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Bones and Bone Health

There are 206 bones in the human body...

Bone itself is a dynamic tissue, continually being formed and reabsorbed. This tissue is typically hard, dense and makes up the skeleton which is the framework of the body. The bones of the central skeleton form the head and trunk and the bones of the peripheral skeleton form the arms and legs.

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Bone Growth...

Bone growth continues under the influence of hormones, the growing points being near the ends of the bones. This is where the diaphysis or shaft of the bone meets the thicker ends or epiphyses. Separating the 2 parts of the bone is a cartilage plate. The diaphysis lengthens by converting some of this cartilage to bone, while on the other side of the junction new cartilage cells are formed. This continues until bone mass growth is complete.

For women with an adequate amount of calcium and exercise, bone mass growth continues until the age is around 33. Women consuming an inadequate intake of calcium, with little exercise typically have a peak bone mass at about 27.

Of all bone disorders, Osteoporosis is by far the most common...

More than 25 million Americans, mainly women, are candidates for developing osteoporosis. The World Health Organisation has declared osteoporosis as the second biggest medical problem, next to cardiovascular disease.

The future health and economic impact of established osteoporosis is expected to be substantial. In many Western societies, patients with hip fractures occupy more hospital beds than patients with any other disease. Excluding alcoholics, fewer men than women develop osteoporosis. Men generally have greater bone mass, consume more calcium, and exercise more than comparably-aged women. Menopause dramatically increases the rate of bone loss.

Osteoporosis is a complex disease with a number of complications. Genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors all play a causative role in the progression of osteoporosis. Contributing factors in the development of osteoporosis are ethnic background, body build, lack of weight bearing exercise, nutritional status, hormonal imbalances, malabsorption problems, use of specific medications and certain illnesses.

Bone density tests for bone loss...

To evaluate the extent of bone loss, people at risk should consider a bone resorption assessment. This is an effective test that identifies elevated levels of bone loss before excessive damage has occurred. The assessment also monitors the effectiveness of calcium supplementation to slow bone loss.

Alternatively a bone density scan is desirable, however this type of test provides just three possible outcomes ( high, medium or low), whilst a bone resorption assessment will give you nine possible outcomes. Please contact Ideal Health if you are interested in a bone density scan.

Conventional Treatment of Osteoporosis...

Conventional treatment of osteoporosis and its complications are centred around estrogen replacement therapy, poorly absorbed calcium supplements, and basic weight bearing exercise. Sometimes drugs such as calcitonin and biophosphates are used to strengthen this form of therapy.

Although conventional treatment is proven to slow the rate of osteoporosis, an increase in bone mass may be limited. The use of synthetic estrogens and progestins is probably the biggest flaw in conventional treatment. These hormones have been implicated in promoting the late stages of carcinogenesis among postmenopausal women and in facilitating the proliferation of malignant cells (Journal of National Cancer Institute 1998;90:814-23).

Hulley and co workers published the results of the Heart and Estrogen/progestin Replacement Study (HERS) in the JAMA, No7, Vol 280 in 1998. This study is of particular importance as it was the first randomised trial proving that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) does not prevent or reduce heart disease in postmenopausal women. Previously observational studies had found lower rates of coronary heart disease in postmenopausal women who take estrogen than in women who do not, but this potential benefit had not been confirmed in clinical trials. HRT has been predicted to reduce heart disease in postmenopausal women and this has been the major reason for starting this therapy. Interestingly, natural progesterone reverses the bone loss in ageing women to increase bone density (Lee.J Int Clin Nutr Review, July, 1990 Vol. 10, No3), and has an anti-tumour effect on the endometrium (Amer Soc for Repr Med, Feb Vol. 65, No2 1996).

Complementary Treatment to support bone health...

Complementary medicine aims to maximise increasing bone mass through a number of key strategies. Supporting bone health is the primary concern.

In conjunction with clinically proven bone building supplements, the addition of hormonal controlling nutrients, weight bearing exercise programmes and sound nutritional advice are all indicated.

Nutritional and Herbal support for optimal bone health:

Super Calcium Complete - An excellent calcium supplement containing the clinically proven microcrystalline hydroxyapatite form of calcium, providing an excellent source of calcium and specialised growth proteins/synergistic trace minerals.

Ethi Cal - High Strength Calcium from Hydroxyapatite may assist in the prevention and treatment of Osteoporosis. Contains a source of calcium from hydroxyapatite, which may assist in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis.

Ethi Cal Powder - The same great product in a powdered form.  

Some interesting points on Bone health...

  • Increase intake of calcium rich foods including sesame seeds (either ground up or as tahini), nuts and seeds (especially almonds), oats, tofu, vegetables (in particular dark green leafies), wheatgerm, yoghurt and tinned fish with bones-especially salmon and sardines.
  • Weight bearing exercises are essential for increasing bone mass.
  • Having a cup of coffee for up to 1 hour after eating has been shown to interfere with calcium absorption.
  • People with gall bladder and thyroid problems may have lower calcium levels as problems with these organs interferes with proper calcium absorption.
  • Reduce the foods in your diet that are 'acid' forming. These are meats, sugars, refined flours, alcohols, and large amounts of grains. These foods, once metabolised, cause blood pH levels to drop - causing Calcium to be drawn from bones to compensate for the pH change.
  • Lower the level of protein sourced from meat in your diet. Whey powder is an excellent source of protein, that produces more of an alkaline effect after digestion.
  • Reduce any medication that may cause changes in bone mass if possible.
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The Naturopathic Team
Ideal Health

Disclaimer: The health information presented here has been written for the New Zealand health consumer. It is of a general nature and is only intended to provide a summary of the subjects covered and is intended to be used for educational and general information purposes only. It is not intended as medical advice or as a means to diagnose, treat, cure or prescribe for any particular condition or disease. You assume all responsibility for the treatment which may be undertaken as a result of the information on this site, or treatment recommended by any other party. While all care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, no responsibility or liability is accepted, and no person should act in reliance on any statement contained in the information provided. All health ailments should be treated by a qualified health professional.

If you need help or advice, please email our naturopathic team with your health question.  Please allow 48 hours for a response.

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