What Is The Best Osteoporosis Treatment? 6 Natural Therapies to Improve Your Bone Health

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Osteoporosis treatment - BoneCoach
Osteoporosis treatment isn’t limited to medications. Research reveals highly effective natural therapies for reversing bone loss, including improving your gut health, increasing your intake of certain nutrients, avoiding anti-nutrients and more.

 

Osteoporosis is a disease in which your bones become weak and brittle due to a loss of bone mass and density. It occurs when the new tissue in your bones isn’t regenerating as quickly as needed to replace the old bone tissue as it breaks down. This results in porous bones that can no longer withstand basic impacts they could support before — and this can include everything from falls to everyday coughs.

When you have osteoporosis, these basic impacts can easily result in a fracture, and it’s this event that typically leads to the discovery of the disease. Osteoporosis is known as a “silent” disease for this very reason, as other osteoporosis symptoms are easily missed. From losing an inch of your height to experiencing changes in posture or causing lower back pain, common osteoporosis symptoms are often attributed to other causes, such as natural aging or a long-standing injury.

But the harsh reality is that osteoporosis-related fractures can be life-changing and even debilitating. Fractures are very painful and can significantly impact your quality of life by increasing your risk of developing additional fractures, experiencing a disability and even impacting your mortality. And, unfortunately, research shows that the number of Americans with osteoporosis is steadily increasing, making the search for effective osteoporosis treatments more important than ever.

Currently, approximately 10 million Americans have osteoporosis, 80 percent of which are women, while researchers have estimated that 43.4 million Americans have low bone mass. And with current forecasts predicting the worldwide incidence of hip fractures in men and women to increase by 310 percent and 240 percent respectively by the year 2050, there’s never been a better time to focus on ways to minimize your bone loss and prioritize your bone health by finding the best osteoporosis treatment for you.  

 

What Causes Osteoporosis?

Before reviewing the best treatments for osteoporosis, we must first understand what causes osteoporosis. You already understand that osteoporosis occurs due to your bones’ inability to regenerate new tissue fast enough to keep up with the breakdown of old tissue. But why are your bones suddenly unable to keep up with your body’s needs? 

The truth of the matter is that the answer depends on the type of osteoporosis you have. So, let’s take a brief look at the two different types of osteoporosis and the causes of each.

  • Primary osteoporosis: This type of osteoporosis is the most common, affecting almost 20 percent of women aged 50 and older, and results from a decrease in estrogen levels after menopause. You may be surprised to learn that estrogen has a protective effect on bone health, and when your estrogen levels decrease during menopause, it causes an increase in the activity level of cells that break down your bone tissue. 
  • Secondary osteoporosis: Now, secondary osteoporosis results from certain lifestyle factors, such as behaviors, conditions, disorders, diseases and medications (especially steroids, SSRIs and antacids). Most people who are unexpectedly diagnosed with osteoporosis have a secondary cause, and these causes range from having poor gut health or consuming a diet low in bone-supporting nutrients to smoking or experiencing too much stress.

If you’re a postmenopausal woman with osteoporosis, the cause could be due in part to a decrease in estrogen, but you could also have secondary contributing factors that should not be overlooked. And if you fall outside this demographic, multiple secondary factors could be causing your osteoporosis. It’s important to determine your specific root cause so that you can begin to support the bone tissue regeneration you need to reverse osteoporosis. 

 

How Is Osteoporosis Diagnosed?

Osteoporosis is often diagnosed via a bone density scan, which is viewed as the gold-standard osteoporosis test, though some doctors may utilize x-rays, ultrasounds and/or CT scans. The results of a bone density scan often determine whether you have normal bone density, osteopenia (a low-bone density condition that often leads to osteoporosis) or osteoporosis. Meanwhile, X-rays, ultrasounds and CT scans are read and interpreted by radiologists. 

Once you are diagnosed with osteoporosis, the next step is to figure out the root cause. For the most comprehensive approach, request a thorough lab workup to review all of your hormone levels and discuss any medications and lifestyle factors that may have contributed to the development of osteoporosis. After determining the root cause, you’ll be armed with the knowledge you need to commit to the best osteoporosis treatment for your specific circumstances.

