Note from the author: This article is the first of two, based on my personal experience and is for information purposes only. If you have osteoporosis, please consult with your own doctor.
I am in my late 50’s and had a full health assessment not too long ago. When all was said and done, the doctor looked at me and commented with a smile: “Wow! There’s really nothing to say, other than your osteoporosis, which is surprisingly well advanced for your age.”
Osteoperosis, a condition experienced mostly by women, is defined as “the risk and reality of bone fractures caused by aging, thinning bones.” It is a fact of life for many and it contributes to more than 300,000 hip fractures every year. I inherited the genetic propensity for this condition from both my mother and grandmother. Since it is slow progressing, cannot be seen until it manifests itself in a bone break, and approaches on treatment are all over the map, it’s pretty easy to ignore. I have focused on a healthy diet (with lots of dark greens) and daily weight-bearing exercise through a job that keeps me literally on my feet for 4 hours every day. Is it enough? Am I ignoring the need to do more?
What I cannot ignore are the osteoporosis-related wrist, shoulder and ankle fractures that sisters in my ward of a similar age have recently experienced. These breaks are extremely painful, frustrating, time-consuming and expensive; some have required surgery and pins.
Another woman I know well is experiencing irreversible jaw deterioration. She and her doctors/dentists are trying to figure out how to stop it and address the damage that has occurred.
My grandmother was regularly hospitalized for pain resulting from osteoporosis. My own mother (now nearly 92) had a hip break at age 56, which was the sneak preview of the difficulties ahead. At present, the state of osteoperosis in her spine means compression fractures and that her back no longer supports her body. She is extremely stooped and unable to sit for long or walk any further than the main living areas of our home. Thankfully she can still beautifully care for her own personal needs and all her other faculties are marvelously in place so that she both contributes to and enjoys life around her in a wonderful way.
There’s no way to know if you have osteoperosis without the bone density test. I was tested early based on my family history. Ostopenia, the precursor, was diagnosed about ten years ago. It has advanced to osteoporosis. My doctor insists on Fosomax and loads of calcium and weight bearing exercise. My adherence (other than a reasonably healthy diet and exercise) has been spotty at best. This past year, however, of watching the experiences of my mother and other women in my circle, has convinced me that I must get serious about my own osteoporosis.
My problems other than the disease itself? Fosomax and calcium, my doctor’s recommended course of treatment.
After reading Eat to Live (by Dr. Joel Fuhrman) and Fit for Life (by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond,) a number of years ago, I did more personal reading on the value of dairy and calcium. I found that this was not as helpful as I had been taught for building either health or strong bones. We then eliminated 85-90% of our dairy consumption, leaving it for very occasional use in cooking, with cereal and a dairy low-fat treat every now and then. We immediately experienced a reduction in colds and congestion.
With regard to Fosomax, while I couldn’t put a finger on why I just couldn’t get myself to take it regularly, recent conversations and research are telling me that I was following an inner prompting that this was also not right personally for me. Once again, I’ve been doing some research on why.
When I googled “Downside of Fosomax” a boatload of articles popped up.
Here is the response from Dr. Dr. Armon B. Neel Jr., a physician for AARP, who responded to a woman’s request for more information about the drugs recommended for osteoperosis: The bottom of the article listed specific problems which really got my attention as sisters in my immediate circle are suffering from these conditions:
gastrointestinal problems: ranging from heartburn, acid reflux and other relatively mild gastrointestinal events to, in rare cases, chronic inflammation and ulceration,
spontaneous bone fracture
Here’s his full response:
“There’s no question that osteoporosis – a decrease in bone density that contributes to more than 300,000 hip fractures a year – is a disease that needs to be taken seriously. But are the prescription drugs known as bisphosphonates – such as risedronate (Actonel), ibandronate (Boniva), alendronate (Fosamax) and zoledronic acid (Reclast) – the right approach to treating the disease?
Clinical trials for bisphosphonate drugs have shown that they’re only marginally effective at preventing hip fractures – even in high-risk postmenopausal women. For instance, when Merck, the manufacturer of Fosamax, says that the drug can reduce such fractures by more than 50 percent, it’s referring to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1998 that showed a small reduction in absolute risk among those taking Fosamax.
