More than 50% of the women struggle with poor bone health and high risk of osteoporosis beyond 55 years of age. The risk of critical bone fracture, which can leave a woman dependent on others, is higher than the collective risk of deadly disorders as heart attack and cancer.
Cracking joints, pain in the joints such as knee, ankles, elbows and back pain have become a common occurrence for women as they enter the perimenopause in their forties.
Treat the root cause of your Health Symptoms with 1:1 guidance from Ayurvedic specialists.
Unfortunately low bone density and paining joints is taken as a common sign of aging. But the truth is that joint pain and weak bones is a sign of poor nutrition and health imbalances, specifically in the age group of forties and fifties, when a woman enters menopause.
While so many women suffer from so much pain due to low bone density, this health issue isn’t taken seriously. Simply because one cannot see the bones and realise how weak their bones have become. It’s only when they start cracking up, then one gets to take action. And often it is too late!
That’s why early efforts are necessary to keep the bones healthy through menopause. One should understand how osteoporosis and menopause are linked to better manage it.
Therefore, whether you are in menopause and seeing signs of osteoporosis, or you just want to be educated on reducing the risk, this is for you. We’ll get to understand how menopause and osteoporosis are linked, and how you can manage it and/or reduce the risks with Ayurveda.
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis means weakened bones, to put it simply. We can better understand this word if we break it into two parts. “Osteo” means “bone” and “porosis” relates to “pores or holes.” Bringing the two together, we can thus say that osteoporosis means holes in the bones.
Thus in osteoporosis, your bones become hollow and weak. They do not have sufficient strength to help you do physically strenuous tasks, regular activities, or even carry your body’s weight (in extreme cases).
Now, osteoporosis is not just about the weakened bones!
What happens when the bones become weaker?
A lot of potential problems. For one, a wrist fracture could make the hand useless. A fall could lead to a hip fracture, preventing mobility. A spine fracture is another risk, which is even more dangerous as it can affect the spinal cord.
Do you know what else is alarming? Over 8.9 million fractures occur due to osteoporosis annually. In India alone, more than 50 million people suffer from osteoporosis.
Menopause Symptoms and Weak Bones
Menopause marks the end of the reproductive life of a woman. The transition to a complete menopause usually occurs between the ages of 45-50. For most women, by 55 years of age, menopause is already complete. But it doesn’t just happen.
One key feature of menopause is a drop in the levels of the reproductive hormones, estrogen and progesterone. In fact, we can say that this drop in hormones is what really causes all the changes associated with menopause.
Here is how Estrogen maintains the strength of your bones
Estrogen plays a role in the maintenance of bone mass. It does this in several ways.
- Reduces the sensitivity of bone to parathyroid hormone (a hormone that causes bone resorption). When bones respond less to parathyroid hormone, there will be less resorption.
- Increases the production of calcitonin. Calcitonin is another hormone. What this one does is prevent too much calcium from running around in your bloodstream. So how does it achieve that? One way is to push the excess calcium into your bones for storage. The bones use the calcium to build themselves up.
- Acceleration of calcium absorption from the intestine. If you’ve eaten something with calcium, estrogen helps to ensure it is absorbed into your blood and then the calcium can get into your bones.
- Makes you excrete less calcium from the kidneys.
- It can also directly affect the bones.
- Estrogen can also help maintain bone mineral density (BMD) by binding to osteocytes and preventing them from breaking down bones.
All of these are targeted towards keeping calcium inside the bones.
What is the link between osteoporosis and menopause?
However, in menopause, estrogen levels drop. Your bones lose the benefit of estrogen’s support in maintaining calcium inside the bones. Osteoporosis, brittleness, and weakness results.
During the menopausal transition period, the average reduction in BMD is about 10%. About 50% of women can lose between 10-20% of their bone in the 5-6 years menopause takes.
25% can be classified as fast bone losers. They lose even more bone in less time.
Therefore, one should tackle the problem of menopausal osteoporosis as early as possible to reduce the risk of osteoporosis and weakened bones.
What are the risk factors for osteoporosis at menopause?
Osteoporosis and menopause have already been linked. But some women are at a greater risk than some others. What are these risk factors?
- Age: After 30 years, you begin to lose more bone than you can make. Of course, the gap widens at menopause.
