is the slow, gradual thinning and weakening of bones.
It begins to develop many years before loss of height, curvature of the
spine, and fractured bones. These fractures occur in the spine, ankles, hip,
wrists, arms and legs. Researchers have established that proper nutrition and
weight-bearing exercises are successful in preventing osteoporosis and sometimes
in reversing it.
is estimated that 15 to 20 million people in the United States are afflicted
with osteoporosis. Most of those
afflicted are postmenopausal women and about 50% of those afflicted get bone
fractures. Men are rarely affected
because of a greater life-long bone density.
factors contribute to osteoporosis. Among
those well known are zinc, calcium and magnesium imbalance; heredity (especially
prone are tall, thin, blue-eyed women); poor diet; lack of exercise; smoking;
alcohol; coffee; prescription drugs (especially cortisone, prednisone and their
relatives); over-the-counter pain relievers; oral contraceptives; not enough
sunlight; too many vitamin supplements, especially Vitamins A and D; aluminum or
phosphate baking powders; anorexia nervosa; diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and
other bone diseases; sedentary lifestyle or periods of enforced bed-rest; long
use of aluminum antacids such as Amphogel, Mylanta, Maalox, Aludrox, Gelusil;
possibly aluminum deodorants, aluminum cookware and cans used in canned foods
and sodas, and excessive athletic or dance training.
constantly undergoes a process of remodeling.
Vertical bone growth ends at approximately age 18, but bone continues to
increase in mass for 10-15 years longer, until about the age of 35, when peak
bone mass is reached. After peak
bone mass is achieved, age-related bone loss begins to occur, slowly at first,
but faster after menopause. About 1% average bone loss per year occurs from age
35 on resulting in 20% already lost by age 55.
childhood through adolescence, skeletal mineral demands for bone formation are
at their highest. A high protein, high sugar, fat and salt diet; and physical
inactivity during these bone-forming years can reduce bone density and lay the
foundation for osteoporosis in later years. When peak bone mass is reached at
age 35, the larger the bone mass, the less risk of developing osteoporosis.
women who have been pregnant have greater bone density than women who have never
borne children. Calcium regulating
hormones occur in greater quantities during pregnancy in preparation for
the first years after menopause, the skeleton undergoes a period of more rapid
mineral loss, and then tapers off to a slower, but constant loss. Osteoporosis
may begin with no outward signs or physical sensations.
Major changes in bone can occur before any pain is felt. Therefore, in
early menopause measures should be taken to prevent humpback and broken bones.
work in middle age predisposes a person, male or female, to hip fractures in
later life. Illness, surgery or injuries requiring immobilization for long
periods will also affect bone density, especially in older people.
Without regular exercise, bone density decreases and muscles become weak,
leading to falls and fractures. A
good conditioning program should be maintained throughout life, and especially
if work requires one to be seated most of the time.
Osteoporosis can be a doctor-induced disease.
Several drugs are now known to be implicated in osteoporosis:
Corticosteroids are famous for this (cortisone, predisone and all related
steroids), thyroid hormone supplements such as thyroxine, isoniazid for
tuberculosis, antibiotics especially tetracycline and its derivatives,
tranquilizers and psychotropic drugs such as anti-depressants.
This list will most likely increase as more cases of osteoporosis appear
and more research is done. It is
also important to beware of new drugs claiming to treat osteoporosis, because
certain “miracle” drugs have actively increased the risk of developing this
is often prescribed to prevent osteoporosis. But there are many problems with
synthetic estrogen. It can cause
breast cancer and can worsen other cancers. It can cause endometriosis and
certain blood-clotting conditions. It can also increase the risk of death from
heart disease. Centers for Disease
Control published in 1991 their evaluation of estrogen use for five years. Women
had a measurable increase in incidence of cancer. If they used estrogen for 15
years, they had a 30% increased incidence of cancer over the non-estrogen user.
Because of the side effects of estrogen, physicians have tried using
progesterone along with estrogen in the hope of preventing some of the problems.
But progesterone carries risks of gall bladder disease, certain cancers,
hypertension and heart disease. And
according to recent research, the bone-building qualities of estrogen appear to
be minimal and short-lived, and after 9-15 months of using this drug, bone
density may actually begin to decrease. The only time it is probably helpful is
between the ages of 50 and 55, according to osteoporosis expert Dr. C. Conrad
Johnston of Indiana University Medical School.
Fluoride is another drug prescribed to slow down bone loss.
But any beneficial effects are accompanied by serious side effects in the
stomach and joints. Furthermore, broken bones have been found to increase among
patients treated with fluoride.
intake is promoted by the dairy industry as the primary factor in osteoporosis.
