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How to keep your bones healthy

Each month, women’s wellbeing expert Henrietta Norton discusses an area of women’s health and offers her perspective and advice. Here, she looks at ways to reduce the risk of osteoporosis as you enter the menopause

by Psychologies

Bones

3 minute read

Currently, I am transitioning through the menopause and have been told that I will be at a greater risk of osteoporosis. So, what can I do? Healthy bones are created with a fine balance between bone formation and bone breakdown (measured by Bone Mineral Density or BMD). After the age of 30, bone formation slows down and bone breakdown increases.

This process speeds up when women start their journey through the menopause – women can lose up to 20 per cent of their BMD in the five to seven years after the menopause because of the decline of oestrogen. Some studies have shown an average loss of bone density in the spine as five per cent per year in the immediate years after the menopause. The relationship between oestrogen and bone formation means that women who may be experiencing amenorrhea (a lack of menstrual cycle) may also be at a greater risk of developing osteoporosis. A family history of osteoporosis, women with fair skin, and a personal history of anorexia or hypothyroidism can increase the risk, too.

Dietary and lifestyle factors may also influence bone formation. Caffeine, alcohol, carbonated drinks, high protein diets, sugar and excessive salt intake increase the excretion of minerals important for bone formation, including calcium and iron. Also, phytates found in many C grains, such as wheat, bind with these minerals and reduce their absorption into the body.

A diet rich in calcium, magnesium, boron, vitamin K2, phytoestrogens and vitamin D, found in green leafy vegetables, nuts and pulses, can help to protect against osteoporosis. Traditional methods, such as nettle infusions and soups, which are rich in minerals and trace minerals, continue to be used in modern naturopathic approaches. Supplementation may be both necessary and helpful, so do seek professional advice on what might be best for you. Focus is commonly put on calcium and vitamin D supplements but other minerals and trace minerals, such as chromium and boron, are essential to BMD. Chromium is needed to regulate blood sugar levels and studies have shown that supplementing with chromium may reduce excretion of minerals, including calcium.

Maintaining a healthy weight and doing regular weight-bearing exercise reduces mineral loss from our bones and, because stress can increase this too, using exercise and other forms of stress-management techniques may also be beneficial.

Our expert, Henrietta Norton, is a registered nutritional therapist, a women’s wellbeing writer and expert, and co-founder of food-grown supplements brand Wild Nutrition.

Image: Getty