- Smoking: Smoking increases the risk of osteoporosis. It can also lead to earlier onset of menopause, meaning you stop enjoying the protective effects of estrogen less. To top it off, smokers have less chance of healing from fractures.
- Existing bone density: The more bone density you have, the better off you are. If you have more, losing some will not affect you as much as someone that doesn’t have so much in the first place.
- Body composition: Women who have a higher body mass are adapted to bearing more weight with their bones. They are more likely to have stronger bones with a higher bone density. Compare this to petite and thin women.
- Gender: Women have four times the risk of osteoporosis as men.
- Family history: This condition of weakened bones can be genetic. If your parents or grandparents had fractures due to osteoporosis, it is more likely that you will too.
- Race and ethnicity: could also play a part. Europeans and Caucasians have a higher risk.
- A sedentary lifestyle.
- Intake of alcoholic beverages.
- A past history of amenorrhea, which is indicative of hormonal imbalances like estrogen deficiency.
Menopausal Osteoporosis: An Ayurvedic View
Menopause and osteoporosis have one thing in common, and that is age. Why do we point that out?
Ayurvedic medicine defines people according to three doshas (compositions): Vata, Pitta, and Kapha doshas. Each person has a unique combination of these three, with one or two dominant, naturally. However, the dominant dosha can vary, either with the time of the day, or even the time of life.
As we age, Vata dosha increases in dominance. Now, Vata is the air dosha, which is associated with dryness, irregularities, hardness, brittle, roughness and is light in nature.
That’s why with increased Vata dosha dominance in old age, we can have an accumulation of vata dosha in the asthi dhatu or bone tissues. This is consistent with the definition of osteoporosis as the presence of pores or holes, dryness and brittleness of the bones.
What can I do about Osteoporosis at Menopause?
Healing the bone tissues (asthi dhatu means) restoring the proper quantity and quality of Kapha dosha and vata dosha in the body. This will help to establish a balanced bone formation according to the body constitution of the person.
Let’s see how you can implement Ayurvedic principles in your diet and lifestyle to improve the density of your bones:
1. Your Diet to Support Bone Health
When people say you are what you eat, it is no joke. You can determine your bone health by what you eat and/or take in. The diet regimen that is recommended to support bone density at menopause is:
- Grains: like wheat, amaranth, rice, quinoa, and oats.
- Fruits: like pineapple, mangoes, peaches, plums, papaya, grapes, oranges, cherries, coconut, figs, etc.
- Pure Oils: like ghee and sesame oil.
- Vegetables: such as green beans, peas, sweet potatoes, carrots, and leafy greens.
- Medicinal Foods: sesame seeds, black pepper, fenugreek, moringa oliefera, pumpkin seeds, turmeric, ginger, dill, chives, basil should be a part of your diet.
Foods and Diet to Avoid
- Prefer smaller meals during the day and do not hold hunger. Always take timely meals at fixed time everyday.
- Take warm and unctuous foods such as porridges, curries, gruels, and soups.
- Include spices and herbs to maintain healthy digestive fire and to get the micronutrients.
- Remove chilli and sugar from the diet. Both of these cause excessive stimulation and push Vata out of balance.
- Remove cold temperature foods and drinks.
- Limit or stop raw foods such as salads.
2. Nutrients to protect and increase bone density
We mentioned calcium over and over when discussing how estrogen helps maintain your bone mass. Calcium is a very important mineral in maintaining bone density and health.
Calcium supplements can thus help to build and maintain your bones to prevent weakness. You can also eat foods that are rich in calcium, like dairy products, broccoli, kale, bok choy, salmon, beans, soy foods, figs, oranges, sardines, and fortified foods. Aim for 1200mg of calcium daily.
How about vitamin D? Vitamin D supplements can help increase the absorption of calcium so that you have more calcium available in your bloodstream and for your bones.
Vitamin D is one of the cheapest vitamins to get. Why? It is readily available in the sunshine. Ensure you get enough sunshine, especially in the early morning before noon.
Either from supplements of sunlight, aim for 1000 to 2000IU( international units) a day if you are postmenopausal.
Leafy greens or vegetables are rich in vitamin K. Vitamin K is another important mineral in maintaining bone density. It can help reduce the risk of fractures.
Eat at least one serving a day of kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, lettuce, spinach, or other leafy green vegetables.
