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live your age podcast episode 19

Episode 019: Bone Up on Bone Health

Bonin’ up on Bones

Bone loss isn’t a very glamorous topic. For example, it doesn’t translate well to Instagram. We need more women in their 50’s and 60’s taking selfies on the beach. Or in the mountains. Or in the temples of India! Bone loss is one of the lesser-talked about symptoms of menopause, and one that tends to sneak up on us. But once we become aware of our bone health (or bone density or bone strength) – or lack thereof – we find ourselves having conversations at book club about the pros and cons of Fosamax, or which calcium supplement is most bioavailable. 

It is no secret that our bone mineral density (BMD) is at its peak when we’re thirty, and declines with each passing decade. The thinning of bones is a natural process and not necessarily a problem in itself; the problem arises when bone porosity increases to the point where we begin fracturing hips – something that about 15% of older Americans do. Stay balanced, friends.

There is quite a bit we can do to maintain our strength and the health of our bones, muscles and joints. We know you don’t have all day here, so we’re keeping this short and to the point with our Three and Three:

  • 3 areas in which to proceed with caution 
  • 3 ways we can improve our bones

The Bad News About Bone Loss

In the last ten years, we’ve learned through scientific studies that SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) appear to have a negative impact on bone mineral density and can increase fracture risk. SSRIs are a popular category of antidepressants. You know them as Zoloft, Celexa, Lexapro, Prozac, and Paxil. A meta-analysis of 16 studies reported that users of these medications are 1.61 times more likely to develop bone fractures than non-users. And according to a study published in “Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience”: “caution is advised in individuals with potential risk (i.e., those with osteoporosis or histories of osteoporotic fractures)”.
If this is you, please consult with your doctor.

A study was published this summer that pretty much blew the lid off our long-standing belief that Vitamin D addresses our bone health. Back in 2011, the National Academy of Medicine advised 600-800iu of Vitamin D daily, for the general population. This dosing amount was based on research indicating supplementation might support calcium absorption, which could in turn inhibit bone deterioration. And with that, we all jumped on the D-Train.

However, a groundbreaking study published in the New England Journal of Medicine this summer suggests we might be ahead of ourselves. The study concluded Vitamin D supplementation didn’t result in lower risk of fractures than was experienced by the placebo group. While Vitamin D supports our bodies in many other ways (cough, the immune system, cough), the take-away is – know why you’re taking it, and  if your levels are sufficient, more is not necessarily better. 


Remember the milk mustache ads?

If you’re a babe-of-a-certain-age, you’ve most likely been told throughout your life that milk builds strong bones, and that “milk does a body good.” Well, maybe not so much. Recent studies point out that higher milk and dairy consumption doesn’t lower the risk of osteoporosis and hip fractures. In fact, Dr. Christopher Gardner, a Stanford Nutrition Scientist, states “it’s better to be physically active than to drink more milk.” 

In addition, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine cites a large-scale Harvard study that found zero evidence that drinking milk can prevent bone fractures and/or osteoporosis. They go on to call the link between dairy and bone health a milk myth. We’re not out to take the joy (i.e. ice cream) completely out of life, but there are some negative effects of dairy. Just proceed with caution, Babes. 

Now the Good News About Bone Health

So let’s wrap it up with some good news about bone health. There are actions we can take to develop strong bones, reduce muscle atrophy, and keep our bodies in top boning shape for years to come. 

We hear your concern about calcium. If we toss dairy to the curb, what does that leave us? You’ll find it elsewhere in your diet, Dollface. Leafy greens, broccoli, brussels, kale, and collards are loaded with calcium. And, even more important, is the fact that calcium absorption through greens is actually higher than through cow’s milk. The amount of calcium listed on the label is the measure of calcium in the food, not the amount your badass bod will absorb. Only 30% of the calcium in dairy is bioavailable, while 50-80% of calcium from plants is bioavailable! Beans and legumes are another great source: tofu, tempeh, and edamame. Ditch the coffee, alcohol, and processed sugar, as those can potentially leach calcium from our blood and bones.

By stressing our bones, we build bone density and strength. Studies are abundant to back this up. You don’t need to be throwing tires across the room at the local Crossfit Gym – unless that’s your jam, of course. Simply purchasing 2lb, 3lb, or 5lb hand weights, or wrist weights, can be sufficient. The key is to stress your bones and muscles and do so on the regular.

Botanical Boosts
Lastly, a few thoughts on herbal support. There are a couple of different animal studies indicating that black cohosh (in the form of Remifemin) could be used for the prevention of clinical PMO (post menopausal osteoporosis). Nettles are another herb widely used for promoting bone health, as they are high in vitamins A, B complex, C, D and K, and in minerals calcium, magnesium, and iron. Many herbalists use nettles in the form of an infusion and it is actually quite tasty. Another lesser-known herb is Horsetail. Horsetail contains a mineral that is needed for bone health called silicon. A 2019 study (again using rats) – found that a diet containing horsetail extract resulted in a significant increase in mandibular BMD. 

Be Smart About Bone Stuff!

While Mother Nature provides something for everyone, not everything is appropriate for everyone. We love to geek out on the data and certainly more research is needed in the U.S. with regards to using botanicals as a compliment to diet and lifestyle interventions. Work with your healthcare provider, and we always encourage you to take autonomy over your health and your body so do your research. 

Be prepared. Be educated. Be healthy. Be strong!