26 Home Remedies for Osteoporosis

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. Weight-driven exercises are an important bone-building tool.

More than 28 million Americans are at risk for osteoporosis, and more than 10 million already have been diagnosed with this bone-degenerating disease. Women make up an astounding 80 percent of those who are affected by osteoporosis. Though most people associate osteoporosis with older people, the disease strikes young and old alike. But osteoporosis does become much more common as you age -- affecting one in two women over age 50.

Bone Up on Osteoporosis

As you grow your bones get stronger and longer. By the time you reach the age of 20, you've got 98 percent of your bone mass; by the time you reach your thirtieth birthday, your bones are their strongest. If you were able to take a look inside your bones during those peak years, you'd see a hard outer shell and something that looks like a honeycomb on the inside. About 80 percent of your bone mass is that tough, hard outer bone called cortical bone. The rest of your bone make-up is the honeycomb-like material called trabecular bone. After you hit 30, your bone mass begins to decline. Trabecular bone is typically the first to lose critical density, and as you get older, cortical bone mass also declines, but at a slower pace.

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Osteoporosis literally means porous bones. That means someone diagnosed with the disease has lost so much density that there's not much there to hold their bones together, putting them at greater risk for bone breaks and fractures. The National Osteoporosis Foundation calls osteoporosis the "silent disease" because there are virtually no symptoms of bone loss. Unless you're aware of the risk factors and take action, you may not know you have the disease until some benign bump on the garage door turns into a fracture.

Because the symptoms are not obvious, it's important to know whether or not you are at risk. Go to the next page to find out if you are a potential candidate for osteoporosis.

For more information on disorders and symptoms related to osteoporosis, try the following links:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider. The brand name products mentioned in this publication are trademarks or service marks of their respective companies. The mention of any product in this publication does not constitute an endorsement by the respective proprietors of Publications International, Ltd. or HowStuffWorks.com, nor does it constitute an endorsement by any of these companies that their products should be used in the manner described in this publication.

Risk Factors for Osteoporosis

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. It should come as no surprise that smokers are particularly vulnerable to bone loss.

Although there are many ways to build stronger bones, those who are most prone to osteoporosis also must be aware of what behaviors and other factors can contribute to bone loss. The following are some bone robbers that you will want to avoid or limit for the health of your bones.

Alcohol. It's been suggested that small amounts of alcohol, say three to six drinks per week, may actually help your body to retain calcium and prevent osteoporosis by raising estrogen levels. But too much alcohol clearly weakens bones and damages your overall health. And the flip side to the estrogen coin is that the higher estrogen levels that are associated with moderate alcohol intake may be linked to an increased risk for breast cancer. So if you imbibe at all, go easy.

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Smoking. Women who smoke tend to reach menopause earlier than nonsmokers, and this may be what increases their risk for osteoporosis. Smoking may also encourage bone loss in other ways that have yet to be identified. Ask your doctor for help in quitting.

Estrogen replacement therapy. After a woman experiences menopause, estrogen therapy can help forestall bone loss. The amount of estrogen required to both prevent bone loss and alleviate the symptoms of menopause is small, actually less than that in a typical birth control pill. Still, there are risks and possible side effects. So be sure to thoroughly discuss the pros and cons of estrogen replacement with your doctor.

Being overweight. This may be one of the few conditions where being overweight actually offer some protection. It's not known exactly why. It could be because the extra weight strengthens bone, or it could be that overweight women produce more estrogen than slender women. Considering the potential negative health effects that are associated with being overweight, such as the increased risks of high blood pressure and diabetes, it is not recommended that you purposely gain excess weight or stay overweight to prevent osteoporosis. However, it certainly highlights one of the many potential negative side effects of the waif-like, model-thin figure that is often glorified in the fashion industry and that is generally attainable only through disordered, unhealthy eating behaviors.

Pregnancy. Your risk of developing osteoporosis is greater if you have never been pregnant. Though being pregnant lowers your risk, it's not known if multiple pregnancies lower your risk further or whether, in fact, they might actually increase it.

