One in two women and one in four men are affected by osteopenia or osteoporosis in Western cultures. It is a form of bone disease that creates brittle bones which can break easily. Those with osteoporosis are more likely to suffer fractures of various bones such as wrists, hip, ankles and vertebrae from small bumps. Fractures cause pain, immobility and potentially worse consequences. Osteoporosis in the spine can lead to a hunched posture and shortening of height.
What is Osteoporosis or Osteopenia?
Bones are constantly remodelled. How they model depends on age, lifestyle, exercise and food impact bone modelling.
Osteoporosis arises where there is more bone removal than bone building. The bones begin to ‘hollow’ and can take on a honeycomb appearance. They are less dense and become weak. They are prone to breaking.
Osteoblasts build bone but also regulate the passage of calcium to and from the bone. Their role is to keep packing more bone on the outside of bone and trigger osteoclasts to also break down the bone and release the minerals back into the body. This helps maintain balance to ensure that there are sufficient minerals for other basic functions in the body.
Over 30 years old, osteoclasts can reabsorb minerals from the bone faster than osteoblasts rebuild. This imbalance can be caused by many things, but leads to osteopenia, which can develop into osteoporosis. The bone loss is not global in the body, but will be local to specific areas of weakness.
Osteopenia is the earlier stage of osteoporosis, where the loss of bone mass is not considered sufficient for the full diagnosis of osteoporosis. At this stage it is great to get support in your lifestyle for nutrition, physical movement and energetic healing. Handled appropriately, a diagnosis of osteopenia may not lead to osteoporosis and the weaker bones may stay localised in the area of diagnosis.
What Increases the Risk of Osteoporosis?
As osteoporosis is linked to nutrients being redirected away from the bones to elsewhere in the body, nutrient imbalances in the diet can increase the risk osteopenia developing.
Digestive disorders like IBS or Coeliac disease or Chrone’s are a risk due to their lack of absorption of minerals into the body.
High acidic/inflammatory diet - high sugar, alcohol, fizzy drinks etc, reduce the ability for the body to absorb minerals and can actually cause some minerals in the diet to pass directly through without positive benefits to the body.
Nutrient deficiencies such as vitamin D, magnesium and calcium all impact one another in absorption. For example, vitamin D is vital for the body’s ability to absorb calcium. A deficiency in calcium can result if there is a vitamin D deficiency, so it is important to enjoy some sunshine in your life, or take supplements.
Reiki considers the metaphysical root of osteoporosis is due to feeling a lack of support in life. Bone is the structure that supports you in life. A core foundation this is an aspect of the root or muladhara chakra.
Osteoporosis is a reflection of the belief that you are no longer supported or do not have the means to support yourself. This can be linked to a sense of self-worth and inadequate self-care. The body collapses in on itself and the posture reflects the sense of ‘caving inwards’ as the spine deteriorates.
However, it is important to consider where in the body the osteopenia or osteoporosis has developed. This highlights specific aspects of support beyond the basic foundation that may require additional work. Poor bone density in the hips will point to not feeling supported in the ability to flow and be creative, rather than poor bone density in the thoracic spine which could be feeling unsupported in love and connection.
In Ayurveda, osteoporosis is a vata condition i.e. excess air element in the body. This is clearly seen by more airy bone structure. However, the area of function is important to consider in why the condition has developed and what is the appropriate treatment. Seek a consultation with an Ayurveda doctor if you prefer this route.
Lifestyle, genetics, medications, fitness, diet and age can impact the balance of the osteoblasts and osteoclasts. What causes this mineral loss can be a variety of issues, some examples are:
Autoimmune disorders like multiple sclerosis or lupus, AIDS
Sedentary lifestyle that does not weight-bear to build strength in the bones
Hormone imbalances, including the changes from menopause and hyperparathyroidism
Cancers of the breast and prostate (as they affect key hormones for bone density)
Neurological disorders like a stroke, Parkinson’s, and spinal cord injuries
Mental illness like eating disorders and depression
Blood disorders of leukaemia or multiple myeloma
Endocrine disorders like diabetes, hyperthyroidism or premature menopause, irregular periods
Medications can have side-affects that impact bones loss, so check with your physician e.g. corticosteroids
Genetics where there is a history in the family
A common example is postmenopausal women where oestrogen levels decline during the menopause and this increases osteoclast activity, reducing bone density.
