came fast and brutal, though it took over a year to get the correct diagnosis. By that time it was so severe I could barely walk, sit, or move without debilitating pain. The MRI showed small lines on the bones in my hips and pelvis that the doctor immediately thought was metatasis.
When my bone density scan came back as a -3.9 (about a 40% bone loss), he concluded that the lines were insufficiency fractures in the tailbone due to severe osteoporosis.
If you look at the bone density graph above, a -3.9 is nearly off the chart. He told me my spine was so brittle, bending over to pick something up could break it in half. He put me on a bone-building medication that I stopped taking a week after I started it. When I researched the possible side-effects, I didn't think it was worth the risk.
Next, a pain-management doctor wanted to inject cement into the fractures. I didn't see the point in that since the osteoporosis was everywhere and if they injected me with cement every time a fracture popped up, I'd eventually become a stone statue.
I was forty years old and had to be pushed around in a wheelchair if I wanted to go anywhere that required walking. I made the decision I wasn't going to live like that and put a plan into action.
My Treatment Plan
I started supplementing calcium, vitamin D3, and a slew of other vitamins and minerals, and even more importantly, added supplemental enzymes. Enzymes are the catalysts of life. Without them, life ceases to exist. I think many of us with health issues develop absorption problems and are unable to properly assimilate the nutrition we need. Pancreatic enzymes can help with that.
I want to add here that I only supplemented vitamins for a short time, about a year and a half, though I shouldn't have done it even that long. I found out that I'd been over-supplementing and had symptoms of an overdose. 10,000 IU's of D3 per day were recommended because I was so deficient, but they didn't tell me how long to do it. That dose shouldn't have been taken for more than a few months.
Supplements have to be taken with great consideration and I would not recommend anyone take them unless there is a deficiency in something, and then monitored closely. Once the deficiency is gone, supplements should no longer be taken. Instead, a change in diet is in order to keep from becoming deficient again. Vitamin D3 is easy to get. Simply sit out in the sunshine for fifteen minutes.
I also began walking. At first I could only do laps around the house, but eventually I could walk around the block and gradually worked my way up to being able to sustain Zumba classes. It took a long time, and the insufficiency fractures still came and went, but after seven years of regular exercising five days per week, my MRI's started coming back with "normal" bone results. I could feel calcium deposits covering the bone in my pelvis and upper back, so the bone was definitely regenerating itself. I still have severe pain in the affected areas, but the doctor's think it's neuropathy from the nerve damage the chemo treatments caused.
Calcium. With calcium, most animal foods; particularly dairy products, should be limited or eliminated altogether from the diet. PCRM.org reports that animal protein is more likely to leach calcium from the bones where it is excreted through the urine rather than store it in the bones where it can be used to build new cells. There are studies to suggest that the more dairy a person consumes, the more likely they'll get a bone fracture (PCRM.org/health/health-topics/calcium-and-strong-bones). I only eat real cheese on special occasions, and never have it in my house. The vegan cheeses they have nowadays are so good, a person would hardly miss the real thing. They can be found in nearly every grocery store, though you may have to ask where they keep them (typically they're in the produce aisle, or wherever they keep the alternative (fake) deli meat), but all health food stores have them and the prices are pretty comparable.
Unsweetened almond milk in place of cow's milk is my favorite alternative, but there are other good milks made from rice, hemp, and oats, too. They're just as thick and milky as cow's milk, but they're lacking hormones, antibiotics, and mucous, and they'll only add to your calcium stores, not deplete them.
Fish is the only meat I think is healthy for humans to consume, but that can have it's own health risks due to environmental contaminants. It seems there are many different opinions on which fish are safest to eat. I try and stick with wild-caught salmon, tilapia, and canned tuna. Some sites say these are safe fish, and others say they're not. Just do your research and use your best judgement.
Our bodies are comprised primarily of fluid. Without water, our bodies would dry up and become little more than dust. I drink at least eight ounces of water eight times per day. In order to monitor how much I'm drinking, I use a 64 ounce portable water jug and drink throughout the day until it's empty at night. This may cause someone to urinate continually during the night, but my body eventually got used to it and I rarely have to go in the middle of the night anymore. If this is a big concern, try to finish off all your water earlier in the day.
As I mentioned above, exercise is the other important factor in bone regeneration and may be the most important for some of us. High-impact cardio that drives stored calcium into the bones is very important to bone regeneration. It's my opinion that running isn't the best way to exercise as it's very hard on the joints and can cause someone who's already unsteady on their feet to fall and break something. Moderate to brisk walking will offer more benefits than risks, but even a leisurely walk will give a person some very beneficial impact. I lightly stamp my feet during part of my walk to help drive the calcium home. If walking is difficult, start slowly and build up until walking can be achieved. A little self-pushing is good, just try to learn your limits so you don't injure yourself. I re-fractured my tailbone many times by testing my threshold, but I never let myself give up. I started over again if I needed a week or so to heal. If walking is impossible, I suggest using a physical therapist to aid in getting some higher impact exercise.
According to a publication by Dr. Mercola, weight-bearing exercise is an excellent activity to incorporate as well. It builds muscle and creates blood flow which promotes new cell growth in the bones. The latter article offers a lot of great information on the subject of bone loss.
