The National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that 54 million U.S. adults over 50 are affected by osteoporosis and low bone mass. The medical establishment treats this imbalance with different forms of bisphosphonate. These include Alendronate, Fosamax, Fosamax Plus D, Actonel, Boniva, and Reclast. By 2005 these drugs were bringing in nearly $3.2 billion to drug manufacturers. “But research has found that bisphosphonates offer only modest benefits in building bone and preventing fractures. And all pose risks. Growing evidence has now linked the drugs to a long list of worrisome side effects” says Consumer Reports. Are there other ways to prevent or heal us from osteoporosis?
Postmenopausal osteoporosis due to estrogen deficiency is known as Type I and usually affects women age 50-65. Type I osteoporosis affects the ends of long bones, pelvic bones, ribs, skull, and the vertebrae in the spinal column. Fractures of the forearm and vertebrae are common with type 1. With type II osteoporosis the denser bones are affected. Hip fractures and wrist fractures occur more often.
Causes of secondary osteoporosis include genetic syndromes, anorexia nervosa, bulimia, female athlete syndrome and endocrine disorders--such as adrenal insufficiency, Cushing syndrome, diabetes, hyperparathyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
Deficiencies of calcium, magnesium, protein and vitamin D are known causes, as are inflammatory conditions including inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosis spondylitis and lupus, leukemia, lymphoma, metastatic cancer and multiple myeloma.
Several medications are also implicated as causes of osteoporosis. Those are: anti-convulsants, anti-AIDS medication, antipsychotics and excess thyroxine (taken for low-thyroid). Additional causes of secondary osteoporosis include alcoholism, congestive cardiac failure, depression, HIV and chronic liver disease. Women who take estrogen replacement to prevent osteoporosis, for as little as five years, increase their risk of breast cancer by twenty percent; if they take hormone replacement, the risk increases by forty percent.
One study shows that those with high bone density broke their hips as frequently as those with osteoporosis. So if osteoporosis isn't the problem, what is? Ayurveda says weak bones can be due to poor nutrition, lack of exercise and inflexibility. Flexible bones bend; stiff bones break.
To avoid the risks and expense of long-term pill use we can drink nourishing herbal teas, such as nettle and oatstraw, and mineral-rich soups combined with regular exercise to help create flexible, healthy bones. Fresh juices contain very little minerals. To extract minerals from plants we need heat. Cooking maximizes the minerals we can assimilate. This is why soups with kale are so beneficial. Putting a tablespoon of the herb, Horsetail, in your soup while cooking will help you to better assimilate the calcium in your food.
Here is one remedy that you can do at home in the summer: soak one teaspoon of white sesame seeds in water overnight. The next morning, drain the water and chew the seeds slowly. During winter, don't soak the seeds. Every morning just chew one teaspoon slowly.
This is the Ayurvedic multi-therapy approach to bring people with osteoporosis into balance:
This formula--Amalaki, Triphala, guggul, angelica, praval (red coral), black sesame seeds, comfrey root is accompanied with medicated enema, daily massage, yoga, meditation, and pranayama.
Here is one of dozens of Ayurvedic recipes to build healthy bones.
Wash okra under running water and spread out on a kitchen towel. Dry with the towel. Cut okra into uniform bite-sized pieces. Place a wok with sesame oil on high heat. Add cumin seeds, wait until they splutter. Add okra and keep on high heat. Stir fry. Okra emits a 'gummy' substance when heated. Let this cook on high heat, stirring at intervals. When most of this has cooked away, reduce the heat to medium-low and let the okra cook until soft, stirring only occasionally. When soft, add sea salt to taste with a few pinches of coriander powder.
What is most important for people prone to osteoporosis, is to relieve anxiety and to keep a regular routine for eating and sleeping. Eat small meals, sit down to eat, chew and enjoy. This is a small way of saying thank you to your body for being the incredible phenomenon it is!
Wishing you warmth, sweetness and flexibility in your lives!
Athena Wolf is an Ayurvedic physician and curandera. These brief articles are not meant to be used to diagnose, treat or prevent any disease.