 

Conventional Osteoporosis Treatment

Once you’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis, your doctor will likely begin discussing conventional osteoporosis treatment protocols. These often include the advice of taking a calcium supplement, a vitamin D supplement, going for a walk and using osteoporosis treatment drugs.

Typically, that’s where the education ends. As a result, you’re left with little knowledge of your condition and no understanding of how you can reverse your osteoporosis and take back control of your life. Even worse, this protocol typically doesn’t address the root causes of bone loss, which can lead to an endless cycle of conventional osteoporosis treatments and osteoporosis medications

Osteoporosis Medications

Osteoporosis medications fall into one of two categories: antiresorptive and anabolic. Your doctor may recommend one of these types of medications to you based on the cause of your osteoporosis.

Antiresorptive Agents 

Antiresorptive agents are designed to slow bone resorption, or the process in which your bones are broken down and reabsorbed by the body. The most common antiresorptive agents are known as bisphosphonates, which are available in oral tablets or intravenous injections. Commonly used bisphosphonates include alendronate (Fosamax®), ibandronate (Boniva®), risedronate (Actonel®) and zoledronic acid (Reclast®). Alendronate comes in daily or weekly oral dosages and risedronate is available in daily, weekly or monthly oral dosages. Meanwhile, ibandronate is offered in monthly oral dosages or via injection every three months. Finally, zoledronic acid is given once a year as an intravenous infusion for osteoporosis treatment.

Though bisphosphonates are generally accepted in the medical community, research has shown that they do increase the risk of atypical femoral fractures, can deplete your calcium stores and may cause digestive concerns, which can impact your ability to absorb vital bone health-supporting nutrients. 

Other antiresorptive agents include the RANK ligand inhibitor denosumab (Prolia®), estrogen, estrogen agonists/antagonists and tissue-specific estrogen complex.

Some doctors recommend hormone therapy (often estrogen) in the form of a pill, spray, injection or cream to postmenopausal women with osteoporosis. These medications are designed to mimic the bone-supporting effects provided by estrogen or to support your levels of calcium. Keep in mind that some hormone therapies have been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular events, breast cancer and blood clots, so discuss these risks with your doctor before usage.

Anabolic Agents

Anabolic agents promote the formation of new bones and are available via daily or monthly injections. These anabolic agents are known as the sclerostin inhibitor romosozumab (Evenity®), the parathyroid hormone analog teriparatide (Forteo® and Bonsity®) and the parathyroid hormone-related protein analog abaloparatide (Tymlos®).

Unfortunately, these medications have been associated with some substantial side effects, such as increased pain and rapid bone loss upon discontinued use. Romosozumab, specifically, has been shown to increase the risk of certain cardiovascular events.

 

6 Natural Therapies for Osteoporosis Treatment

Fortunately, there are less invasive osteoporosis treatments available for those wondering how to treat osteoporosis without medication. While osteoporosis cannot be cured, the best and safest osteoporosis treatment is one with a natural approach that not only targets the potential root causes but is also scientifically shown to help regenerate bone loss and improve bone mineral density. Remember to consult with your physician before embarking on an osteoporosis self-care protocol for reversing osteoporosis to make sure it’s the right step for your specific health circumstances. 

1. Prioritize your gut health.

Research has shown that having poor gut health is directly linked to the development of osteoporosis. As a result, the first step in your osteoporosis treatment will be to correct and prioritize the health of your gut microbiome. 

Here’s why: Having a poor gut microbiome directly impacts your ability to absorb the critical nutrients required for bone regeneration. For example, when someone with celiac disease consumes gluten, it blunts the body’s ability to absorb calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D—all of which are required for strong bones. If your gut health is hindered in any way, this will undoubtedly reduce your ability to access and utilize the nutrients your bones require to stay healthy and strong.

Research published in the Journal of Aging and Disease confirmed that having healthy gut microbes may be the first step in the treatment for osteoporosis by increasing bone mass through slowing the breakdown of bone tissue and promoting the regeneration of new bone tissue.

So, how do you determine whether or not your gut is healthy? Begin by looking for typical signs of poor gut health, such as bloating, diarrhea or constipation and stomach pain after eating, as these are great indicators that your gut microbiome may not be functioning properly.

