In Part 1 of this series, we discussed how humans are naturally built with bones that rival even the strongest man made materials like steel and concrete. Yet today, over 45 million Americans suffer from osteoporosis – and its getting worse. Today, we’re going to look beyond the bones themselves to find out the cause of these brittle bones.
Identifying the Real Problem
From the FDN perspective, osteoporosis is not THE problem – rather, it is a response to a problem. You could even call it a symptom of deeper malfunction. There are many potential factors that can contribute to the presentation of a bone density problem, and they can differ from one individual to the next. Frequently, there will be not one, but several dysfunctions in the body that lead to the condition of osteoporosis. Having said that, if we seek to prevent and correct osteoporosis, we must first seek to identify and correct the underlying dysfunction. While it is impossible to cover every possible area of dysfunction that could lead to a bone mineral deficit, the following are two of the most common reasons for the prevalence of osteoporosis in our modern society.
Increased stress – Internal and External
Stress, it’s everywhere! Some stress, in small doses, is good. It allows for us to grow and adapt, making us stronger, smarter, and healthier. However, chronic stress is a silent killer, and is at the root of many debilitating illnesses.
Stress response in the body can be initiated by either mental/emotional, physical, or biochemical threats. Some are external, meaning they happen outside our bodies, while other stressors are internal, or hidden inside our bodies. Either way, chronic stress can contribute to the type of dysfunction that can lead to osteoporosis.
Some examples of external stressors include:
Prolonged high intensity exercise without proper recovery
Structural Issues such as spinal or jaw misalignments
- Inadequate quality and quantity of sleep
Restrictive very low calorie or low fat or low carbohydrate diets
- Ingestion of toxins from food, alcohol or tobacco
Contact with toxic chemicals and material at home and work
Examples of Internal Stressors include:
- Blood sugar issues
Physical pain or trauma
- Disease or illness
Fungal, bacterial, or parasitic infections
- Hormonal imbalances
One of the most common stress related dysfunctions that lead to osteoporosis is a chronic reduction in progesterone levels. One of the main roles of this hormone is to oppose estrogen and signal osteoblasts to build bone. So, low levels of progesterone means less bone-building.
Stress creates an environment where the raw materials used to make progesterone are diverted to making cortisol, instead. Cortisol is the body’s key stress hormone; its production can take priority above progesterone in times of increased stress. In addition to reducing progesterone levels and increasing the risk of osteoporosis, increased cortisol can lead to a variety of other dysfunctions throughout the body such as leaky gut, decreased neural function, hormonal, immune, and metabolic dysfunction.
Chronic stress, regardless of the source, will “bleed” magnesium from the body and create retention of calcium in body tissues. This creates an issue in those who take calcium supplements yet are deficient in magnesium and have insufficient fat intake. Calcium can accumulate in the soft tissues causing muscular pain and cramping.
It is worth noting that some research has suggested that high supplemental calcium intake in some people increases the onset of stress reactions within the body, leading to the production of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. If this is the case, high dose calcium supplements may be doing you more harm than good.
In the simplest terms, if you have a defective digestive system (and almost every American over the age of 30 just might have), you can consume tons of calcium, and it will never make it to your bones. When the gut is dysfunctional, your Autonomic Nervous System, which controls all of the functions of your body that happen automatically without you having to think about them, including bone remodeling, becomes dysfunctional, as well. An impaired gut will bring about issues with nutrient absorption, assimilation, and metabolism.
In addition, gut dysfunction causes a chronic stress response, overloading the immune system and eventually manifesting in the stress-related issues mentioned above. At FDN, we understand that gut health is central to well-being, and this is the reason why we place so much emphasis on digestive health in our practice. We take special care to assess each person’s digestive system and mucosal barrier thoroughly. It is not uncommon for many “healthy” foods to illicit a stress response in someone with gut dysfunction. Food intolerances and sensitivities, if undiscovered, could make it very difficult for a person to heal. Healing the gut is not impossible, but requires guidance, dedication, and knowing which foods your body can digest in order to support optimal visceral health.
What You Can Do to Recover from Osteoporosis
The good news is that there is a lot that you can do to prevent and recover from this otherwise debilitating condition. It is important to understand that simply popping a pill will not solve this (or any) dysfunction in the body. Instead, you can aim to optimize your physiology by incorporating lifestyle changes such as diet, rest, exercise, stress reduction, and supplementation to support and nurture your body’s own innate healing ability.
In order to truly defeat Osteoporosis, it is important to identify why there is an issue with your bone density in the first place. This can involve diet and lifestyle assessment as well as screenings for hidden stressors that may be taxing the body and creating a chronic stress response, such as poor thyroid function, blood sugar dysregulation, food/chemical intolerances, gut dysfunction, hormonal balance, inflammatory status, etc. Failing to identify hidden stressors (structural stress, thyroid and/or adrenal issues, gut dysfunction, hormonal balance, etc.) prevents one from implementing a true healing program that will produce long-term results.
The key cause of osteoporosis can be either mental, emotional, biochemical (nutritional), and structural (physical) stress because all of these types of stress ultimately lead to reduced bone density. The best way to prevent and recover from osteoporosis is to learn to identify and manage life stressors, regardless of the source, and give YOUR body the support it needs to foster optimal health and vitality.