Of the thousands of women in the study group, 1.0 percent of those taking Fosamax experienced hip fractures, compared with 2.2 percent of those taking placebo (sugar pills). Because 1.0 percent is 44 percent of 2.2 percent, Merck is allowed to say that its drug reduces bone fractures by 56 percent. The same study reported that, among postmenopausal women without osteoporosis, the relative risk of hip fractures actually went up 84 percent with Fosamax treatment.
What’s more, a systematic review of 33 studies of bisphosphonate drugs published last year by the highly respected Therapeutics Initiative found “no statistically significant reduction in hip or wrist fracture” in women with no previous fractures or vertebral compression – who make up the majority of women treated with bisphosphonates. In higher-risk women, the review found small reductions in absolute risk – 1 percent for hip fractures and 1.3 percent for wrist fractures, noting that even those statistics are based on “a potentially biased subset” of patients in the studies. Plus, neither the doctors who prescribe bisphosphonate drugs nor the companies that manufacturer them are able to say how long patients should be taking them. As the American College of Physicians puts it, “Evidence is insufficient to determine the appropriate duration of therapy.”
Moreover, bisphonate drugs may have adverse side effects, such as:
- Musculoskeletal pain; gastrointestinal problems: ranging from heartburn, acid reflux and other relatively mild gastrointestinal events to, in rare cases, chronic inflammation and ulcerations.
- Spontaneous bone fractures; and jawbone deterioration.
The link to this article and more information is
So if drugs are not effective, what is?
I felt blessed to find a wonderful book on Amazon with a number of 4 and 5 star reviews that complimented the authors’ extensive reviews of clinical trials for osteoperosis and their theory that neither calcium nor drugs are the answer. The book is “Building Bone Vitality – A Revolutionary Diet Plan to Prevent Bone Loss and Reverse Osteoperosis” by Amy Joy Lanou (a nutrition professor) and Michael Castleman (a medical journalist.)
I quickly purchased it and anxiously awaited its arrival. Though it quotes heavily on clinical studies, it is still easy to read and extremely informative.
Broken into three parts, the book explains why 1) The calcium theory is wrong; 2) Their prescription for low-acid eating and daily walking and 3) Osteoperosis risk factors and the use of drugs. The last chapters index by name and date many of the over 1200 studies they used for their findings. These studies were long-term and of an international scope, following many thousands of people over a period of 10-20 years to document the progress of osteoporosis based o the number and type of fractures experienced, diet, exercise, drug use, etc. The explanation of the studies themselves were a fascinating education about osteoporosis.
Dairy and Supplements and Meat, Oh My!
The first part of the book supported my personal belief of many years (as stated previously) that calcium through dairy products (a staple part of the American diet) is overrated, as is our need for animal protein in anything other than small amounts. What is consumed should be in amounts more in line with “a garnish” or as an accent for flavor and variety. The authors use of statistics convincingly show that countries that consume the most milk, dairy foods and calcium supplements suffer the most fractures. They theorize, then prove, that the dairy and calcium in it that is touted to build bone strength are actually depleting calcium from the bones. People around the world who consume only 500 miligrams of calcium a day, (half of what American health authorities recommend — or less) have fracture rates only a small fraction of ours!
They then outline why milk, dairy foods and calcium supplements by themselves or in any combination do not prevent fractures, which is followed by how too much meat also causes fractures. With careful reasoning, they document how up until the 20th century, the large majority of Americans lived on small farms that produced their own food through gardens and a cow or two, to an industrialized nation where both dairy and meat are easily processed and shipped to become a daily part of most American’s diet. This change has had a negative effect on health. It has also become a social thing as eating more meat has been seen to be indicative of being part of a “culture of affluence.”
A much better source for calcium and protein is plant based and there are loads of places to get it in delicious abundance: the dark green vegetables, almonds, raisins, tofu, soy milk, white beans, very moderate amounts of cheese, etc. This was how our ancestors lived and what the human body thrives on.
