Homegrown osteoporosis prevention and reversal

I don’t like to stray too far off course from discussions of heart disease and related issues in this blog. But the question of bone health comes up so often that I thought I’d discuss the strategies available to everybody to stop, even reverse, osteoporosis.

Coronary atherosclerotic plaque and bone health are intimately interwoven. People who have coronary plaque usually have osteoporosis; people who have osteoporosis usually have coronary plaque. (The association is strongest in females.) The worse the osteoporosis, the greater the quantity of coronary plaque, and vice versa. The two seemingly unconnected conditions share common causes and thereby respond to similar treatments.

Incredibly, rarely will your doctor tell you about these strategies. Your doctor orders a bone density test, the value shows osteopenia or osteoporosis, and a drug like Fosamax or Boniva is prescribed. As many people are learning, drugs like this can be associated with severe side-effects, such as jaw necrosis (death of the jaw bone), a dangerous and disfiguring condition that leads to loss of teeth and disfigurement, followed by reconstructive surgery of the jaw and face. These are not trivial effects.

Note that drugs are approved by the FDA based on assessment of efficacy and safety, NOT proven equivalence or superiority to natural treatments.

In order of importance (greatest to least), here are strategies that I believe are important to regain or maintain bone health. Indeed, I have seen many women increase bone density using these strategies . . . without drugs of any sort.

1) Vitamin D restoration–Vitamin D is the most important control factor over bone calcium metabolism, as well as parathyroid function. As readers of this blog already know, gelcap forms of vitamin D work best, aiming for a 25-hydroxy vitamin level of 60-70 ng/ml. This usually requires 6000 units per day, though there is great individual variation in need.

2) Vitamin K2–If you lived in Japan, you would be prescribed vitamin K2. While it’s odd that K2 is a “drug” in Japan, it means that it enjoys the validation required for approval through their FDA-equivalent. Prescription K2 (as MK-4 or menatetranone) at doses of 15,000-45,000 mcg per day (15-45 mg), improves bone architecture, even when administered by itself. However, K2 works best when part of a broader program of bone health. I advise 1000 mcg per day, preferably a mixture of the short-acting MK-4 and long-acting MK-7. (Emerging data measuring bone resorption markers suggest that lower doses may work nearly as well as the high-dose prescription.)

3) Magnesium–I generally advise supplementation with the well-absorbed forms, magnesium glycinate (400 mg twice per day) or magnesium malate (1200 mg twice per day). Because they are well-absorbed, they are least likely to lead to diarrhea (as magnesium oxide commonly does).

4) Alkaline potassium salts–Potassium as the bicarbonate or the citrate, i.e., alkalinizing forms, are wonderfully effective for preservation or reversal of bone density. Because potassium in large doses is potentially fatal, over-the-counter supplements contain only 99 mg potassium per capsule. I have patients take two capsules twice per day, provided kidney function is normal and there is no history of high potassium.

5) An alkalinizing diet--Animal products are acidic, vegetables and fruits are alkaline. Put them together and you should obtain a slightly net alkaline body pH that preserves bone health. Throw grains like wheat, carbonated soft drinks, or other acids into the mix and you shift the pH balance towards net acid. This powerfully erodes bone. Therefore, avoid grains and never consume carbonated soft drinks. (Readers of this blog know that “healthy, whole grains” should be included in the list of Scams of the Century, along with Bernie Madoff and mortgage-backed securities.)

6) Strength training–Bone density follows muscle mass. Restoring youthful muscle mass with strength training can increase bone density over time. The time and energy needs are modest, e.g., 20 minutes twice per week.

Note that calcium may or may not be on the list. If on the list at all, it is dead last. When vitamin D has been restored, intestinal absorption of calcium is as much as quadrupled. The era of force-feeding high-doses of calcium are long-gone. In fact, calcium supplementation in the age of vitamin D can lead to abnormal high calcium blood levels and increased heart attack risk.

These are benign and easily incorporated strategies. They are also inexpensive. I challenge any drug to match or exceed the benefits of this combination of strategies. Keep in mind that strategies like vitamin D restoration provide an extensive panel of health benefits that range far beyond bone health, an effect definitely NOT shared by prescription drugs.

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58 Responses to Homegrown osteoporosis prevention and reversal

  1. Raphael says:

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  2. Stargazey says:

    Dr. Davis, how can the foods we eat shift our body's pH balance toward net acid?