Caffeine. Excessive caffeine intake, whether from coffee or other caffeinated drinks, can cause your body to lose calcium, but the effects are not quite as extreme as once thought. The amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee cancels the calcium in only about one tablespoon of milk.

Still, it's probably a good idea to keep your daily caffeine intake to no more than about three cups of brewed coffee or four cups of brewed tea. Keep in mind that other food products, including caffeinated soft drinks, can add to your caffeine intake.

nactivity. It has been proven beyond a doubt that regular physical activity is absolutely crucial to maintaining bone health throughout your life, so being sedentary means you're missing a simple, inexpensive, low-risk way to prevent calcium from leaching out of your bones -- perhaps the simplest way to keep your bones healthy and strong. Indeed, it's like letting calcium simply slip through your fingers.

Protein. In the United States, we generally eat far more protein than we need for good health. And it's believed that a high protein intake causes calcium to be excreted. Over time, this calcium loss, if not compensated for with dietary calcium, will come from the bones.

Long-term use of certain medications. People suffering from asthma or rheumatoid arthritis who take cortisone (a steroid) for long periods may diminish the strength of their bones.

Being Female. Women are several times more likely to develop osteoporosis than are men.

Race. Caucasians are at greater risk for developing osteoporosis than darker-skinned people are. Far fewer black women develop osteoporosis than do whites. People of Asian descent are also at higher risk for osteoporosis.

Bone structure. Small or petite women are at greater risk because of their small bones. If they experience the same rate of bone loss as larger women, they will develop osteoporosis sooner, simply because they have less bone to start with.

Early menopause. The earlier a woman experiences menopause, the greater her risk of osteoporosis. Risk also increases if a woman has a surgical menopause -- a hysterectomy, or removal of the uterus, or a double oophorectomy, or removal of both ovaries -- at an early age and is not put on hormone replacement therapy. If only the uterus is removed but the ovaries are left intact, the woman will likely experience normal menopausal symptoms in her early 50s, on average, and her risk will not be increased.

Family history. Many women with osteoporosis have at least one family member who has the disease. Still, a lack of family history doesn't rule out the possibility that a woman will develop osteoporosis.

The fight against osteoporosis is a lifelong one. It is never too early to start the proper behavior that will help protect your bones in the long run. In the next section, we'll provide several home remedies in the form of lifestyle choices that you can make to prevent or hinder osteoporosis.

For more information on disorders and symptoms related to osteoporosis, try the following links:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider. The brand name products mentioned in this publication are trademarks or service marks of their respective companies. The mention of any product in this publication does not constitute an endorsement by the respective proprietors of Publications International, Ltd. or HowStuffWorks.com, nor does it constitute an endorsement by any of these companies that their products should be used in the manner described in this publication.

Home Remedy Treatments for Osteoporosis

The best way to fight osteoporosis is to strengthen up those bones -- no matter what your age. Here are some tips on how to do just that. What's more, most of these home remedies contribute to bettering your overall health, so you can't afford not to do them!

Exercise Regularly. Exercise is one of the most important things you can do to fight osteoporosis. Here's why: Forcing a bone to carry a load or work against an opposing force (such as gravity) prompts the body to produce more bone cells, increasing the bone's mass and making it stronger. (You can actually see the bone-building results of such loading in the significantly developed swinging arms of many tennis pros.) Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, jogging, dancing, and aerobics, in which your bones work against the force of gravity to keep you upright, are just the kind of exercises that fit the bill.

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Natural Home Remedies for Osteoporosis

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Milk does a body good, particularly in the fight against osteoporosis.

Thankfully, there are many ways you can combat and even reverse the damaging effects of this bone-thinning disease, and the earlier you start the better. There are several home remedies right at your fingertips. Why not try some of the bone boosters in your kitchen?

Home Remedies from the Cupboard

Beans. Take a can of beans -- or any one-pound can -- and do a few biceps curls. These cans are a perfect weight for beginners and will help you begin to build a little muscle. And strengthening your muscles helps strengthen your bones.

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Peanut butter. A recent review of studies on nutrition and osteoporosis found that magnesium was a vital component to strengthening, preserving, and rebuilding bones. You can get 50 mg of magnesium by eating 2 tablespoons of peanut butter.