What is the prescription for bone health? D&C 89: 10-12
While you would need to read the book yourself to see their studies and reasoning for their directives, their analysis of the research reveals that prescription for strong bones and fracture prevention is easy: Low-acid eating and daily walking. What is low-acid eating? The Word of Wisdom!
“And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man-Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving. Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly.”
D&C 89: 10-12
Why should it ever be surprising that our Heavenly Father’s counsel for how to care for our bodies will always be the best directive? The marvel is that modern science continues to document this counsel given in 1833, exactly 180 years ago.
“In the article “Fruits and Vegetables: The Unexpected Natural Answer to Osteoperosis Prevention” presented by a researcher at the Center for Nutrition and Food Safety in England states: “We urgently need public health strategies to maintain bone health throughout life and to prevent osteoporosis in later life. The evidence from many studies strongly points to a positive link between fruit and vegetable consumption. Persuading the Western populations to increase their fruit and vegetable consumption remains our biggest challenge.
The commonly accepted theory that enough calcium will build strong enough bones is refuted in the fact that bones are not just calcium, but living cells that require many other nutrients (17 to be exact) to thrive. With the exception of vitamin B12, (found in supplements, vitamin fortified cereal, salmon and sardines), these other nutrients can readily be found in a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes.
The authors say, “There’s no need to obsess about eating specific fruits and vegetables. Just eat a wide variety! Have fruits and vegetables at every meal. Eat a serving of beans or peas daily and snack on fruit and nuts.” (p. 101) … but lettuce, spinach, dark leafy greens (chard, collard, greens, turnip greens, etc.), green cabbage and broccoli are particularly valuable because they are rich in vitamin K, which has a major impact on bone health. (page 105.)
The book includes information on exercise (which I’ll discuss in my next article) and a basic outline of health daily meal plans and some great-sounding recipes, once of which I just couldn’t help but include:
Mediterranean Potato Salad
5-6 medium new potatoes, cut into bite sizedp pieces
1 yellow or red onion, slivered
1 red bell pepper, cut into thin 2″ long strips
2 Tbsp. + 1 tsp.olive oil
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
20 green beans snapped into 1″ pieces
2 small celery stalks, tops removed, diced
1 Tbs. minced fresh oregano or other fresh herbs
1 tsp.dijon mustard
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
1) Cook the potatoes in boiling water until just barely soft. Drain and transfer to a medium salad bowl.
2) Saute the onion and bell pepper in the 1 tsp. of olive oil and 1 Tbsp of balsamic vinegar until soft. Add them to the cooling potatoes.
3) Cook the green beans in a small amount of water until bright green. Drain and add to potatoes and onion/peppers.
4) Mix the remaining 2 Tbsp. of olive oil with the mustard and the remaining 1 Tbs. of vinegar in a small container with a lid and shake. (You may use red vinegar if you prefer.) Pour the dressing over the potato mix and add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until chilled. Stir again before serving.
In my next article, I’ll talk about the authors take on the best exercise for those of us with osteoperosis, and what my own studies are coming up with. Once again, I stress this is my personal experience so far, and urge you to work with your doctor for your own health situation.
P.S. Speaking of the Word of Wisdom, So many Meridian readers are getting a wonderful fresh summer-time start with our fabulous detox word of wisdom health drink. It’s truly a delicious, refreshing drink when made with lemon, and lots of ice: See it HERE. AFFILIATE LINK: www.mymiracletea.com
Carolyn Allen is the Author of 60 Seconds to Weight Loss Success – One Minute Inspirations to Change Your Thinking, Your Weight and Your Life, available at her website.
She has been providing mental and spiritual approaches for weight loss success both online and in the Washington, DC community since 1999 presenting for Weight Watchers, First Class, Fairfax County Adult Education and other community groups.
She is the owner MyMiracleTea.com, an herbal detox tonic in keeping with the Word of Wisdom, now used by Meridian readers and missionaries everywhere. CLICK HERE
She is mother of five and the grandmother of a growing number of delightful grandsons and granddaughters and lives with her husband, Bob, in Springfield Virginia, where they serve as the nursery leaders.