By Dr. Michael Miles
Special to the Crier
Osteoporosis refers to softening of the bones brought on by a depletion of calcium. It can be detected with a bone density scan, a heel ultrasound or a specialized urine test. It can result in a hunched over back or broken hip. It is, unfortunately, quite common in women who have experienced menopause. What happens during menopause is a shift in hormones. As the ovaries retire from the reproductive chores of producing eggs, the estrogen levels in the body drop off dramatically. One of estrogen’s many functions is to stand guard at the bones to prevent calcium loss. This is why osteoporosis is strongly associated with menopause.
The body has a complex system of checks and balances to maintain daily life. One of these systems checks the levels of calcium in the blood stream to ensure that enough calcium is available for good health. Substances that deplete our calcium levels include coffee, alcohol, sodas and smoking. If the calcium levels drop too low, the parathyroid glands, located just behind the thyroid under your Adam’s Apple, will send out it’s hormones to signal the body to replenish the calcium. It signals three major areas of the body. First, it signals the kidneys to stop any calcium from being washed out in the urine. Second, it signals the intestines to bring in as much calcium from food as it can. And, when this doesn’t produce enough calcium, it says, “I know where there is an abundance of calcium…in the bones.” So, it sends a signal to the bones to pull out calcium into the blood stream. If there is enough estrogen to stand guard over the bones, the parathyroid hormones are forced to look elsewhere. This is one of the reasons many women choose to take estrogen supplements after menopause.
However, as you can see, the real issue is not the amount of estrogen circulating in your body, but the amount of calcium. Therefore, it is most important to maintain the amount of calcium in our bodies to prevent osteoporosis. Calcium citrate with boron and Vitamin D is a good choice for supplementation, as is hydroxyapatite. In fact, hydroxyapatite has the reputation of actually REBUILDING depleted bones. Milk and Tums are poorer sources of calcium.
It is also important to maintain the demand for calcium in the bones by exercising. This doesn’t mean you have to run a mile every day or lift weights. It just means that the body will take measures to maintain those structures that are in most demand. So, if you do weight bearing exercises, like walking, this puts a demand on the body to maintain healthy bones to support your weight. This demand is met by directing calcium into your bones.
So, number one, make sure you get enough calcium in your diet. Number two; make sure you do enough weight bearing exercises. And, finally, if you suspect that you’re not getting enough of one and two or you have a strong family history of osteoporosis or long-term steroid use, consider supplementing with estrogen. There are many sources of estrogen that will protect you. Bio-identical estrogens are worth strong consideration if this becomes the course of choice.