Thursday, May 19, 2011

Building Bone Density, part 2

I'm back with part two of this little mini-series that I am writing about how to build bone density.  This issue was never "on my radar" when I was younger.  I have no family history of early osteoporosis and have lived an active, healthy life~ ME?  Low bone density?  Who woulda' thunk it?  : )  If you haven't already read the first part of this post, you can find it here.

Anyway, without further adiu, here is the treatment regimen that I have prayerfully decided to follow~ at least for now.  I am always reading and researching, so all of this is most certainly subject to change.

and of course, some pretty photos that are totally unrelated to this post, just 'cause.
When my general practice doctor saw my DEXA bone density scan results his initial response was that I needed to go on prescription medications.  I was so completely shocked to receive the diagnosis of osteopenia that I didn't know *what* to think!


I went home and began to research the side-effects of osteoporosis medications.  What I found sobered me.

There are two types of prescription drugs for osteoporosis.  The majority fall into the category of biphosphonate drugs like Fosamax, Actonel and Boniva.  These work by stopping the production of osteoclasts which are supposed to reabsorb old, infirm bone.  When these medications are taken, your bones may stay denser, but they will be composed of a higher amount of old, poor quality bone cells which over time makes your bones even more brittle and weak.  Crazy and ironic, isn't it?  These medications are supposed to increase bone strength, but instead the result is weaker bones!  Our bones must have balanced bone reabsorption and rebuilding.

Studies have shown that long-term use of Fosamax is associated with unusual fractures of the femur and some potentially terrible problems with the mandible or jaw bone.  Yikes!


After my initial research I made an appointment to see my orthopedic doctor.  It was with some trepidation that I told him my plan to avoid prescription drugs to increase bone density and instead pursue a more "natural" protocol.  To my great surprise, he wholeheartedly agreed with me and encouraged me to follow my plan for a year and then have my DEXA bone density scan repeated.

He told me that even on the prescription drugs the very *best* I could hope for would not be an improvement in bone density (WHAT???), but merely to "hold my own."  I was so shocked at this statement that I had him repeat it!  He reiterated that he would consider my plan a "success" if my bone density doesn't get any *worse*!  Up until that point I had considered "success" to be getting back to normal bone density.

My bone density is already as much as 25% low in my left hip and the best I can do is "hold my own?"  In addition, I haven't yet gone through menopause.  During the first 3 years after a woman goes through menopause she can expect to lose an additional 20-30% bone density!  This, of course, does not take into consideration the fact that with God *all* things are possible!  In addition, our bodies have amazing restorative capacity, when given the right "building blocks" to work with.

He agreed with my concerns about the side-effects of the prescription medications and with my initial "plan of action."  So, what is that "plan of action," you ask?

morning dew on the chives in my herb garden
The Plan!
*Please understand: I am not a medical professional or expert.  Do your own research and prayerfully consider what the Lord would have you do.

Part one: Supplements
In Addition:
  • a dark green, leafy salad every day
  • a smoothie with keifer, fruit and some of that additional magnesium that I mentioned above.
  • yogurt and granola for breakfast
  • apple and cheese for lunch.  (Did you know that Sams Club carries a really yummy cheddar cheese in their deli section~ Tillamook~ which has no growth hormones?)
Now I'll be completely honest here... I don't always get all of this done each day.  It's a goal, and I'm working toward this.

Herbs that may be beneficial:

  • Chasteberry
  • Horsetail
  • Oats
  • Alfalfa
  • Nettle
  • Rooibos tea
I'll be the first to admit, if something is an "acquired taste," I don't usually go to the work to acquire it!  LOL!  I am the *worst* about drinking herbal teas, etc.  But who knows, I might work on an herbal tincture or tea because I really want to do all that I can to get this issue resolved.  I'll keep you posted, ok?


Part 2: Exercise

God made our bones to respond positively to stress... as long as it is not too much stress!  Specifically, to build bone density, we need "load-bearing" exercise.  Swimming and biking don't count.  Running (and walking) and weight training do.