You may also want to consider requesting an IgG test to determine if you have any food sensitivities that could be inhibiting your gut’s ability to absorb the nutrients from your food. Once you have these answers, to begin your natural osteoporosis treatment, you may need to adjust your diet to avoid any food triggers and consider supplementing with a quality probiotic to help support your gut microbiome.

2. Maintain a nutritious diet.

In addition to avoiding any food allergens, sensitivities or triggers, it’s important to maintain a nutritious diet if you’re looking to implement a natural osteoporosis treatment plan. Now, we’re all biochemically unique, which means there’s no rigid dietary framework with no flexibility. While this is great for allowing for dietary preferences, it can make following a nutrition-focused osteoporosis treatment plan difficult. So, here are a few food-based osteoporosis treatment guidelines to get you started.

First, limit or avoid certain foods that contain anti-nutrients, which are compounds that impact your ability to absorb nutrients from your diet. Oxalates, which are known to inhibit calcium absorption, are one of the most common anti-nutrients in our modern diet. They’re so common that they’re even found in our most popular “healthy” foods, such as spinach. But if you don’t have the gut bacteria required to break down the oxalates in spinach, it’s best to make a switch to something that doesn’t have this compound. Instead, consider substituting with arugula, which is rich in multiple nutrients.

Second, when it comes to the dietary component of your osteoporosis treatment plan, you’ll need to fill your diet with nutrient-rich foods known to support bone integrity and gut health. Some of these high-priority foods include:

  • Coconut oil
  • Wild-caught salmon
  • Canned fish with bones (such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and anchovies)
  • Cultured and fermented dairy products with little-to-no added sugar (only if tolerated)
  • Nut-based milks for dairy alternatives, such as coconut and macadamia
  • Organic, grass-fed beef
  • Organic, pasture-raised poultry
  • Arugula
  • Dino (lacinato) kale
  • Broccoli (lightly steamed to reduce the oxalate content)
  • Cabbage
  • Berries (organic blueberries, strawberries and raspberries)
  • Citrus fruits (lemons, limes and oranges)
  • Plums
  • Prunes
  • Cherries
  • Red and yellow bell peppers

While this list is not exhaustive, it will steer you in the right direction as you begin to adjust your diet as part of your natural approach to osteoporosis treatment

3. Supplement to fill in nutritional gaps.

While eating a nutritious diet and avoiding anti-nutrients is a great foundational approach to a natural treatment for osteoporosis, it’s also important to ensure there are no nutritional gaps. And the best way to do that is through supplementation. 

Here are three of the top supplements known to fight osteoporosis by supporting bone health:

Bioactive collagen peptides. It’s important to know that not all collagen is created equally. Certain types of bioactive collagen peptides have been shown to improve bone mineral density. In a 2018 study published in the journal Nutrients, researchers studied the use of 5 grams of a specific bioactive collagen peptide versus a placebo for 12 months on 131 women with osteoporosis or osteopenia. The results revealed the use of this specific bioactive collagen peptide (known as Fortibone®) was associated with increased bone mineral density, increased bone formation and decreased bone loss.

When looking for a quality collagen peptide supplement, source one that also includes 5 grams of Fortigel® and 2.5 grams of Verisol® — collagen peptides clinically shown to reduce osteoarthritis-related back and knee pain as well as benefit skin elasticity and nail health, respectively, to get all the benefits of collagen supplementation.

Multivitamin complex. If you’re looking for a supplement to complement your dietary efforts, consider adding a multivitamin that offers the chelated (bioavailable) minerals known to support your bone integrity and regeneration. Specifically, it’s important to ensure your multivitamin features bone-supporting vitamins C, D and K along with calcium and magnesium. Also, look for chelated forms of zinc, copper and manganese to ensure their bioavailability and reduce gastrointestinal side effects.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Finally, one of the best supplements to round out your nutrient-focused osteoporosis treatments is omega-3 fatty acid. Studies have shown that omega-3s help fight inflammation known to cause bone loss. Additionally, research published in the Journal of Nutrition and Health also found that omega-3 fatty acids help promote improved calcium absorption and retention

4. Engage in bone-strengthening activity and exercises for osteoporosis.

The next step in your osteoporosis treatment plan involves exercise, which plays a critically important role in your bone health. There are two forms of exercise known to promote bone health: strength training and safe impact exercises. Any form of exercise in which your muscle is pulling on bone will make your bones stronger. Meanwhile, diversified impact exercises “surprise” the bones by stimulating them in different directions, which helps to promote bone regeneration. 

