Osteoporosis is a bone disorder in which bone tissues undergo significant loss of mass and structural deformation. As a result, the bones become fragile, brittle, and porous, and may undergo fracture even with sniffing in some serious cases.
Usually, the hip bone, spine, and wrist bone fall prey to such fractures as they are more exposed to daily stress than any other bones in the body. Most of the time, the loss of bone occurs silently and increasingly until the first fracture occurs. Such a kind of bone loss results in a slow but significant reduction in bone density.
India is one of the most affected countries by the problem of Osteoporosis with ratios in women going to one in three!
Bone Health Facts
- Bone health is influenced by multiple factors involving genetics, nutrition, lifestyle, hormonal action, environment, and age.
- Our bones grow in size and mass during first twenty years of our life. They reach peak density in late teen years.
- Peak bone density is influenced by multiple factors, but the ones in your control are nutrition, physical activity, lifestyle, and stress levels.
- Bone growth accelerates during adolescence. Hence, this is one of the most crucial phases of optimum nutrition and adequate physical activity.
- Physical stress to bones through exercise stimulates bone growth, strength, and flexibility.
- After the age of twenty, we start to lose bone mass. It is same for all demographies and for both genders.
- Women always have lower bone mass compared to their male counterparts (same age). With aging this difference becomes more pronounced.
As mentioned in the facts above, bone health concerns usually arise in old age, when significant bone mass has been lost. However, recently it has been observed that weak and brittle bones is becoming a serious health problem even in children and young adults. This results in health issues related to disability, pain, and missed productive hours from fractures.
Therefore, everybody needs to start taking preventive measures from a young age. Otherwise, you may suffer from serious health problems and disabilities in older age.
What Causes Osteoporosis?
Our bones are a living tissue. They continue to grow and evolve with new tissues bring formed and old tissues being dissolved in plasma and excreted out. During early years of our life, the rate of bone tissue formation is higher than the rate of bone tissue resorption (being bones being dissolved out). Hence, bones grow and become dense.
Accelerated Bone Loss due to Aging
During later years of our life, bone resorption rate is higher. This leads to bone loss as we age. Bone loss is also accelerated by lifestyle and nutrition factors. High bone tissue loss leads to thin, porous, and brittle bones. This is termed as Primary Osteoporosis, however aging should not cause fractures.
Declining Estrogen levels for Menopausal Women
Reproductivity hormone Estrogen acts as the catalyst for the growth and strength of the bones. Usually, declining levels of Estrogen, which naturally comes with aging, causes bone loss in old age in both males and females. Menopausal Osteoporosis also falls in Primary category.
Poor Nutrition and Faulty Diet
Poor eating habits and nutrition, less or absence of physical activity, or peripheral health problems may restrain the growth of bone mass in earlier in life.
- An acidic diet, rich in animal proteins, and white foods such as white sugar and white flour increases leaching of Calcium from bones in urine.
- High intake of caffeine hinders Calcium absorption. More than 2 cups of coffee in a day also increases leaching of Calcium from bones to urine.
- High intake of SALT accelerates bone resorption and bone loss.
If a person is not able to reach the required bone density at a young age, he or she will struggle with weak bones and eventually may suffer from Osteoporosis later in life.
Osteoporosis occurs in one in three females and one in eight males in India
Elderly females undergo low levels of Estrogen with Menopause. As ovaries stop producing Estrogen, one may undergo significant bone loss if they do not change their diet and lifestyle to prepare themselves for this change. Some women lose nearly 25% of bone mass following 10 years of menopause.
The bone mass of girls reaches to 90% of its peak value by age 18. Hence, it is of utmost importance that young girls engage in healthy lifestyle, right choices of food, and be physically active to allow proper growth and maturity of the bones.
Symptoms of Osteoporosis
Usually in the beginning, there are no symptoms of bone loss. In fact, most of the times, bone health condition is only diagnosed after a fracture has happened. But, there are some symptoms of weakened bones as below.
- Fractures are quite common in the hip, wrist, and spine (vertebrae).
- Back pain occurs after a fracture or collapse in the vertebra
- Fractures or collapses in the vertebra cause a stooped posture and make the spine bend forward
- Decreasing height over time
- Sloping shoulders
- A bone fracture is much more common than expected
Osteoporosis is known as the “silent disease.” The bone fractures, mainly in the spine or hip, are the most serious complication of osteoporosis.
- Hip fractures usually occur due to a fall. They can result in disability or increased risk of death within the first year after the injury.
- Sometimes, there may be spinal fractures even without any fall.
- Spine bones or the vertebrae can weaken to the extent that the bones may crumble. This can result in back pain, lost height, and a curved forward posture.
- Unusual stress on the spinal muscles and ligaments leads to chronic, dull, aching pain, mainly in the lower back.
Diagnosis of Osteoporosis
Measurement of bone density helps to get information about the strength of the bones. The test to check bone density is done via a central Dual-Energy X-Ray absorptiometry (DXA).
DXA is a special type of X-Ray measure for the bones. Furthermore, the doctor may use other screening tools to detect the complications due to a low bone density.
Treatment of Osteoporosis
- One of the most important Osteoporosis treatment step involves prevention of the causes that stimulate bone loss.
- Right Nutrition in the dietary form or through supplements.
- Physical Activity, Weight Bearing Exercises, Balancing Activities, and Yoga.
- Following a proper lifestyle regimen that nurtures and stimulates bone growth.
These steps will be helpful in preventing fractures, particularly in the hip and spine which usually causes serious pain and disability.
According to WHO, adolescents, pregnant ladies and old age people particularly for peri-post menopausal ladies require Calcium and Vitamin D on daily basis.
