Osteopenia & Osteoporosis: How to protect your bones

Osteoporosis is a severe weakening of the bones and is one of the most widespread public health issues in America.  This can lead to fractures of the hip, spine, and other skeletal sites.

Osteopenia is a less severe condition and is a precursor to osteoporosis.  These conditions are diagnosed by getting a bone mineral density test (DEXA scan).

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, half of all Americans over age 50 are expected to have low bone density or osteoporosis by the year 2020.  Osteoporosis is the primary cause of 1.5 million fractures each year (source).

Generally there aren’t any symptoms in the early stages of bone loss.  Although, once your bones have weakened from osteoporosis, signs and symptoms may develop which are:  loss of height over time, back pain, stooped posture, bone fractures that happen easily.

Our bones are living tissue made mostly of calcium phosphate and collagen.  Bone is continually going through bone remodeling.  This is when old bone is removed (resorption) and new bone is added (formation).  During childhood and early growth years, bone is added faster than old bone is resorbed.  Peak bone mass is reached around 30 years of age and then bone resorption surpasses bone formation.

Risk Factors

Anyone can develop osteoporosis, but there are some risk factors that cannot be controlled.  These include:

  • being a woman
  • age (the older you get, the greater the risk)
  • race (white or Asian descent are at greater risk)
  • family history (if your parents or sibling have it, your risk is higher)
  • body frame size (small body frames are at greater risk because they have less bone mass to draw from as they age)

Some other risk factors include:

  • Hormones.  A decrease in sex hormones tend to weaken bone.  For example, lowered estrogen levels in women at menopause and treatments for prostate cancer that lowers testosterone or breast cancer treatments that lowers estrogen can increase bone loss.
  • Steroids.  Long term use of steroids, such as prednisone or cortisone, restricts the bone-rebuilding process.
  • Having certain medical conditions. These include celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, kidney or liver disease, cancer, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Lifestyle choices.  People who are sedentary and spend a bunch of time sitting have a higher risk than active people.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Tobacco use.
  • Low calcium intake.
  • Eating disorders.
  • Gastrointestinal surgery.  The surface area to absorb nutrients is decreased when surgery is performed to reduce stomach size.

It’s most likely we’ll never get back to our peak bone density as when we were younger, but we can slow down the speed of bone resorption.  Taking special consideration to lifestyle and nutrition factors is crucial.

5 Tips for Better Bone Health

Good Nutrition.  Not only is it essential to get enough calcium and vitamin D, but an overall balanced and healthy diet is just as important.  Making sure to get enough calories and nutrients for your body.  Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of potassium, magnesium, and vitamins C, K, and A which all play a part in bone health.  Recent evidence suggests that vitamin K and vitamin C may have a role in bone health and help decrease the risk of fracture (source).

Overall Healthy Lifestyle.  Smoking, eating disorders, and depression can be a factor in weakening of bones and developing osteoporosis.  Avoiding excess alcohol is also important as having more than two drinks a day may decrease bone formation.  Maintaining proper body weight is good for bones and overall health.

Take Part in Weight-Bearing Physical Activity.   Exercise is very important in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis.  Exercise during childhood leads to a higher peak bone mass and exercise in the later years slows the decrease in bone mineral density.  Exercise also increases strength and muscle mass and allows for improved quality of life.  Also, elderly people who perform regular physical activity are less likely to fall.  Jogging, hopping, skipping, jumping, and other plyometric exercises are recommended weight-bearing exercises.  Resistance training is also important to strengthen bones.  When strength is improved the risk of falling is reduced.

Prevent Falls.  Brittle bones will probably not break without falling.  Working on balance, strengthening muscles, removing hazards at home like rugs and clutter will reduce the chances of falling.

Have Regular Check-ups.  See your doctor on a regular basis, especially if you have risk factors for osteoporosis.  Your physician can order a DEXA scan to rule out or confirm if osteopenia or osteoporosis is present.

OSTEOPOROSIS. How to protect your bones! Click To Tweet

Some other points to keep in mind with regards to calcium are:  drinking alcohol with meals slows calcium absorption; caffeine can slightly increase calcium loss during urination; too much salt can increase the amount of calcium excreted during urination; too much phosphorus (an additive in many processed foods) can interfere with how much calcium is absorbed through your small intestine (Mayo Clinic).

Good nutrition and exercise are key in managing and preventing osteoporosis.  If you do have any risk factors, keep your doctor informed and maintain regular check-ups.  The health of our bones is vital to our overall health and quality of life!

Have you ever had a DEXA scan?

Do you take a calcium or vitamin D supplement?


Elimination Diet: A plan to discover food sensitivities

Do you ever have digestive issues or skin irritations?  Do you get headaches or sometimes just feel “under the weather” and not know why?  Or experience on-going problems that you can’t seem to figure out?  There is a possibility you may have a food sensitivity or intolerance.

Food intolerances or sensitivities are becoming more and more common.  Allergy tests do not show if you have a food intolerance since it’s not an actual allergy.  So it’s important to take note of any signs or symptoms you are having and try to get some answers!

My previous blog post was about Food Allergies and Sensitivities  what the signs and symptoms are and which foods are most likely to cause issues.  If you experience adverse effects after eating a food or you just don’t feel good sometimes, you may want to consider trying an Elimination Diet.

An elimination diet is a short term plan that avoids certain foods that you think may be causing problems.  Then you individually reintroduce those foods to find the culprit.  The 8 foods that account for about 90% of all food allergies are the ones to be eliminated from the diet.  These include:  dairy, gluten/wheat, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, fish, and shellfish.