Here's what I'm doing:

  • running every other day, being very careful to use correct running form (short strides, quick turn-over~ about 90 steps/minute/foot)  (ChiRunning has great info on correct running form)
  • biking on the days that I don't run.  There is a relatively quiet gravel trail that I can get a good 17 mile ride in on without being too worried about wrecking.  I'm not riding out on the roads with cars (at least not yet~ we'll see how long I can refrain!)
  • weight training three days/week.  Here is a good plan for beginners with excellent videos and descriptions of each exercise.  I like the fact that all of these exercises can be done at home with minimal equipment.
  • I am seriously considering adding in swimming several mornings a week.  While it won't specifically help my bone density issue, it is a great workout (especially for me~ I'm a terrible "challenged" swimmer!) and I am still considering competing in the triathlons that I had already signed up for this summer before I found out that my bone density was so low.

It is most certainly a balancing act for me.  I need enough stress to encourage my bones to get stronger, but too much stress and I'll be back where I was last year with a stress fracture in my other hip.


The whole issue of building bone density is a big one~ there is *so* much information out there.  I am quite sure that I have not even begun to cover all of the options for treatment.  In addition, I have not specifically addressed what younger women who are still in the midst of having babies should do to prevent low bone density as they age.

I do know this: standard prenatal vitamins might not be enough.  They weren't for me.  Please research and do your best to provide your body with the vitamins and minerals that it needs to stay healthy.

Serving Him joyfully here,


  1. Susan!!! Wow! You remind me of myself. Researching to be informed. It's a good thing you were too by the sound of that Dr. visit.

    I am so glad you have a plan you are comfortable with. And thank you for sharing it with us here.

    You do know about Mama's Red Raspberry Tea right? Tastes delicious and delivers tons of calcium to your body via Alfalfa. It also has Nettle in it.

    I'm glad you are still able to be up and moving. You are amazing!!


  2. Susan, This is so interesting and informative. I am really looking forward to your post about what women who are still in their childbearing years should consider/look into. This is stuff that hasn't even crossed my mind. Thanks for sharing-and for the encouragement to exercise. What a blessing exercise is!

  3. ~Cinnamon~ Thanks! Yes, I do know about Mama's Red Raspberry Tea. I'm going to have to try that again. As I mentioned, I can be a complete wuss about teas and things like that. I know... silly me!

    ~Jenn, thanks for the encouragement. Actually, I don't have another post planned in this series. ; ) If you end up doing some additional research for younger moms I'd love to hear what you come up with! It is *such* a critical issue for us as women~ especially for those of us who have been blessed with multiple births! Hope you have a great day!

  4. Susan, just thought I'd post about the rooibos tea. I'm living in South Africa so it is a very common drink here. Some nice variations to try are: with milk and sugar or honey, with honey and lemon, brewed strong and then diluted and sweetened with apple juice for iced tea. Another plus with rooibos (pronounced roy-bus & literally translated means "red bush") is that it doesn't contain caffeine. Although I'm American it was nice to see rooibos mentioned in your article.

    Look forward to hearing your results with this plan!


  5. This is a very informative post:) Thanks for this very important information.

  6. ~Beth- Thanks for the rooibos tea tips! Who knows, I might just get adventurous and try it! LOL! Now at least I have some ideas. : ) South Africa? How cool is *that*?!!! I'd *love* to hear about SA!

    ~A Heritage from the Lord~ thanks for the encouragement and "Hello" to you! I appreciate you taking the time to visit here and leave a comment as well!

  7. Thank you so much for taking the time to share all this wonderful information my friend!! What a journey you have been on!! I appreciate all your links and all your research...I am cut from the same cloth. ;-) May the LORD bless all these things to bring healing to your body.

    Many blessings to you!

  8. ~Thanks Camille! You've been helpful in my researching as well~ I believe that you are the one who told me about the Rooibos tea. I appreciate your encouragement and help, my friend!


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