8. Limit Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol affects bone health in two ways: by inhibiting calcium absorption in the gut and inducing calcium loss as your body processes it (28). Large studies conducted on the effects of alcohol consumption and bone density confirm a significant link, especially in women (29). Heavy drinking is considered one of the strongest risk factors for osteoporosis.
That being said, low-to-moderate alcohol intake (1-3 drinks/week) may have protective effects. When you do imbibe, red wine is by far the best option. As always, be sure to consult your doctor to avoid medication interactions with alcohol, and enjoy responsibly.
9. Don’t Forget Vitamin K
When someone says vitamins and bone health, vitamin K rarely comes to mind. Yet vitamin K is just as important to bone health as calcium and vitamin D, as calcium cannot bind to the bone without it (30). Clinical studies confirm that low dietary vitamin K intake increases the risk of low bone mineral density and fractures from osteoporosis (31).
With a well-rounded diet, vitamin K supplementation is rarely necessary. Kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and fermented dairy products like yogurt and kefir are all rich sources of vitamin K. Should you find yourself needing vitamin K supplements, consult with your doctor first to avoid medication interactions.
10. Manage Your Hormones
One of the reasons postmenopausal women are at such a high risk of osteoporosis is due to the rapid decrease in estrogen levels. Estrogen is vital to the development and maintenance of healthy bone mineral density (32). However, estrogen is not the only hormone that affects bone health. Hyperthyroidism, hyperparathyroidism, and low testosterone levels are all known to contribute to the loss of bone mass.
The best way to find out if you have a hormonal imbalance is through blood tests, usually performed at your annual wellness exam. You can always request additional blood tests at any time. If you find that your hormones are borderline or out of normal range, try to balance them with natural methods first.
Pharmaceutical interventions are almost always effective, but are often associated with side effects and may not address the source of the problem.
11. Try Yoga or Tai Chi
Weight training is shown to be the most effective form of exercise to improve and maintain bone density. However, low-impact exercises provide additional benefits to support overall wellness. Those who practice tai chi or yoga regularly experience less joint pain, better balance, and reduced bone loss (33). These are also wonderful activities that can be practiced well into old-age, and are associated with healthy immune systems, increased mobility with old age, and overall well-being.
12. Lower Your Stress
Believe it or not, “stress-induced osteoporosis” is a real thing (34). There is not yet a single mechanism of action between stress (or depression and anxiety) and osteoporosis, but the connection is nothing new. The relationship seems to be a combination of increased stress hormones (cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine) and the effects stress has on lifestyle (35). Individuals with high stress levels report poorer diet, less physical activity, increased alcohol intake, and bad sleep habits (36).
Whatever the cause, a high-stress lifestyle is never good for your health. Take whatever steps necessary to reduce stress in your life to healthy levels, making your health and wellness the priority. Eat well, exercise, get plenty of sleep, and don’t take on more than you can handle.
13. Improve Your Sleep
Individuals with sleep disorders are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with osteoporosis than those without (37). Sleep is the body’s time to repair itself and maintain all the important body systems – bone health included. Practicing good sleep habits and routine is the best way to ensure a good night’s sleep.
If you have a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea or insomnia, then nothing is as important as resolving your sleep issues. Find a natural solution whenever possible, but don’t be afraid to discuss treatment options with your doctor, especially if you have sleep apnea (38).
Incorporating some or all of the above suggestions will benefit anyone, regardless of their bone health status. If you are at risk for osteoporosis but not yet showing signs, then osteoporosis prevention is the name of the game. You can get ahead of the curve and avoid unnecessary fractures, bone breaks, and mobility issues.
Already diagnosed with weakened bones? There’s no time like the present! When approached carefully and with intention, bone loss can be stopped and even reversed.