Physical Activity prevents Osteoporosis and improves Bone Health
Move it or Lose it!
People with health problems like osteoporosis usually take exercise to be a traumatic option. A fear of cracks and fracture due to physical activity inhibits the patients to carry out any form of exercise. However, it is not true!
Physical activity stimulates the growth and density of the bones. It has been observed that one may extensively loose bone mass and density when no physical stress is applied to bones. As a matter of fact, sedentary lifestyle and absence of stress to bones are the biggest contributors towards weak and brittle bones.
Astronauts suffer from weak and fragile bones after few weeks of time in space without gravity. Patients on bed rest also end up loosing bones due to absence of weight or stress on the bones.
Chose Right Physical Activity to stimulate Bone Growth
One of the most important factors to stimulate bone formation is application of physical stress. Several studies have proven that physical activities that force you to work against gravity are one of the best forms of exercise to prevent bone conditions such as Osteoporosis and Osteopenia. Such activities are termed as Weight Bearing Activities. Some of the examples are: walking, hiking, dancing, weight training, jogging, stomping, jumping, climbing stairs, and brisk walking.
Other forms of activities that help build muscle strength are also prescribed to improve bone health. Muscle strength increases a sense of balance and prevents fractures from falls. Strong muscles also provide a strong support for the bones.
Yoga for Osteoporosis
Multiple Ayurvedic texts recommend yoga for weak bone conditions. Yoga improves bone strength, muscle strength, and also increases stability. Yogic postures and moves improve balance and concentration, hence preventing falls and risk of fractures.
Regularly practicing yoga for at least 30 minutes a day induces flexibility and strength in the bone tissues. Studies indicate that yoga is highly effective exercise for patients with osteoporosis. During a study it was observed that yoga helps to increase bone mass density when subjects performed prescribed yoga routine on a regular basis.
While some yoga postures maybe a little hard to get into when you are suffering from pain, it should not prohibit you from practicing. One should practice yoga with the attitude to learn and not to compete with anyone, including yourself.
When you are a beginner, you should take support to balance the poses and go slowly. What is most important is to be consistent rather than making it a onetime painful activity! You can try to steady yourself with the help of props or with fixed objects such as a wall, chair, or table.
Forward bending, Headstands, and spine twisting movements are NOT recommended for people suffering from very low bone mass density, or with chronic pain, or spinal fractures.
Osteoporosis in Ayurveda
Osteoporosis is known as Asthikṣhaya or decay of the bones in Ayurveda. According to Ayurvedic principles, asthi dhatu or bone tissues is the seat of vata dosha. Seat means the tissues or organs that are most sensitive to the vitiation of specific Dosha.
Bone Tissues and Vata Dosha are inversely linked to each other. An increase of Vata dosha triggers bone loss and degeneration. It has been observed that Ayurvedic treatment for osteoporosis is highly beneficial and effective in long term.
For bone health, prevention needs to be the first step as bone loss is only partly reversible. Nutritious foods, mild exercise, and yoga should be included in daily routine for improving bone health.
Women are more prone to Vata Dosha vitiation during pregnancy, just after delivery, at menarche, during menstruation, and during menopause. Utmost care should be taken towards nutrition and lifestyle at all these stages as Vata aggravation can lead to bone loss, joint pain, and back pain.
- Loss of bone tissues occurs in the first stage of the disease. A patient will experience different kinds of pain and deformities of all the bone tissues such as hair, nails, teeth, and joints. This is termed as Osteopenia, where bones are weak but yet can recover. It is called as Asthikshaya (bone tissue condition) in Ayurveda.
- As the disease progresses, it will affect the bone marrow and stem tissues. This is observed as highly porous bones and susceptibility to frequent fractures. This stage is termed as Osteoporosis, where bones have become highly porous can break anytime. It is compared with Majjakshaya (bone marrow condition) in Ayurveda.
How do I make my bones stronger?
Ayurvedic Herbs for Bone Health
- Kapha reduction properties help to curb fat, hence promoting weight loss and reducing strain on the bones.
- Vata reducing properties on the other hand prevent dryness, brittleness, and weakness of the bones.
- Ayurvedic herbs help clear the channels and help to flush the toxins that led to the blockade and vitiation of the underlying Doshas.
- They are strength promoting or balya (tonic).
- Above herbs also carry the essential micronutrients and antioxidants to fight inflammation.
- They directly work on the bone tissues and prevent its loss.
- Pitta Dosha pacifying properties prevent pain, swelling, and bleeding in general due to inflammatory causes.
Ayurvedic Dietary principles for Bone Health – Ahara
Adopt an alkaline diet that primarily consists of fruits, vegetables, and unprocessed grains to increase bone strength and bone density.
The patient should include foods with following attributes or gunas in her diet. Such foods pacify Vata Dosha and nurture the bone tissues.
- Madhura – Naturally Sweet Foods such as Cereals, Dairy, and Grains.
- Guru and Snigdha – Heavy and Dense Foods such as Lentils, Beans, Cereals, Nuts, and Seeds
- Ushna – Heating Foods such as Nuts and Seeds, Dry Fruits, Herbs such as Cumin, Carom Seeds, Mustard
Foods and Food Practices to Avoid
- Avoid fried and spicy foods as it will interfere with the absorption of minerals.
- Avoid processed foods that are devoid of nutrition.
- Avoid carbonated drinks as they leach calcium out of the bones and increase the tendency of bone loss.
- Do not consume Vata vitiating foods. For lentils and beans, add spices and herbs to them and soak them overnight to pacify Vata vitiation.