Osteoporosis / Osteopenia

Your bones are not dead! Yes, you heard it right. Your bones are not dead!

“Them bones them bones them, dry bones”
“Them bones them bones them, dry bones”
“Them bones them bones them, dry bones”
“Now here is the word of the Lord…”

… this is the start of a famous gospel many people have heard. Sometimes people think of this song during Halloween where lots of skeletons are hanging in the windows of homes. It sums up how many people think of bones: as dead.

What is your image of bones? The structures that are attached to the meat you might be eating? The white “sticks” that we find in a hike in the woods after an animal has died and that is all that remains? Many of us think about bones in this way as the hard, inert, unchanging material that forms the structure of our body and those of other animals. This is a big mistake.

Actually, your bones are very much active and alive. They’re constantly being built up and torn down. They are also the organ where blood cells are made. It is in the marrow of the bone where your blood cells are created. Besides their function for structure and production of blood cells, the bones are now known to have many other system-wide functions.

While in Chinese medicine the bones have been assisted with the kidneys for thousands of years, and as such they have been considered to be a fundamental component of the immune system, scientific research has now confirmed that perception. We now know that the bones create chemicals that travel throughout the body and are related to the immune system, regulation of fat cells, and signaling to insulin. Of course insulin is a vital hormone that helps regulate the amount of sugar in our bloodstream.

Composition of your Bones

Your bones are composed of many components. There are cells that build up the bone which are called osteoblasts; and there are cells that remodel and tear down the bone called osteoclasts. There is also the bone matrix which forms the structure of the bone much as the framing structure of a house. Then there are the minerals that are laid on top of, and give stiffness to, the matrix.

These minerals are like the plasterboard or drywall attached to the framing of houses. Obviously, drywall by itself is insufficient to create a structurally sound house. The framing of the house by itself does not produce a sound damping and insulating effects required for house as well. We need both for a structurally sound and environmentally comfortable home.

Likewise, the bone matrix determines bone quality and the mineralization on the matrix determines the bone density. Thus, we need both to have strong and resilient bones.

Testing Bone Quality and Density

Most current tests for osteoporosis and osteopenia (the gradual decrease in bone strength) only test and look at the density of the bone. This is helpful but it does not actually take into account the necessity to also have a very high quality of bone and sufficient amounts of bone matrix.

We currently have blood and urine tests that can tell us whether or not the bone quality is excellent or whether he bone is undergoing severe dismantling. In combination with bone density studies, these tests then give us a more complete understanding of the active, living, and systemically important bone system.

Bone Loss

It is well known that bone loss often begins to occur as early as in your teen years! Bone reserve is decreased with aging if you don’t maintain a healthy production of bone. Your body constantly needs to remodel your bones based on both growth and the changes in the loads that the bones have to withstand. As children we are growing longer bones. At maturity, we have to constantly repair and replace the bone mass we have built up during childhood. It is thought that every 7 years our bones are totally new, with each and every molecule of calcium replaced. This is much like almost all parts of our body — it is constantly being repaired and replaced.

However, if the breakdown is faster than the build up, that is when we get into trouble.

Risk Factors for Bone Loss

The following are risk factors for bone loss:

1. Low Calcium
2. Low trace minerals
3. Low Vitamin D
4. Smoking
5. Excess alcohol
6. High phosphorus intake
7. Excess protein
8. Excess caffeine
9. Antacids
10. Estrogen deficiency
11. Inflammation
12. Hyperglycemia
13. Bone Damage
14. Mature bone
15. Poor diet / Acid load
16. Inactivity
17. Oxidative stress / Excessive Exercise

Bone and Other Systems

In addition to our bone’s role in structure and blood cell production, bone is related to the immune system, fat cells, and blood sugar regulation.

What if you have fat bone? There are fat cells in the bone; those fat cells can signal to other fat cells in the rest of the body to get fatter. This is one way in which the bone hormone system influences weight in the body. The more fat cells you have in the bones the more likely your bones will be weakened. The fat cells in the bones are hormone regulating.  They have an influence, as we said on fat cells in the body, but they also have a strong influence on insulin.

Just as diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and blood sugar dysregulation are all inflammatory processes, inflammation in the body shifts bone modeling and induces destruction of the bone matrix. Inflammation is one part of your body’s immune system.

How often do we hear of an older person falling down and breaking their hip bone? Well, in many cases that is putting the horse in back of the cart. In actuality, the degeneration of the bone matrix and consequential decreased locations for mineral deposition will cause bone fractures. If the bones are weak and brittle, they can snap and cause a person to fall down. So while one may think that falling down is the cause of the bone breaks, it is not uncommon for the bone to give way first and cause the fall. This is why is very important to understand not only the density of the bone but the functioning quality of the bone in order to prevent fractures.

What are some conditions which will cause the bones to decrease quality? Well, any type of inflammatory condition can cause the bones to become demineralized and result also in a reduced quantity of the matrix. These include: inflammatory bowel disease, IBS, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, patients who are put on steroids for long periods of time, and other types of chronic inflammatory conditions. All of these patients early-on are susceptible to the breakdown of bone matrix formation and bone mineralization.

Our Cutting-Edge Wellness Programs

Because we stay on the forefront of medical science and functional medicine, we have ways to help assess the condition of this living tissue system, your bones. Luckily, we also have new methods to safely and naturally prompt your bones system to become healthier and stronger.

Rather than contemplating a future of lying in bed, inactive, and wasting away one’s Golden years due to fractures of the bone, why not take an ounce of prevention and come in to get checked out early on so that we can help you live a healthier and stronger life. And this is not just for older people: teenagers can also have bone issues that need to be assessed and addressed.

Call us today to find out what your individual situation requires.