To put this into practice, consider participating in resistance training (aim for five to 10 repetitions for maximum benefit). Yoga and Pilates can also be helpful exercises for osteoporosis. For high-impact workouts, avoid repetitive movements, such as long-distance running or swimming. Instead, choose diversity that will surprise your bones and impact them in different ways. Those options may include playing sports such as pickleball, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or even high-impact dancing (ballroom dancing would be considered lower impact while hip hop would be considered higher impact). In fact, a 2023 review published in the journal Cureus concluded that participating in high-intensity and high-impact exercises significantly improved osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. 

5. Improve your stress response.

One often overlooked area in optimal osteoporosis treatments is the need to support your body’s stress response. Research has shown that when the body is under stress and secretes the hormone cortisol, which is often called “the stress hormone,” this excess cortisol directly impacts your bone health. This happens because it not only impairs your bones’ ability to regenerate but also impacts your gut’s ability to absorb the critical nutrients required to maintain strong bones. Additionally, cortisol is known to impact hormone levels as well, which we know supports your bone mineral density. 

To improve your body’s stress response, it’s important to try to find some balance by allowing time for things you enjoy. Whether you find relaxation in gardening, walking in nature, curling up with a good book or traveling, make time for things you enjoy. Also, consider journaling or practicing meditation if you find that you need extra help letting go of the stressors in your life. Additionally, don’t forget to support your adrenal glands, which produce cortisol during times of stress, by consuming a nutrient-rich diet and engaging in calming movements such as yoga or Pilates. A study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found that practicing yoga for three months reduced both cortisol levels and inflammation.

6. Support quality sleep.

Finally, research has found that a lack of sleep is associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis. According to a study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, scientists followed more than 11,000 postmenopausal women and found that those who slept only five hours or less each night experienced significantly lower bone density than women who reported sleeping an average of seven hours or more. The link between lack of quality sleep and decreased bone density may lie in the fact that sleep loss has been shown to accelerate the aging process, which is a key risk factor for reduced bone regeneration and osteoporosis. 

To improve your sleep quality and duration as part of your natural osteoporosis treatment plan, try to make the last two hours of your day as peaceful and stimulant-free as possible. That could include anything from performing gentle stretching or practicing mindful journaling to spending time with your family or taking a warm bath. Also, avoid screens during this time, as research has shown that blue light exposure before bedtime decreases both sleep quality and duration

 

Key Takeaways

  • Osteoporosis is a disease that occurs when the creation of new bone tissue doesn’t keep up with the loss of old bone tissue. As a result, your bones become weak, brittle and more prone to fracture. 
  • Though numerous lifestyle factors can lead to osteoporosis, it’s most commonly caused by a decrease in estrogen levels after menopause in women aged 50 and older.
  • While conventional osteoporosis treatments such as the use of osteoporosis medications are common, they come with a host of side effects, such as increasing your risk of both atypical fractures and experiencing a cardiovascular event. 
  • Fortunately, research has shown that following a natural osteoporosis treatment plan aids in regenerating bone loss and improving bone mineral density by addressing the root cause of poor bone health. The top six natural treatments for osteoporosis include prioritizing your gut health, maintaining a nutritious diet, incorporating quality bone-supporting supplements, engaging in exercises for osteoporosis, supporting your body’s stress response and getting quality sleep.
  • If you’re looking for extra help in your efforts to reverse osteoporosis and improve your bone health, check out this free Stronger Bones Masterclass to learn the essential tools you need to become an osteoporosis “thriver” and lead an active lifestyle.

Medical Disclaimer

The information shared above is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide medical or nutrition therapy advice; it does not diagnose, treat or cure any disease, condition; it is not to be used as a replacement or substitute for medical advice provided by physicians and trained medical professionals. If you are under the care of a healthcare professional or are currently using prescription medications, you should discuss any dietary and lifestyle changes or potential dietary supplements use with your doctor. You should not discontinue any prescription medications without first consulting your doctor.