How to Manage it?
What to do:
Do exercises 3-4 times per week.
Exercise must be challenging and increase intensity.
Anaerobic bursts of heavy weights are best for increasing strength.
Stability and balance exercise. Tai Chi can be great because it is gentle for balance training and safe.
Weight-bearing aerobic exercise like walking, hiking and dancing.
Strength training with weights or body weight e.g. squats and pushups.
What to avoid:
Flexion, bending and twisting of the spine as this can lead to compression fractures in the spine.
Swimming, cycling and exercise machines are great for cardiovascular health, but will not have the impact needed for bone strengthening.
Strength in muscles is vital for supporting bones and joints. Whilst the bones are weaker the muscles can take the strain and build the support around the bones to protect you from possible fracture.
When the weight is at your one maximum repetition (you can only ever do 1 of these) then that is the amount that will rebuild bone. Weight-bearing below that will support strengthening the muscles and fascia to support the bones.
Fascia becomes more dense and less hydrated during the ageing process. This fascial density takes over part of bone function in support. We use the fascial web’s density to provide some of the support that the bones cannot offer the body. Fascia training provides some of the weight bearing until the bones can begin to take more load and rebuild some strength.
Improving balance to reduce the risk of falls is really helpful. This should be done in a safe manner, but do not be afraid to fall. Be realistic about what movements you do daily so your exercise routine supports your living movements.
It is always best to see a nutritionist for specific advice about your body’s ability to absorb nutrients and in what quantities. It is likely that you will need to consider increasing vitamin D in your diet to ensure that any calcium consumed is absorbed into the body efficiently. Other recommendations include:
Vitamin D - consider taking a daily 10mcg supplement during autumn and winter. Get out into the sunshine as much as possible, whatever time of year. But do wear an SPF if the sun is strong.
Magnesium and vitamin K foods - leafy greens like kale and broccoli
Other minerals such as Boron, Zinc, Copper - fruit and vegetables
Vitamin C helps rebuild collagen in bones - berries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, peppers, kiwi
Calcium-rich foods - sardines with bones, leafy greens, dried figs, white beans, sesame and chia seeds, watercress etc (see handout for amounts)
Ensure that you avoid fizzy drinks, alcohol, refined sugar, high caffeine, high salt, and smoking that can prevent the absorption of minerals into the body.
Practices to become more grounded are important as these will bring energy into the bones and support you more. Simple shifts such as:
Nutritional education and changes to feed the body’s energy systems,
Get your feet and hands working with natural substances, and
Have a daily exercise routine that includes strength-building exercises.
Consider your life and where you might feel unsupported. Seek professional support during this period and see how you can rebuild your confidence and self-support. Consider:
Is there a sense that you can no longer support yourself?
Where in your life are you not supporting yourself that you would a loved one?
What changes can you make each day that will make you feel more grounded?
Looking for Specific Support?
Uniquely, our team work together to provide you with the ultimate guidance of support. Get the best of both and combine our holistic movement practices with our holistic nutritionists for body, nutrition and energetic support of osteopenia or osteoporosis. Our client’s confidence rebuilds, they become more empowered and they feel the overall health improvements.
If you are diagnosed with osteopenia, it can be very supportive to have your diet reviewed to maximise the best nutritional balance in your body.
Our nutritionists can help assess your needs, review the best balance for your diet and recommend meals that you can make simply that are tasty.
At Home Movement Practices
We have several clients who have suffered this bone disease and benefitted hugely from our bespoke training with them. With specialised training in this condition we can provide you with the physical and energetic aspects of the practice to improve your wellbeing. This includes our wellbeing mentoring that considers your energetic needs alongside physical practices.
Contact us for a free 30 minute consultation to discuss your intentions and see what we can do for you.