Advertising campaigns have been designed to persuade us that taking calcium
supplements and drinking and eating dairy products are absolutely necessary for
bone growth. But research has
proven that supplementing calcium beyond what the body needs does nothing to
promote new bone growth. Calcium carbonate supplements (Tums) have been found to
actually suppress bone growth.
Because dairy products are high in protein, salt, fat and phosphates, they may
actually interfere with the retention of calcium stores and cause more calcium
to be lost than saved when they are used in the large amounts usually promoted
by the dairy industry. High levels of protein make an acid condition in the
blood, tax the organs which must eliminate the excess, and trigger loss of
calcium from the bones. The kidneys
have to excrete the excess and the wastes left over from metabolism, increasing
the risks of developing kidney disease. The calcium excess from so much dairy
products may form kidney stones. This process of calcium loss due to dairy
consumption is not reserved for those over 35 who have reached peak bone mass
and are experiencing age-related bone loss.
Even younger people who consume a great deal of dairy have been found to
have thinning bones. As dairy consumption in a population goes up, so does
osteoporosis. Note the chart below on hip fractures.
studies of the Chinese, it has been found that although the Chinese consume half
the amount of calcium Americans do, osteoporosis is uncommon in China.
Most Chinese people eat no dairy products, 1/3
the amount of fat and twice the complex carbohydrates as Americans.
They eat 20% more calories, but Americans are 25% more overweight.
The average Chinese diet consists of 7% protein from animals; Americans
consume 70% protein from animals!
of Vitamins & Minerals:
As more studies are being conducted, there is continued evidence that it is the
proper intake and combined use of many foods containing different vitamins and
minerals that protect one from osteoporosis, not just calcium intake. Vitamins
A, C, and D, plus the B vitamins and K, all combine in the growth, repair and
maintenance functions in the body. Magnesium,
Manganese, Folic Acid, Boron, Strontium, Calcium, Silicon, Zinc, Copper, and
Iron all help keep the body in a positive state of balance.
Taking heavy supplements, especially of vitamins A and D, can damage the
delicate balance in the body, burdening the organs.
D enables the body to absorb calcium, but too much synthetic vitamin D can cause
heart problems. Low blood levels of
vitamin C have been found in people with hip fractures, even when hipbone
calcium quantities were the same as those people without fractures.
Vitamin C promotes connective tissue in bone.
It is on this framework of tissue that bone-hardening calcium is laid.
Without adequate supplies of vitamin C, bones cannot utilize calcium.
All these vitamins and minerals can be obtained in the right quality and
quantity from food and sunlight.
The typical western diet of refined foods, meat, dairy products, eggs, sugar,
alcohol and coffee does not adequately supply our vitamin and mineral needs. Our
weight-reducing diets are deficient in many essential nutrients.
like dairy products, has too much protein for the body to utilize efficiently.
When we eat meat, an acid, high-phosphorus condition is created in the
blood. Phosphorus is absorbed more
easily than calcium, has a seesaw relationship with calcium and forces calcium
down when it goes up, and can accelerate bone loss.
The acid condition can dissolve calcium from the bones. If a high protein
diet is consumed, it is impossible to maintain a positive calcium balance
regardless of the amount of calcium taken in.
Iron and zinc are also lost when a high protein diet is eaten. Some
researchers believe zinc to be even more important than calcium in maintaining
strong bones. Other foods high in phosphorus and best avoided are: sodas,
instant soups, some gelatins, snacks (like pork rinds), baking powder and dish
detergent (if not thoroughly rinsed off dishes can also be a source of excess
much salt interferes with calcium absorption and increases calcium loss.
Sugars, including white sugar, syrups, honey and malt cause calcium to be
lost. Caffeine and other
methylxanthines, as found in coffee, colas, tea and chocolate, blocks calcium
absorption from our food. Drinking 2-4 cups of coffee a day for a 15 year period
can set the stage for developing osteoporosis.
The same is true for alcoholic drinks.
Tobacco has been found to alter natural estrogen metabolism and
accelerate bone loss. Smoking
causes about 1% bone calcium loss per year occurring from less than a pack per
day. Cancer, heart disease, and diabetes can all
promote osteoporosis, and all have dietary causes.
is to a great degree a total dietary problem, not merely a calcium problem.
Our bodies can adapt to a reduction in calcium intake by increasing the
efficiency of intestinal calcium absorption.
Usually only about 30% of the calcium we eat is absorbed. But when needed
we can double or nearly triple the absorption. If we choose to eat a balanced
vegetarian diet, we can prevent, and in many instances partially reverse
osteoporosis. Studies done to compare bone density in meat eaters and
vegetarians, found that vegetarians had greater bone densities than meat eaters,
even though the quantity of bone calcium was lower in the vegetarians.
