Osteoporosis is a condition of gradual bone loss. “Osteo”, meaning bone, and “poros”, which is Greek for porous, refers to the loss of bone density, which you can see the stages of progression in the image here.
Both women and men have increased risk of osteoporosis as they age, especially after age 50. The biggest reason for this is because hormone levels decline, specifically estrogen. This is the most common cause of osteoporosis, as it accelerates bone density loss after menopause when women experience a sharp decline of hormone production.
Men become at increased risk of osteoporosis as well, especially after age 50. Men’s bodies convert testosterone into bone-preserving estrogen. Testosterone levels do begin to decline beginning at around age 30, although decreases occur at a much more gradual pace than with women.
The cells in the bones both dissolve and grow; in fact, through a 10 year period, the skeleton is replaced entirely. This process is called remodeling. When the dissolving of bone cells occurs faster than regrowth, the bones become more porous and less dense, this is Osteoporosis, wherein the bones have become thin and brittle making them much more at risk for fracture. Osteoporosis increases risk of fractures by over 50%.
Osteopenia is the precursor to osteoporosis. It starts when the bones first begin to lose their density and show the first stages of imbalance in the remodeling process (see first of the 4 images shown above).
Causes of osteoporosis include:
- Decrease estrogen levels in women and testosterone levels in men
- Insufficient Vitamin D levels – Vitamin D works similar to a hormone and one of its many benefits is helping the body with calcium absorption
- Sedentary lifestyle – It is important that bones have gentle stress on them to keep them strong; you can help by doing weight-bearing exercises
- Smoking – cigarettes can both block the body’s ability to use estrogen along with inhibiting absorption of calcium and Vitamin D
- Drinking too much alcohol – Alcohol abuse can both stop bone remodeling and increase calcium loss
- Insufficient calcium in the blood – other organs in the body are dependent on calcium to function properly and when calcium is too low, they will leach calcium out of the bones
- Parathyroid imbalance – the parathyroid hormone is made by four small glands in the neck behind the thyroid; when calcium levels are low in the blood, it secretes more hormone. If glands are not functioning properly, calcium levels are not replenished
- Excessive diet cola consumption – studies have shown that parathyroid levels increase after drinking a diet cola causing the hormone to increase blood calcium when it starts to get too low by stimulating bone breakdown
What the studies show
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was the first choice of treatment for osteoporosis until the Women’s Health Initiative study began in the early nineties. Treating osteoporosis with HRT was effective with a 30% reduction in fractures, and up to a 40% reduction in hip fractures.
The Women’s Health Initiative that was originally launched in 1993 is still ongoing to this day. It is a long term national study focused on ways to prevent heart disease, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and osteoporotic fractures in postmenopausal women.
Initial results indicated that the risks of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) outweighed the benefits especially regarding increased risk of some breast cancers, endometrial cancer, heart disease, and stroke in women, as well as prostate cancer in men. After these results came out, estrogen treatment for osteoporosis was no longer a viable option.
However, it is important to note that this study was done regarding the use of SYNTHETIC hormones. A synthetic hormone contains molecules that have been altered in the lab, do not occur in nature, and are not produced by the human body. Conversely, Bioidentical hormones are molecularly the same to what is produced in the body and are made from plant estrogens that are chemically identical.
Fortunately, ongoing research through the Women’s Health Initiative Study has included the use of Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT).
Seven different national studies have shown that progesterone (Bioidentical) in fact decreases breast cancer risk. Another study involving 31,000 women has suggested that the use of Estriol (Bioidentical) poses no increased risk for breast cancer whatsoever. Research has also proven that the combination of Bioidentical hormones offers the best benefits and protection against osteoporosis.
Testosterone studies have also shown that bioidentical use does NOT increase the risk of prostate cancer, making it a viable and safe choice in treating osteoporosis in men.
What we can gather from this evidence is that bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) is safe and can not only stop osteoporosis from progressing, but it can also actually begin to reverse it!
Bioidentical hormones can be administered in the form of pills, creams, patches, gels, and injections. Because estrogen helps to strengthen the bones, it is a safe and easy way to keep them healthy. It is also important to get plenty of Vitamin D and regular exercise.
At Renewed Vitality we can help. Talk to us about your concerns.