Osteoporosis is treatable with a combination of pharmaceutical, nutritional and lifestyle interventions

Osteoporosis, defined as a reduction of bone mass or bone density, was long viewed as a disease unique to aging women. However it is now clear that osteoporosis (like many age-related conditions) is not a disease with a singular cause affecting a specific population. Rather, it is a multi-faceted disease driven by multiple interrelated factors, and must be addressed as such for optimal prevention and treatment.

Today we realise that osteoporosis not only impacts the lives of women but men as well. 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men (comparable to prostate cancer) over 50 will experience an osteoporotic fracture. A 10% loss of bone in the vertebrae can double the risk of a vertebral fracture. A 10% loss in the hip can result in 2.5 times greater risk of hip fracture. In white women the lifetime risk fracture is 1 in 6, compared with 1 in 9 for a breast cancer diagnosis. A hip fracture usually results in chronic pain, reduced mobility, disability and an increased degree of dependence. The overall mortality is about 20% in the first 12 months after a hip fracture.

Scientific advancements have revealed that he etiology of osteoporoses stems from hormonal imbalances, oxidative stress, elevated blood sugar, inflammation, and components of the metabolic syndrome. All of these causative factors need to be addressed to regain lost bone mineral content and to maximise bone strength.

Pharmaceuticals, such as Actonel or Fosamax, have shown limited success, and are associated with some potentially serious side effects including atrial fibrillation and osteonecrosis of the jaw. These drugs work chiefly by inhibiting the cells responsible for breaking down bone tissue, but neglect the multiple other causes of osteoporosis. Although these drugs do increase bone density, they disrupt the natural cycle of resorption and regeneration that is important for the strength of the bone. These pharmaceuticals have been shown to result in denser, but not stronger bones.

An Integrative Medical approach, based on the human body’s finely tuned relationship with its environment and the nutrients that support bone health, using nutrient and mineral supplements along with hormonal optimisation, minimising sources of inflammation and optimising weight-bearing exercise, is much more effective in the prevention and management of osteoporosis.

The myriad of complexities of osteoporosis necessitate the need to integrate pharmaceutical, nutritional and lifestyle interventions in order to maintain bone health into advancing age.

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