Those vegetarians who reach approximately 69 years of age, appear to
suffer no further decline in bone density, whereas in meat eaters, bone loss
Most mistakenly believe that the loss of natural estrogen during menopause,
either natural menopause or surgical, is the most important factor leading to
osteoporosis. Against the estrogen
theory being an important factor is the generally observed development of strong
bones in little girls who have even less estrogen than post menopausal women.
But, if for many years a woman has been eating and drinking foods that
contribute to bone loss, by the time estrogen production declines, her bones
have already been weakened by a poor diet.
Whereas, if a woman has been
eating healthful, whole vegetarian foods, staying away from harmful foods, and
engaging in regular exercise, by the time she reaches menopause, her bones are
most likely in a strong state of health. Even
when a radiologist judges a vegetarian woman’s bones to be thin, she will
rarely suffer a fracture.
There are certain plant foods that contain plant sterols similar to
natural estrogen. We recommend
emphasizing them in the diet. Whole, vegetarian foods are higher in
carbohydrates and lower in protein than animal-based foods. The most favorable
diet to prevent or treat osteoporosis is a totally vegetarian diet. The foods
that are known to be rich in estrogen-like sterols are: whole grains, seeds,
soybeans, calabar beans, peanuts, coconut, most nuts and seeds, beets, brussels
sprouts, carrots, corn, okra, radish greens, beans, barley and pea sprouts,
yams, apples, cherries, figs, olives, plums, strawberries and herbs like
alfalfa, anise seed, garlic, licorice root, oregano, parsley, and sage.
canned, and frozen foods should be avoided when fresh food is available, as they
are often deficient in nutrients and loaded with bone-robbing salt, fat or
sugar. There are many cookbooks available today to teach you how to prepare
natural foods in a variety of interesting, delicious ways.
foods supplying calcium in adequate quantities so that questionable dairy
products or calcium supplements will be unnecessary include most seeds; greens
like spinach, kale, mustard, cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts and celery;
carrots; green peas; green snap beans; oatmeal; cream of wheat; cashews;
almonds; dried fruits; lentils; lima beans; soybeans and soybean products like
and seaweeds have been reported to help re-mineralize bones.
It was once thought that bones could not be recalcified, but it is now
recognized that sometimes calcium can be replaced in the bones.
Starting with a mild variety of seaweed, like Arame, is a good way to
begin to get used to this new taste. Nori
comes in dark green dried sheets. Seaweeds can be purchased in health food
stores or Oriental groceries. Most
have to be soaked and cooked, but Dulse and Seapalm can be eaten right out of
the bag. Nori can also be eaten
straight from the bag or lightly toasted until it turns a beautiful green.
Vegetables can be added to a seaweed dish or seaweed can be added to
cooking beans, greens or pasta or crumbled over cooked dishes.
Care should be taken to rinse the extra salt off the saltier varieties.
every plant food contains protein, human needs are provided by a vegetarian
diet. Fresh cabbage has more
protein per unit volume than whole milk. Rice,
corn, fruit, wheat flour, dried beans and peas supply enough usable protein to
safely maintain our health. By
eating a variety of whole foods, all vitamin and mineral needs are met, without
burdening the body with toxic excess that creates disease.
B-12, which is a cause of great concern to people considering a vegetarian diet,
can be maintained in the body without supplements for 3 to 5 years.
Dark, leafy green vegetables, olives, seaweed, wheat, fruit, soybeans and
root vegetables are at times vegetarian sources of B-12, but cannot be counted
on as the B-12 is not always present in or on these foods. A constant
source is the bacteria growing in or on the body. The only known available
source of B-12 is germs. B-12 is
present in or on any food only by contamination from germs. Most people get
enough B-12 from the germs in the mouth, eyes, tonsils, esophagus and upper
stomach. The same type person who tends to get osteoporosis also tends to get
B-12 deficient-tall, blue-eyed, thin and over 50 years old.
D, which is needed to absorb calcium and phosphorus into the bones, is not found
in food. The safest source is
sunlight. Being in the sun for 15
minutes a day is enough to ensure an adequate supply of Vitamin D.
It can be stored several months. Vitamin C is best obtained from fresh
fruits and vegetables.
long-term studies, researchers have found that regular participation in
weight-bearing exercise, leads to a significant increase in bone mineral
content. In many instances,
osteoporosis can be improved. The
more active we are, the thicker our bones grow.
There is a connection between muscle strength and bone density.
When we move our muscles, the pull of muscles on bones and the jolting of
exercise, encourages the bones to absorb more calcium.
to be effective in maintaining bone density and overall fitness, needs to be
undertaken at all stages of life; from childhood on through advancing age.
People who are just beginning to show signs of osteoporosis can prevent
its progression by adding an exercise program to their daily schedule. This is
as important as beginning a new eating program.
