Many women suffer from Osteoporosis between the age of 45 and 60 which leads to bone loss usually affecting the spine, hips and ribs which can increase the risks of fracturing bones. It is referred to as the silent epidemic as until you fracture a bone you are unaware that you have it. Approximately 3 million people in the UK suffer from osteoporosis. If you have an early menopause or have a family history of brittle bones it may be advisable to have a DEXA scan which takes only a few minutes and can accurately detect your bone density.
It is important for all of us to adapt our eating habits and lifestyle if we wish to improve our health and quality of life as we age so that we can help prevent diseases such as Osteoporosis. Bone density declines naturally after the age of 35 however bone loss tends to be greater in females largely due to hormonal changes after menopause. Reduced levels of the hormone oestrogen increases the risk of Osteoporosis.
Bone mass is 80% influenced by genetic factors whilst 20 % is environmental. Therefore even with a predisposition to Osteoporosis a healthy diet high in calcium and Vitamin D can help to prevent the condition.
The tips to improve your diet to treat Osteoporosis are:
1. Boost your dietary calcium intake
Calcium is essential to maintain healthy bones throughout adulthood and is vital for keeping your bones strong. The recommended daily calcium intake for adults is 700 mg but for anyone diagnosed with osteoporosis it should be increased to 1200 mg per day. It is better to obtain calcium from food rather than supplements if possible as the body absorbs it better. Good sources of calcium are sardines, swiss cheese and yoghurt as well as milk and green leafy vegetables. Low fat milk is still calcium rich as only the fat is taken out so will be beneficial if you have any weight concerns. A high calcium lunch could involve a bowl of creamed spinach soup, a canned salmon sandwich and a glass of semi skinned milk. A chicken with broccoli in cream sauce dinner with fruit and yoghurt will also be calcium rich. Both meals are easy to prepare. Snacks such as cheese or milk can be eaten throughout the day if you have a day where you have not been able to eat much calcium rich food in your daily diet.
2. Take Adequate Vitamin D
Vitamin D can be synthesized with the help of sunlight, however with the recent scares of skin cancer from exposure to the sun many of us now stay out of the sunlight as much as possible and therefore need to increase vitamin D rich foods in our daily diets to treat Osteoporosis. Vitamin D is an antioxidant which promotes the absorption of calcium and phosphate from food and is essential for the increased uptake of mineral by bone. A lack of meat, fish and dairy products can lead to this deficiency and women who are vegetarian and on low-fat diets increase their risk of a Vitamin D deficiency. Even if you are having enough calcium in your diet, Vitamin D is needed to absorb it properly so it is essential in the treatment of Osteoporosis. The main food sources are fish oils, herring, tuna, milk and eggs. Cereal fortified with vitamin D at breakfast with milk can be adequate for the day.
3.Limit alcohol intake
Alcohol impairs the absorption of nutrients so at a time when your body needs extra calcium and vitamin D, drinking alcohol can prevent the benefits of healthy eating. Alcohol contains calories but is void of any nutrients making it part of your diet that we can call ’empty calories’. This means consuming calories that can increase your weight whilst having little or no nutritional value. There is also an increased risk of falling or knocking yourself when you drink which is dangerous if you have weak bones as the slightest fall can lead to a fractured pelvis or leg. Alcohol is an anti-nutrient meaning it stops the beneficial nutrients being absorbed and therefore prevents the body recovering from Osteoporosis.
In conclusion anybody diagnosed with Osteoporosis or is at risk of getting the condition either from genetic, familial or being of menopausal age should see their doctor and have a scan and listen to their recommendations that may involve supplements or the use of herbal remedies such as black cohosh which is a Phytoestrogen resulting in oestrogen levels remaining higher.
However as a nutritional Advisor I would advise that you follow the three tips to improve your health and know that you are doing everything possible to help yourself. This and regular weight-bearing exercise will ensure that your quality of life improves.