My Bone Health Today
I've had several falls over the past couple of years since I typically lose the feeling in one of my legs due to neuropathy. I come out of them banged up and sometimes bloody, but I haven't broken a single bone. I achieved bone regeneration and healing, even though I had gone through menopause and continued to smoke. Any drastic change in lifestyle is challenging for just about anyone, but changing just a few things at a time can be easy and rewarding.
No matter what our age or health situation, there are things we can do to improve our bone health without harmful medications that only add to our list of issues. Our bodies are biological machines that have evolved over millennia into the amazing, disease-curing factories that they are. All we have to do is give them the "correct" tools they need, and they'll do the rest on their own.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Jeanne on November 30, 2018:
For those with osteoperosis or osteopenia, please have the calcium level in your blood serum checked. If your levels are high (10.3 or higher), please see an endocrinologist for hyperparathyroid or parathyroid hyperplasia. This disease causes the parathyroid (which regulates the calcium levels in the bloodstream) to malfunction, literally sucking the calcium from our bones.
The cure is a relatively simple surgery to remove the diseased parathyroid glands. This condition is often missed by primary care physicians, so self advocacy and awareness is key.
Krista D'Ambroso (author) from California on October 24, 2018:
Pamela, I feel your pain! It was very difficult for me to get started in the beginning because of that very thing...pain, but I started very slowly and very methodically; careful not to injure myself further. When the doctor told me that bending forward to pick something up could snap my spine, I treated myself with the utmost of care. I never did anything that made me feel like I could "snap" my spine, but I still did some bending and stretching exercises while in bed that were very controlled. I highly recommend you see a physical therapist, or have one come out to your house if your insurance provider will pay, or if you can afford it. They'll teach you some basic techniques that you can build upon over time. Strangely enough, exercise and stretching can alleviate pain. I'm so happy my article has helped! Much luck and the best of health to you!
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 20, 2018:
I have severe osteoporosis due to prednisone treatment for lupus. I am taking a prescription along with calcium and vitamin D3 as they work together.
I eat heathy foods with lots of vegetables and fruits, but have trouble with exercise. I have had 2 back surgeries that have left me in pain and with one numb leg, so it is difficult. I really appreciate all the information I read in your article.
Krista D'Ambroso (author) from California on August 08, 2018:
Hello Toni! I hope that osteoarthritis is not the case for you, but whether it is, or isn't, I highly recommend beginning a muscle-toning regime as soon as possible. Building muscle is crucial for bone health, particularly in women as we age. I have also had problems in my groin area from the insufficiency fractures I used to get. I don't get them there anymore, and it's primarily from walking two miles every day, stretching the areas very gently, and building the muscles with daily leg lifts. I would consult with a physical therapist or personal trainer who can teach you a series of exercises for that particular area of your body. I also radically changed my diet and eat plant-based, only. If you can't do total plant-based, I recommend cutting dairy out of your diet at the very least; primarily milk and cheese. There are great alternatives on the market such as almond milks and plant-based cheeses by companies such as Follow Your Heart, and Daiya (these can be found at Sprouts, or most health food markets). Please feel free to ask anything else. I'm easier to get a hold of on my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MetastaticColorectalCance... The myth that milk is good for bones is completely untrue and in fact does more harm than anything. Please use the PCRM website for further information about diet and bone health. I wish you all the best, and perfect health! Krista
Toni Merritt on August 02, 2018:
I been having pain my groin area, we think it may be osteoarthritis, just had x-ray done. (There may be some cartilage lost on the bone). Have not gotten the results back yet, if that's it what do you suggest?
Krista D'Ambroso (author) from California on March 20, 2017:
Oh, to answer the other part of your question, Megha, high impact exercise was the best thing I did to improve my bone health. It took me a while to build up to it, and during that time I juiced a lot with raw, organic vegetables, and supplemented calcium and D3. Eventually I stopped getting tailbone fractures as I developed calcification in the fractures. I've recently found out that my upper body is beginning to suffer from insufficiency fractures in my ribs because I haven't been taking care to exercise my upper body this past year. I started doing high impact dance (Zumba), which is working on my core as well as everywhere else. I also started juicing and eating mushrooms and eggs again to make sure I'm getting all the nutrients my body needs to repair my bones. I haven't had another fracture in over two months, so hopefully it's working. I truly hope you're able to get yourself back to good bone health. It's a lot of work, but very worth it in the end!
Krista D'Ambroso (author) from California on March 20, 2017:
Hi Megha! I don't recommend anyone take a supplement unless they're deficient in a particular vitamin or mineral, and then only for a short time until the levels have normalized, and the diet changed to keep up the levels. I took high doses of D3 with calcium when I found out I was deficient in D3. I believe it's an important vitamin for bone regeneration as well as other vital functions. Just be careful with it; make sure it's a good source (I recommend Garden of Life), and take it with a good source of calcium. It's possible to overdose on it, so be careful and have your doctor request to have your levels checked and if it the supplements will have any negative interactions with meds you may be taking. D3 is not included in a regular blood test, so your doctor has to request it. Once your levels are normal, you can keep the number stable by getting plenty of sunshine and eating mushrooms after you've set them in the sun for a while. Other D3 rich foods are fatty fish and eggs. I hope this helps!
Megha on March 19, 2017:
If the cartilage and bones are damaged, can they regrow with vitamin d3 high doses?
Please explain whole experience of recovery asap.