Alternative Health Treatments for Osteoporosis
Alternative medicine is commonly confused with complementary medicine, but there are key differences.
Complementary medicine is used together with conventional medicine with your doctor, while alternative medicine is used in place of traditional medicine.
Because not everyone responds to every type of treatment, working with your doctor to explore alternative options may benefit you. However, you should talk to a medical professional before replacing conventional medicine with an alternative approach.
More research needs to be done.
When you get acupuncture, small thin needles are gently inserted into strategic points on your body. According to traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is thought to stimulate specific nerves, muscles or organs.
When it comes to osteoporosis, numerous studies have been done to investigate the impact that this alternative health method offers women with bone loss. However, some preliminary research shows promising results.
One study even found that acupuncture improved bone mineral density better than taking some name-brand calcium supplements.
Tai chi is an ancient form of exercise that originated in China thousands of years ago. It’s a series of postures and body poses that you flow gently into one after the other. You may have seen groups of people in parks and public spaces practicing this gentle, rhythmic form of exercise.
Because it’s a whole-body workout and also a very gentle form of exercise, women of all ages can partake in tai chi. It may build muscle strength and bone strength through the physical movement.
More importantly, some of its poses hone your flexibility, balance and posture, which in turn helps reduce the risks of falls that contribute to osteoporosis-related fractures and injuries.
What Else Can Be Done?
As with all drugs, there are pros and cons to medication therapy. You should weigh the pros and cons carefully with your doctor when selecting a medication for your osteoporosis treatment.
That being said, there are a variety of other self-care measures that can be undertaken to preserve bone density.
Lifestyle Changes for Osteoporosis
Your daily habits can have a big impact on your bone health and your osteoporosis prognosis, starting with the foods you eat (or don’t eat). From food to movement, the choices you make every day can help keep you feeling and looking your best.
Eat More Calcium-Rich Foods
If you or a loved one has osteoporosis, you likely have a cupboard or medicine cabinet stocked to the brim with calcium supplements and pills. And while these are a common go-to for women who want stronger bones and reduced bone fractures, it isn’t the magic pill many people think it is.
For example, an analysis published in the British Medical Journal found that calcium supplements do nothing to reduce fracture risks in adults over the age of 50.
But that doesn’t mean calcium does nothing for your osteoporosis. New research has found that women who get their calcium through food instead of supplements have healthier, stronger bones.
Some of the best calcium-rich foods if you have osteoporosis include:
- Fatty fish: It’s high in calcium as well as vitamin D, a vitamin that may help improve calcium absorption.
- Beans: Beans are rich in calcium, as well as fiber. Some studies show that a fiber-rich diet may assist in preventing osteoporosis by slowing down the process where your bones lose calcium.
- Kale: Kale and other dark-green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, are high in calcium. Many of these veggies are also a great way to increase your vitamin K intake. This essential vitamin enhances calcium absorption, and studies suggest that it may also lower the risk of bone fractures in some women who already have osteoporosis.
If those options don't interest you, you may also try dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese, tofu, salmon, broccoli, cauliflower, and leafy green vegetables.
Don’t worry; you won’t bulk up like a bodybuilder. But you will bulk up your bones!
Research reveals that weight-bearing exercise increases bone strength. This includes lifting free weights, using rubber exercise bands, or even stepping onto an exercise machine.
Plus, regular workouts promote balance and posture. Improving posture and balance can reduce your risk of a fall, which in turn can decrease your risk of a fracture.
If you smoke, here’s one more reason to consider quitting the habit: Smoking doesn’t just increase your risks of a variety of types of cancers and chronic conditions, but it also speeds up bone loss.
Studies indicate that current smokers lose bone at a much faster rate than non-smokers. By the age of 80, the average smoker can have up to 6 percent less bone density than someone who doesn’t smoke!
According to the World Health Organization, “Hip fracture risk among smokers is greater at all ages but rises from 17 percent greater at age 60 to 71 percent at age 80, and 108 percent at age 90.”
Avoid Ingredients That Zap Your Calcium
Many common ingredients in the modern Western diet can contribute to bone loss and osteoporosis risks. This includes:
- Eating excessive salt. Sodium speeds up how much calcium your bones lose.
- Drinking phosphorous. It’s a common ingredient in soft drinks/sodas, and it can minimize how much calcium your body can absorb.
- Alcohol and caffeine. Excessive amounts of either of these substances can raise your risks of fractures. Take alcohol as an example. It reduces your body’s levels of vitamin D, which in turn impacts how much calcium you can absorb.
Ensure You’re Getting Enough Vitamin D
Vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium better. We can get vitamin D from food sources or supplementation.
Doctors recommend the following amounts of vitamin D each day, for the average person:
- Age 1-70: 600 IU
- Age 71 and older: 800 IU
Your needs may be higher if you aren’t taking in enough vitamin D through diet or supplementation. Your physician will let you know if you need to ingest more vitamin D – but it doesn’t hurt to ask!
Food sources of vitamin D include:
- Egg yolks
- Fatty fish, such as tuna, mackerel, and salmon
- Fortified foods, such as milk, cereal, and orange juice
- Beef liver