Vinegar. A splash of vinegar when you are cooking soup will help pull calcium out of bones. It does the same thing for salad greens, so you should make it your new favorite dressing!

Home Remedies from the Fruit Basket

Apples. Boron is a trace mineral that helps your body hold on to calcium -- the building block of bones. It even acts as a mild estrogen replacement, and losing estrogen is instrumental in speeding bone loss. Boron is found in apples and other fruits such as pears, grapes, dates, raisins, and peaches. It's also in nuts such as almonds, peanuts, and hazelnuts.

Banana. Eat a banana a day to build your bones. Studies have found that women who have diets high in potassium also have stronger bones in their spines and hips. Researchers think this is related to potassium's ability to keep blood healthy and balanced so the body doesn't have to suck calcium from the skeleton to keep blood up to par.

Home Remedies from the Refrigerator

Broccoli. Eat 1/2 cup broccoli to get your daily dose of vitamin K. Studies are finding that postmenopausal women with low levels of this vital vitamin are more likely to have osteoporosis.

Figs. This Mediterranian delight is packed with calcium.

Leafy greens. Romaine lettuce, spinach, collards, and kale are good choices.

Margarine. Slather a teaspoon of low trans fatty margarine on your toast for a dose of vitamin D. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, a necessary ingredient to bone health.

Milk. When it comes to strong bones, getting enough calcium is a must. One cup of milk can provide 300 mg of the 1,000 to 1,200 mg of calcium the government recommends you get every day.

Orange juice. Grab a glass of OJ to get your vitamin C. Necessary for the body processes that rebuild bones, getting enough vitamin C is vital to preventing osteoporosis. Grab some calcium-fortified orange juice and get a healthy dose of bone-building nutrients.

Pineapple juice. Drink a cup of pineapple juice and give your body some manganese. Studies are finding that manganese deficiency is a predictor of osteoporosis. Other manganese sources are oatmeal, nuts, beans, cereals, spinach, and tea.

Salmon and Sardines. Both of these delicious fishes are high in calcium, and salmon is also a good source of vitamin D.

Tofu. Soy is showing promise as a potential bone strengthener. Soy contains proteins that act like a weak estrogen in the body. These "phytoestrogens," or plant-based estrogens, may help women regain bone strength.

Yogurt. The lactose, or sugar, in yogurt, has already been broken down, so even many people who are lactose intolerant can eat it and get the benefits of the high calcium content. Eat it with fresh fruit or substitute it for sour cream in recipes.

Home Remedies from the Supplement Shelf

Calcium. If you don't get enough calcium in your diet, be sure to use a supplement to help prevent osteoporosis.

Our calcium needs vary throughout our lives. An adequate intake, as recommended by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, is 1,300 milligrams (mg) for boys and girls ages 9 to 18; 1,000 mg for men and women ages 19 to 50; and 1,200 mg for people over 50 (the intake for older adults is higher because with age the body naturally loses some of its ability to absorb the mineral). Most of us don't come close to reaching the recommended adequate intake.

Here are some simple tricks for sneaking more calcium into your diet:

  • Use milk instead of water to mix up hot cereals, hot chocolate, and soups.
  • Substitute plain yogurt for half the mayonnaise in dressings.
  • Add liquid or powdered skim milk to coffee instead of oily nondairy creamer or fattening cream.

For more information on disorders and symptoms related to osteoporosis, try the following links:

Ivan Oransky, M.D., is the deputy editor of The Scientist. He is author or co-author of four books, including The Common Symptom Answer Guide, and has written for publications including the Boston Globe, The Lancet, and USA Today. He holds appointments as a clinical assistant professor of medicine and as adjunct professor of journalism at New York University.

David J. Hufford, Ph.D., is university professor and chair of the Medical Humanities Department at Pennsylvania State University's College of Medicine. He also is a professor in the departments of Neural and Behavioral Sciences and Family and Community Medicine. Dr. Hufford serves on the editorial boards of several journals, including Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine and Explore.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.