There are several different versions of the elimination diet.  Some are very restrictive and also eliminate pork, beef, beans, coffee, citrus fruits, all nuts, and more.  I guess the more you restrict, the more you’ll find out, but I find this to be too difficult.  If you suspect a food is causing issues that’s not one of the 8 common allergens, then by all means add that to the list of foods to avoid.

The duration for an elimination diet is 21-23 days (some plans go as long as 6 weeks).  The reason for this is that it takes about 21 days for your body to remove the foods’ antibodies.  In order to get the most benefits from an elimination diet, you must avoid the offending foods for at least 21 days.

How to do a basic elimination diet

It’s important to take note of any symptoms you are having.  Bloating, energy levels, digestive issues, skin problems.  Write it all down before you begin.  Avoid the eight foods (or any food that you suspect) for 21 days.  Make sure you completely avoid the food, which means you’ll become an expert at reading food labels.  If you consume even a small amount of these foods, it’s best to start over to get an accurate response.  It is helpful to keep a food diary during this time so you can keep track of what you’re eating.

Now it’s time to “test” each food individually.  On day 22, choose one food that was eliminated and eat it several times that day (and that day only).  Record any symptoms you have for the next 48 hours.  If you have no symptoms, repeat and note any symptoms again for two days.  If you don’t notice any adverse symptoms, then you can assume you don’t have a sensitivity or intolerance.  Follow the same steps with each food (only one at a time).

By following this basic elimination diet, you can find out if any of these foods are causing you to feel bad or have symptoms that you never realized.  After testing each food, it’s your choice to continue eating that food or avoid it.  It’s very important to listen to your body during the “testing” of each food.  You may notice that you feel great without gluten or you no longer have break outs when avoiding dairy.

Elimination Diet. A plan to find food sensitivities. Click To Tweet

When doing an elimination diet, be sure you are eating enough whole, nutritious foods to fuel your body.  This isn’t a weight loss plan.  It’s a plan to help figure out how to feel your best each day!  It may be meticulous and take some planning, but over the grand scheme of things a few weeks isn’t long at all.  And don’t we all want to feel our best.

Have you ever done an elimination diet?

If not, do you feel the need to try it?

Food Allergies & Sensitivities

It is estimated that up to 15 million Americans have food allergies. This includes about one in thirteen children under the age of 18.  Each year in the U.S., 200,000 people need emergency medical care due to allergic reactions to food! (Food Allergy Research &  Education)

A food allergy is a medical condition when a food causes a harmful immune response.  This allergic reaction happens because the immune system attacks proteins in the food that are normally harmless.  The body thinks the food in an invader.

The symptoms of an allergic reaction to a food can be mild or severe and can appear immediately or up to two hours after exposure. Symptoms include:

  • tingling sensation in the mouth
  • itching
  • rash
  • hives
  • swelling of the tongue or throat
  • vomiting
  • cramps
  • difficulty breathing
  • drop in blood pressure
  • severe reaction called anaphylaxis can be fatal

Any food could be a potential allergen, but there are 8 foods that are the most common:

  1. dairy
  2. eggs
  3. peanuts
  4. soy
  5. gluten or wheat
  6. tree nuts (walnuts or cashews for example)
  7. fish
  8. shellfish

*Some allergists have concerns that a sesame allergy is on the rise*

Having a food allergy is nothing to take lightly.  It can impact your quality of life.  There is no cure as the best thing to do is avoid the food and know how to recognize any symptoms.  It’s not easy to steer clear of these foods as they are used abundantly in many processed foods.  Luckily, there is a law that requires food manufacturers to list any of the common 8 potential allergens on food packaging.  Also, if there could be any cross-contamination where the food was processed.

Food sensitivities or intolerances are not as serious as food allergies but can have many similar symptoms.  The immune system does not play a role in food sensitivities as it does with food allergies and symptoms of intolerances are not life-threatening.

Sometimes a food intolerance is from a deficiency in an enzyme that is needed to breakdown a food.  An example would be lactose-intolerance.  This is from a shortage of lactase, which is needed to digest the sugar.

Food Allergies and Sensitivities. Do you know the signs and symptoms? Click To Tweet

Food sensitivities are usually self-diagnosable.  There aren’t any accurate, reliable tests to determine food intolerance.  The best way to figure out if you have any food sensitivities or intolerances is through an elimination diet.  My next blog post will be all about the elimination diet and how you can discover foods that may cause symptoms.

An allergic reaction to a food can appear immediately or within two hours, but signs of a food intolerance may take longer to show up.  It can take hours or up to 2 days.  The following are signs or symptoms of food sensitivity or intolerance:

  • stomach and abdominal pain
  • bloating
  • headaches and migraines
  • hives
  • feeling “under the weather”
  • runny nose
  • chronic muscle or joint pain
  • rashes or other skin conditions

As you can see, experiencing any of these symptoms on a regular basis would not be very pleasant.  The best treatment for a food sensitivity is to avoid the offending food and the hardest part is figuring out what the offending foods are.

Two important facts to remember are

                           *food allergy is an immune system reaction to a food

                           *food intolerance is an inability to digest a food

Food allergies or sensitivities don’t have to wreck your life!  They can be controlled.  A medical processional can identify a food allergy.  A sensitivity or intolerance to a food is best found by doing your own research. Listening to your body and knowing the signs and symptoms will set you up for success.

Do you have a food allergy?

Do you experience any of the symptoms of food sensitivity?