Get phytoestrogens from herbs. Several medicinal herbs contain phytoestrogens that can help prevent osteoporosis. Among them are Chinese angelica (dang gui), licorice, and black cohosh. Dr. Pizzorno suggests taking 1 teaspoon of each daily in tincture form.
Quit smoking. Compared with women who don’t smoke, those who do typically have 15 to 30 percent less bone mass.
Watch the alcohol. Alcohol has been associated with an increased risk of hip fracture, because drinking to the point of intoxication makes hip-fracturing falls more likely. But a little alcohol does not appear to increase risk of osteoporosis. Alcohol contains phytoestrogens that help prevent osteoporosis.
Can the colas. Two studies show a link between cola soft drinks and osteoporosis. Carbonated beverages other than colas showed only a slight association with fractures. Christiane Northrup, M.D., founder of the Women to Women health center in Yarmouth, Maine, and past president of the American Holistic Medical Association, urges women to avoid colas.
Be careful with caffeine. Caffeine increases calcium excretion. “But any increase in risk from consuming a few cups of coffee a day can be overcome by taking extra calcium;” says Alan Gaby, M.D.
Other Good Choices
Count on Calcarea phos. Homeopaths prescribe several medicines to prevent and treat osteoporosis. But according to homeopath Dana Ullman, the primary medicine is Calcarea phosphorica. He recommends taking it for 3 to 5 days every month, in consultation with a homeopath.
Strengthen your Kidney. Practitioners of Chinese medicine attribute osteoporosis to a decline in Kidney qi, says Efrem Korngold, O.M.D., L.Ac.” Bones are ruled by the Kidney, and when the Kidney declines, the bones weaken. You treat osteoporosis by strengthening the Kidney.”
Dr. Korngold prescribes herb formulas that contain drynaria root. The Chinese name for drynaria means “strengthen bone.” One of Dr. Korngold’s favorite formulas contains a combination of drynaria, Chinese angelica (dang gui), ginseng, astragalus, rehmannia root, poria fungus, and several other herbs.
Stimulate points to stop bone loss. Acupuncture treatment can help treat osteoporosis, Dr. Korngold says. If you’re interested in trying acupuncture, you need to consult a professional acupuncturist. If you prefer a self-care approach, try acupressure instead. Apply steady, penetrating finger pressure for 3 minutes to each of the following points.
- Kidney, located in the hollow between your Achilles tendon and the inside of your anklebone
- Spleen, located four finger-widths above your inner anklebone on the back inner border of your shinbone
Open up to sesame. Sesame seeds are remarkably high in calcium. One cup contains 900 milligrams of the mineral. Vasant Lad, B.A.M.S., M.A.Sc., director of the Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico, suggests eating a handful of sesame seeds each day. The seeds make an excellent garnish for salads and fruit and vegetable dishes.
These days, you don’t have to wait until you break a bone or shrink a few inches to find out that you have osteoporosis. Doctors have several noninvasive ways to diagnose the disease. Chief among these diagnostic techniques is dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA), an x-ray exam of your spine or hip that allows your doctor to calculate your bone mineral density. Other similar exams xray your forearm.
There are three drugs approved for prevention of osteoporosis: estrogen (premarin), alendronate (Fosamax), and raloxifene (Evista). And three are approved to treat it: estrogen, alendronate, and calcitonin (Miacalcin).
If you take estrogen, be sure to keep consuming calcium. In an analysis of 31 studies, Columbia University researchers discovered that compared with women who took estrogen and consumed less than 600 milligrams of calcium a day from food and supplements, those who took the hormone and consumed about 1,200 milligrams of calcium showed almost triple the bone mass.
If you opt for drug treatment, make sure that you understand how to take your medication and all the possible side effects that your treatment may cause.