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Osteoporosis is the deterioration of bone tissue and a loss of bone mass which happens over time. According to Osteoporosis Canada, one in 3 women and one in 5 men will suffer a broken bone due to osteoporosis in their lifetime. Natural bone loss typically begins after the age of 35 and once in menopause, women tend to experience bone loss more rapidly. Peak bone mass is typically formed in the early twenties. Therefore, women especially, should focus on building healthy bones from a young age in order to prevent and slow down the progression of this chronic disease.

The Importance of Vitamin D and Calcium

Vitamin D: Anyone who lives in northern latitudes should consider supplementing with vitamin D3. The further you are north of the equator, the less likely your body will be able to make enough vitamin D as exposure to the sun is limited. Vitamin D aids your body in the absorption of bone building minerals such as calcium and magnesium. It is also important for the treatment of osteoporosis once it is diagnosed.

Calcium: It is important to get enough calcium in your diet or to supplement if necessary both for the prevention and the treatment of osteoporosis. However, always check with your health care provider before taking a calcium supplement or any supplement for that matter. If you have a family history of kidney or gallbladder stones, you may increase your risk of stone formation. Furthermore, too much calcium may also contribute to an increased risk of heart disease.

Create a healthy foundation for bone health with the food that you eat. Foods that aid in building bone include: kale, watercress, almonds, yogurt and cheese. It is also important to have enough healthy protein in your diet such as sardines and salmon with the bone-in, legumes and a variety of meat.

Consider Weight Bearing Exercise

Weight bearing exercise is an essential part of any program to prevent and treat osteoporosis. Bone is living tissue that is constantly going through a remodeling process. Weight bearing exercise has the ability to strengthen your bones and to slow down the process of bone loss. Exercise will also help to strengthen your core muscles which can improve and maintain your balance and as you age this may prevent bone fractures that occur due to falls.

Food to Avoid

Not all foods and beverages are going to support and build healthy bones. Here are some to be cautious of.

Foods and beverages that contain phosphate: Phosphate is an important mineral for building and maintaining healthy bone tissue. You can find phosphate naturally in food however; it is also a common additive in processed foods and beverages. If you consume too much phosphate in comparison to your intake of calcium, this can increase the rate of calcium loss from your bones. Soft drinks are high in phosphate in the form of phosphoric acid. In one study, women who drank more than 3 cola-based sodas per day on a regular basis were shown to have 4% lower bone mineral density than the rest of the subjects who drank other types of sodas. Other examples of foods that contain a high amount of phosphate include processed sandwich meats, some breakfast cereal bars and flavoured water.

Alcohol: The regular intake of 2 or more alcoholic beverages per day can increase your risk for osteoporosis. It is important to reduce your alcohol intake and perhaps it may be best to save alcohol for special occasions or to avoid it altogether if you are concerned about maintaining a healthy bone mass.

Caffeine: High caffeine intake may also be a risk factor for osteoporosis in older women. Caffeine has been shown in studies to reduce calcium absorption. If you are an avid coffee drinker, consider reducing your intake to a maximum of 2 cups per day and avoid taking your supplements or ingesting your calcium rich foods at the same time.

Osteoporosis is also known as a silent disease as the effects of the bone loss is usually not apparent until a catastrophic bone fracture. Seek the guidance of a health care practitioner who can help you determine your risk factors and to help you establish a healthy nutrition routine for the prevention of this chronic disease.

Dr. Olivia Rose
About the Author

Dr. Olivia Rose is a naturopathic doctor and a registered acupuncturist with a family practice located in the Beaches area of Toronto. She graduated from the University of Guelph with a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in Nutritional and Nutraceutical Sciences. In 2006, she graduated from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine where she completed 4 years of study and a clinical internship at the Robert Schad Naturopathic Clinic and at the Sherbourne Health Centre where she worked with patients afflicted with HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C.

Olivia is also the director of Fertility Acupuncture Services, a program that brings acupuncture to couples undergoing in vitro fertilization and intrauterine insemination in Toronto fertility clinics. In practice, her special areas of interest include stress management, heart disease, digestive health, infertility, pediatrics and weight management.

In her free time, when she is not at the spa or spending time with her husband and tea-cup Yorkie, Dr. Rose guest lectures at corporate events, local groups and schools. She is featured regularly as a health expert on Global Toronto’s “News at Noon”. For more information on Dr. Rose's practice and upcoming events please visit, www.oroseND.com.