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Natural Path to Healthier Bones

If you can make healthy anti-inflammatory lifestyle changes along with having an astute integrative practitioner guiding you while you are being safely monitored by your regular doctor, you'll probably be happy with your bone health results in the next few years.
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Many people read the potential side effects of osteoporosis medications and end up coming to see me to see if there is anything they can do in a more "natural" way to help prevent bone loss. They frequently think of osteoporosis prevention in terms of using one or two supplements to achieve this goal. But, what I have seen in my clinic is that patients who achieve improvement or stabilization of bone density usually need to approach this health issue in a multifactorial approach.

Before I proceed further on this topic, as always, I always remind my readers that every patient case is different. Therefore, if you have osteoporosis and you are not sure of its severity or if you have concerns about your osteoporosis medication, you need to first approach your doctor about your concerns and have a thorough discussion of the pros and cons as well as your disease severity before trying to tackle your health issue on your own.

I am always firmly opposed to trying to treat your diseases on your own without a doctor's guidance... you should ALWAYS work in conjunction with your doctor so that you know you are helping your health in a safe and effective way.

If you feel that your doctor will not listen to you or won't help you address your desire in treating your diseases in an integrated way with lifestyle, vitamins, and conventional medicine, then it might be time to find a new physician... but you should always seek the advice and guidance of your doctor for your health concerns and therapeutic curiosities. This way, we can all feel better knowing you are being safely monitored.

Having said that, I want to touch on some more natural ways that patients can address their osteopenia or osteoporosis, because some patients do very well with an anti-inflammatory approach to bone health.

Some patients want to just maximize their calcium and vitamin D intake, while others are interested in having a discussion about potential benefits of specific supplements like strontium. Patients very seldom ask about are anti-inflammatory lifestyle and diet regimens in regards to osteoporosis. I think this is because it is infrequently discussed in the media or by physicians to their patients.

There are many things we do in an anti-inflammatory lifestyle regimen that can help with bone health. A diet rich in nuts, legumes, wide variety of vegetables and organic dairy can help with our bone health by decreasing inflammation and providing nutrients necessary for keeping our bone density strong. Similarly, a lifestyle of weight-bearing exercises on a very regular basis also help with our overall health, disease prevention, healthy weight management, as well as bone health.

Recently, I had a patient with osteoporosis whose bone density study showed a dramatic 5 percent improvement over the course of a year; that was purely based on improving her inflammatory status by providing her body with the fundamental building blocks it needed to function optimally. She initially came to see me for treatment of thyroid disease and chronic pain. Since her thyroid disease was autoimmune in nature and she has chronic pain, one of the main focuses of treatment was to decrease the inflammatory status in her body.

By using supplements and an anti-inflammatory diet, over the course of a year we were able to decrease her level of migraines, chronic pain, IBS symptoms, and significantly improve her bone density as well as lower her thyroid medication dosage since her own thyroid function improved as well.

Throughout that year, we worked on rebuilding her body's innate supply of vitamins and minerals necessary for ideal physiological functioning.

When we improved her IBS symptoms, she started absorbing her foods and supplements better as seen in her lab level improvements. The improvement in her thyroid function requiring less medication to achieve ideal levels also helped with her overall bone health. By lessening her chronic pain issues, she was able to be more active and thus able to perform more weight-bearing activities to help build bone. Through all this, we only utilized supplements and dietary changes along with helping the patient with her issues of anxiety and insomnia, such that her body is not as stressed and she is able to rest at nights and allow her body to heal.

The goal of this was to optimize the body's ability to naturally heal when given the foundational tools to do so. Most people are not thinking of these vitamins and minerals in our bodies as potent healing tools, but it is crucial to do so.

My clinical experience has shown me that, when provided with what it needs, our body's ability to heal frequently surpasses clinical expectations as to what it is able to do. The 5 percent improvement in bone density in all areas was much better than we had anticipated without prescription medication, yet that's what her body was capable of doing when given the right tools.

This is a great example of a patient where treatment of inflammation as a whole in the body may allow us to obtain much greater health benefits, above and beyond what our initial treatment goals may have been. I frequently explain to my patients that our body's ability to heal far exceeds what our expectations of it are. When given the right tools and the right balanced physiological environment, our bodies are naturally created in a way to heal every aspect that is off within the body.

The importance of this patient's story is that chronic inflammation in our body has far-reaching negative impacts, even more than we realize. We know that chronic inflammation affects a broad spectrum of disease states, including but are not limited to, neurodegenerative disease, autoimmune diseases, osteoporosis, hormonal imbalance, adrenal fatigue, chronic pain, and chronic fatigue, just to name a few. So it behooves us to always look for ways to live an anti-inflammatory lifestyle as much as possible to help keep diseases at bay.

So even though my goal wasn't initially to obtain such dramatic improvements in this patient's bone density, her body knew how to do it anyway without any specific instructions. All I had to do was provide her body with the optimal environment for healing, by decreasing the level of inflammation, and her body's natural healing ability did its job beautifully on its own... much more efficiently than any of us could have ever imagined.

If you are interested in this approach, you should see your doctor about it and then see an integrative medicine physician or naturopath who can help you with your supplement regimen that could include, but are not limited to ones like vitamin D, calcium, vitamin K, strontium, turmeric, resveratrol, and amino acids, just to name a few... and your regimen should be specific to you based on labs, not just some cookie cutter regimen used on everyone. You should make sure your physician or naturopath is checking labs and using supplements to treat deficiencies or imbalanced systems such as your sex hormones, thyroid or adrenal function.

If you can make healthy anti-inflammatory lifestyle changes along with having an astute integrative practitioner guiding you while you are being safely monitored by your regular doctor, you'll probably be happy with your bone health results in the next few years... best of luck to you!


Activation of the inducible nitric oxide synthase pathway contributes to inflammation-induced osteoporosis by suppressing bone formation and causing osteoblast apoptosis. Kenneth J. Armour1, Katharine E. Armour1, et al. Arthritis & Rheumatism. Volume 44, Issue 12, pages 2790-2796, December 2001.

For more by Julie Chen, M.D., click here.

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