Healing is slow and gradual, and takes place over the course of many
months and possibly years. Once
osteoporosis has developed to the point of a high fracture rate, extreme care
must be taken when initiating exercise, because even small body stresses can
concern is exercising too much. Excessive
exercise, such as the kind of training needed to participate in marathon running
or professional dancing, can cause painful heels, shin splints, headaches, blood
in the urine, irregular or stopped menstruation.
It can also cause bones to become thin and weak.
This type of osteoporosis has been found in women as young as 25 years.
and enjoyment are the keys to a beneficial exercise program.
The amount of exercise will vary with each person depending on the
overall health. Walking is good for a start, then aerobics, cycling, and
purposeful labor are good weight-bearing activities.
Swimming is not a good weight-bearing exercise because water reduces the
effect of gravity and there is less weight demand put on muscles and bones. This
kind of exercise is good for advanced osteoporosis. Stretching is also good for
muscles and bones and helps prevent humpback.
slowly and increase your time weekly, until you’re exercising two hours per
day. Then decide if you want to add
more vigorous exercise, depending on your condition.
Books in libraries and book stores teach different types of exercise,
from easy stretching, to the most demanding labor. Warm up slowly each exercise
period or you can get muscle and tendon strains.
Cool down slowly for a few minutes before sitting or lying down to
prevent heart and lung congestion.
is more prevalent in countries where the standard American diet and beverages
are used (see first paragraph) and sedentary lifestyles are common.
Drugs and calcium supplements have been shown to have little to no effect
on progressive bone deterioration and they may cause more difficulties than they
are trying to prevent.
Eat a diet providing not only calcium but also zinc and magnesium
Avoid alcohol, tobacco, coffee and its brown relatives
Avoid drugs as much as possible as many cause osteoporosis, especially aluminum
Prevent anorexia nervosa and bulemia, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis if possible
5. Avoid acid forming foods such as vinegar, animal products; baking powder; and foods high in sugar, salt or fat
Be physically active from the cradle to the grave
Avoid the high risks listed
Carper, Jean, “Food Pharmacy,” The Atlanta Journal and Constitution,
Glassburn, Vicki, Who Killed Candida?,
Teach Services, 1991
Palm Beach Post, 1990
Yeater, Rachel A. PhD; Martin,Bruce R. PhD, “Senile Osteoporosis,” Post
Graduate Medicine, 1984
Gerber, N.J., Rey, B., “Can
Exercise Prevent Osteoporosis?,” British
Journal of Rheumatology, 1991
Oestreicher, Annette, Hippocrates,
Childers, Norman, Prof., Letter to Arthur
Brown, Sec., Dept. of Agriculture, 1986
Stevenson, John C. MB, MRCP, “Pathogenesis, Prevention, and Treatment of
Osteoporosis,” Obstetrics and Gynecology, 1990
Cooper, C.; Wickham, C.; Coggon, D.; British Journal of Industrial Medicine,
Grant, Alexander, Dr., Health Gazette, 1989
Rheumatology News, 1984
Brody, Jane, “China Study Challenges Diet Myths,”
The Atlanta Journal and Constitution , 1990
Ellis, Holesh, and Ellis, “Incidence of Osteoporosis in Vegetarians and
Omnivores”, Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1972
Thrash, Calvin, Dr.; Thrash, Agatha, Dr., Nutrition
For Vegetarians, Seale, AL: New
Lifestyle Books, 1982
Dawson-Hughes, Bess, “Calcium Supplementation and Bone Loss”, American
Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1991
“Premenopausal Bone Mass Related to Physical Activity,” Archives of
Internal Medicine, 1988
Mundy, Gregory R., MD, “Identifying Mechanisms for Increasing Bone Mass,” The
Journal of NIH Research, 1989
18. Kendall, Lee G., Jr., MD, “Postmenopausal Osteoporosis,” Arthritis Today, 1986
Return To Counseling Sheets
Disclaimer: The above counseling sheet
is provided courtesy of the Uchee Pines
Health Institute. The Uchee Pines Institute was started almost 30 years ago
by Calvin Thrash, M.D., specialist in Internal Medicine, and his wife, Agatha
Thrash, M.D., board specialist in pathology. It is a non-profit, health
educational and treatment facility located in the country near Seale, Alabama,
15 miles from Columbus, Georgia. (Address: Uchee Pines Institute, 30
Uchee Pines Road
Seale, Alabama 36875-5702. Phone: (334) 855-4764. Fax: (334) 855-4780. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Location Map: Click Here). The information contained in the counseling sheets is presented as a general educational and information guide. The counseling sheets are not intended to be used for instruction in medical treatment. The author cannot assume the medical or legal responsibility of having this information misinterpreted and considered as a prescription for any condition or any person.