    As I understand it, if our blood strays very far from pH 7.4 ("a slightly net alkaline body pH") we will not be osteopenic. We will be dead.

    If I'm remembering my physiology correctly, acidic food may affect our tooth enamel, but once the digested food reaches our blood and tissues, the body is well able to buffer it to a very tight pH range regardless of the pH it may have had in its original form.

  3. Rick says:

    Dr Davis,

    One of the many sports drink-type beverages in Japan is called Dakara. It contains no sodium, but 180 mg of calcium, 60 mg of magnesium, and 500 mg of potassium per liter.

    I took potassium tablets for a while a few years ago but found that, even on a full stomach, they messed with my digestion and I gave them up. As an alternative, do you think this Dakara, maybe a 500 mg bottle a day, might be OK? (It does contain sucralose, which might present other problems, though.)

    Any other ways to take potassium?

  4. The Naked Carnivore says:

    Osteoporosis is another disease of civilization caused by insulin interference with calcium metabolism.

    Whatever else you do, you're pushing a rock uphill unless you kick the carb habit.

  5. Dr. William Davis says:

    Hi, Cynthia–

    I believe that you are correct: Protein sources, such as meats, have complex effects beyond acidification. That's why meats consumers have greater bone density because of some bone growth-enhancing effect, e.g., insulin-like growth factor.

    I believe that it's the grains that upset the dietary pH apple cart, providing an acid load that must be buffered but lacking the bone density enhancing effects of animal proteins.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Dr Davis, Didn't really understand your statement about protein. Should I be limiting my protein intake due to my osteoporosis or not?

    The endocrinologist today told me that she doubts that I can totally reverse my osteoporosis. She thinks I can make a small reversal. Do you think it's possible to totally reverse osteo? Thank you!

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  9. Bernice says:

    Your article is truly informative. Many women today suffer from osteoporosis. I've read some articles about preventing it by taking enough calcium so our bones will get stronger.

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  11. Anonymous says:

    If someone can't get enough magnesium from their diet, then they should change their diet. I just don't think supplemental magnesium is wise if someone has a basically normal diet. Besides, magnesium chelate is not food magnesium. I do think D3 and MK-7 are a good idea for many people.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I am late reading this blog and want to know if taking vitamin K2 would interfer with taking the occassional asprin – 81mg which I do take from time to time but not daily.

    I did not see you mention anything about that in your blog.

  13. Anonymous says:

    you said: "Animal products are acidic, vegetables and fruits are alkaline."

    Now I have read this for the last 20 years – but have never found any scientific research about it. Maybe you could enlighten me with some links – or facts?

    Many thanks – by the way I love your blog – as does my doctor :)

  14. Breast Augmentation Los Angeles says:

    Good to know what is going to help the body recover and heal.A healthy body is more than a gift of nature and no ones knows it more than the ailing.Vitamins are present in various fruits and vegetable so we must pay attention to what exactly we are eating.

  15. Anonymous says:

    @ Melissa,
    I'm really late jumping in here and you may not even check this but I have to tell you this. I have osopenia and NOT one of my doctors ever suggested putting me on any type of meds. I was to supplement with cal, and vit D. The ironically, they also didn't bother to tell me how to take the dosage. I didn't know your body can only absorb 500 mg at a time. I was advised to go to a endocrinologist and did. your doc they put you on it to begin with.I would highly recommend going to an endocrinologist..

  16. Jack says:

    The AlgaeCal Bone Health Program is a natural <a href="http://www.algaecal.com/osteoporosis-treatment.html>osteoporosis treatment</a> that combines all of the above advice.This natural osteoporosis treatment consists of AlgaeCal Plus, Strontium Boost and weight bearing exercise.

    AlgaeCal Plus is the world's only plant source calcium and It also includes magnesium, trace minerals, vitamin D3 and vitamin k2. Strontium Boost is a supplement consisting of strontium citrate, learn more about strontium, a powerful bone building mineral.

  17. Olivia says:

    Would anyone be able to tell me where I can get the vitamins and supplements Dr Davis suggests? I live in the UK and have done an internet search with no success. I have just been diagnosed with osteoporosis and don’t like the sound of most of the treatment drugs available.

  18. Nice post about vitamins and minerals . Magnesium oxide is also very good for our body’s healthy functionality.

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