Osteoporosis is called a silent disease because many people don’t know they have it until they fracture a bone. Others may notice their spine starting to curve, or that they’re getting shorter, which can indicate bone loss.
Osteoporosis is a bone disease that occurs when your body loses too much bone and/or makes too little bone, resulting in bones become weaker and prone to fracturing.
Although osteoporosis mostly affects older people, the process of bone loss usually begins earlier in life. Bone mass stops increasing around age 30, after which lifestyle choices can either support bone health or promote bone weakness. Whatever age you are it’s important to adopt habits that support bone health.
What Causes Osteoporosis?
Many factors can contribute to the process by which bones weaken over time.
The causes that are out of our control include:
- being over the age of 50
- being female
- being postmenopausal
- having a family history of osteoporosis
- being slim
- hormonal changes that occur with age
Lifestyle factors that have a negative effect on bone health include:
- being under or over weight
- excessive alcohol intake
- low intake of fruit and vegetables
- eating large amounts of protein, fat or sodium
- not getting enough of certain nutrients including calcium, magnesium, vitamin D3 or B12.
Certain medications may also increase bone loss such as PPIs, anti-depressants, glucorticoids, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), some antidepressants and some diabetes medications.
Some health conditions can also increase the risk for osteoporosis such as coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, cancer, lupus, and kidney and liver disease.
Foods to Reduce
- Oxalic acid, or oxalates, found in spinach, chard and rhubarb can inhibit the absorptions of calcium. However, the oxalic acid in these foods does not affect the absorption of calcium from other foods eaten at the same time.
- Phytic acid is found primarily in grains and beans. These foods are a great source of other nutrients, like fibre, vitamins, and minerals, so their phytic acid content isn’t a reason to avoid them completely. You can reduce phytate content by soaking them for several hours before draining and cooking them in fresh water.
- Wheat bran – wheat bran is the only phytate-rich food that inhibits calcium absorption from other foods eaten at the same time.
- Excess sodium – fast food and many packaged convenience products contain high amounts of sodium which can cause calcium loss.
- Excess alcohol – can lead to bone loss.
- Caffeine – can reduce calcium absorption from foods and contribute to bone loss.
- Some soft drinks – many of these, such as cola, have a high phosphorus content, which is detrimental to bone health when consumed in large amounts.
- Excess animal protein – may lead to the leaching of calcium from bones in order to neutralise amino acids from animal products.
See blog post on Plant Based Diets and Bone Health for information on which foods provide the nutrients needed for healthy bones and teeth. For a delicious bone building superfood salad recipe see post Quinoa Salad with Tahini Dressing.
Lifestyle Strategies for Bone Health
Whilst diet is vital for bone health, regular physical activity is just as important.
Weight-bearing exercise – utilises your body weight and encourages maintenance of bone strength. Walking, running, weight-lifting, yoga, dancing, climbing stairs, and rebounding may all help. About 30 minutes a day 5 days a week is a good aim.
Start slowly if you already have osteoporosis or if you have not exercised for a while.
Core exercises – having a strong core is good for balance, posture and overall strength. Exercises such as plank and sit ups are helpful. It’s important to do these correctly so seek help from a personal trainer if you are unsure.
Balancing exercises – these are important to prevent falls. You can practice balancing whilst doing other activities; try standing on one leg while chopping vegetables.
See blog post on Nutrients for Bone Health and Plant Based Diets and Bone Health for more information on foods and supplements that can protect your bones, as well as a recipe for a bone protective Superfood Salad.