Other Essential Nutrients for Bone Health
- Healthy Fats
- B Vitamins
- Vitamin C
3. Ayurvedic Lifestyle to prevent Menopausal Osteoporosis
- Avoid and stop smoking and alcohol. This can be hard, especially if it has been a lifelong habit. But it is in your best interests. Join support groups, take therapies if necessary. Smoking is not at all friendly to your bones. Quit alcoholic beverages too. If you must take it, let it be in moderation.
- Establish and follow a schedule around your activities, sleep and meals intake.
- Sleep of 8-9 hours is required. Do not hold on to sleep and do not reduce sleeping hours.
- Regular self-massage by warming oils such as sesame oil and ghee. In Ayurveda, it is known as Abhyanga. It will help to nourish your bones and skin with essential nutrients and calm your mind.
- Avoid and manage stress to balance vata dosha. Practice breathing exercises and meditation to calm yourself down and relax in natural set ups.
4. Exercise to increase bone density
Exercise is good for your overall health, including bone health.
Remember we said that a sedentary lifestyle is a risk factor for osteoporosis? Someone who is sedentary can not have as healthy bones as one who exercises regularly.
Exercise places controlled stress on the bones that aid them in developing strength and density. It doesn’t have to be extreme exercise, but something to keep the bones in shape.
Three forms of exercise you can do are as follows:
Include activities that make you bear your weight. They increase the weight-bearing capacity of bone joints. Such activities include:
- Brisk walking with added weights. These weights can be borne in a backpack or pocketed vest. Try adding up to 10% of your own weight.
- Jogging and running provide benefits to the skeleton.
- Lunges increase agility and balance, thereby preventing the risk of falls.
- Jumping adds strength to the joints of your hips, knees, and ankles. However, it is not recommended if are experiencing severe pain and weakness in your bones.
- If you want to mingle while exercising, try dancing or tennis.
These exercises increase the strength of bones and density.
- Use resistance bands, free weights, or barbells.
- Strengthen your back with spinal extension exercises.
With proper balancing, you have less risk of falls. Balance exercises are thus:
- Yoga poses can help increase strength, agility, and balance.
- Lunges can fall under this category too.
A few points to note on Exercise
Be careful if you are already experiencing osteoporosis. The bones are fragile and brittle, and you do not want to strain them too much, else, you can get fractures while exercising. Get in touch with a personal trainer if you need to.
Posture is very important too. Always maintain a good posture.
5. Ayurvedic Herbs to have Strong Bones and Prevent Menopausal Osteoporosis
There are multiple herbs and medicinal foods that Ayurveda suggests to take for supporting your bones. Ayurvedic herbs act on specific body tissues, protect the digestive fire and help to balance out the dosha that have gone out of balance.
That’s why it is important to take the herbs that suit your specific body constitution rather than taking them at your will.
All the herbs and formulations that have been shared in this post are for information purpose only. All of these are potent Ayurvedic medicines that should be taken under the supervision of a qualified Ayurvedic doctor only. Do not indiscriminately use Ayurvedic herbs as it may cause more harm than benefit.
Giloy or guduchi provides with essential minerals, naturally detoxifies and boosts the growth of bones through its action on the bone forming cells.
Shatavari is also known as shatamull. It is an herb to improve bone density naturally. It helps to repair damaged bone cells and to rebuild bones, making them strong.
This is a potent herb to stop bone loss even at very low doses. It supports bone growth, stimulates the bone forming cells and protects the structure of bones.
Jatamansi is very rich in calcium. And that says a lot on its own. Aside from calcium, jatamansi also contains other nutrients that help to strengthen bones.
Praval (Coral Calcium)
Coral based calcium has very high bio availability even at very low doses.
This is recommended in Ayurveda instead of the calcium supplements as for people with weak digestive fire (which is often the case in menopausal osteoporosis, it is difficult to absorb calcium from your diet and from supplements).
This herb pacifies the Vata dosha. When you correct imbalances in the Vata dosha, you go a long way to correcting deficiencies in the ashti dhatu too.
Ashwagandha is also good for women who are experiencing osteoporosis due to menopause.
Prevention is always better
The best way to prevent menopausal osteoporosis is to prepare yourself for a lifetime of good health. Start now to prepare so that you won’t have to deal with all the complications of osteoporosis in menopause later.
Perhaps you are already experiencing osteoporosis and menopause has set in with fractures and all? Now is not the time to beat yourself in regret. Adjust your lifestyle, explore options, and you can enjoy health.
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