The Osteoporosis Reality You Should Know
“Grandma fell and broke her hip,” is the story we were told. She went into the hospital and had a surgery, but it was the beginning of the end. It was all downhill from there. She was unable to walk, lost her zest for life, and within weeks she had died.
People fear these fractures, and rightly so! But then they go to their doctor who orders a test and warns that fractures will happen if a certain medication is not taken. Then we see a famous actress in a commercial looking half her age, telling us how important it is to take osteoporosis medication. There is a whole culture of fear surrounding the aging process! Fear that it’s going to strike us – and we never know where it will strike next. Out of fear we take calcium and prescription drugs to ward it off.
But, the problem is, everything you have heard about osteoporosis is wrong!
Is Rickets Really Osteoporosis?
The reality of osteoporosis is very different. In many ways, osteoporosis is a disease of the Industrial Revolution. Prior to that time, people lived, worked, and traveled outdoors in the sunshine, and got plenty of exercise, but since that time several changes happened. Work moved indoors under artificial lighting. Cities also became polluted with soot and smog. Children, especially among the wealthy class, stayed indoors and didn’t play or do manual labor. After all, children were to be seen and not heard.
Many may remember the story of Heidi. Her friend, Clara, lived in the city and was in a wheelchair, getting weaker, until she went to visit Heidi in the mountains where she gained strength and was miraculously able to walk again. Her recovery was attributed in the story to the clean mountain air. Really, however, Clara had a disease called “rickets.” The “clear mountain air” was the sunshine she was getting for the first time in her life that made vitamin D.
The Secret Garden is another story about a child, Colin, with Rickets, who was healed by being outside in the sunshine. These stories were common because Rickets was common. During the industrial revolution in England, and most of Europe, there was an epidemic of Rickets.[i] People felt they had to get away from the “bad air” of the city and go out into the country to recover. The smog of the city actually prevents ultraviolet light from making vitamin D, so there was some truth to the idea.
Later, through a series of scientific investigations, the cause of Rickets was elucidated. Ultraviolet light from the sun produced a hormone that they called “vitamin D.” By the middle of the 20th Century everyone knew what Rickets was and how to prevent it. Doctors knew the value of sunshine to make vitamin D, which allows the intestines to absorb calcium from food. Also, a source of supplementation for vitamin D was found in Cod Liver Oil. When I was little, my mom lined us kids up for a dose of Cod Liver Oil every week. YUCK!
Rickets all but disappeared. The next generation doesn’t understand deficiency diseases, and few have even heard of Rickets. However, it has shown up as “osteoporosis,” a mild form of Rickets found in adults. As people aged, and did less exercise, remaining indoors and not getting much vitamin D, the body uses the calcium in their bones, and the bones get weaker, leading to fractures.
Causes of Osteoporosis
Vitamin D isn’t the only cause of osteoporosis, there are multiple factors:[ii]
- Stress increases cortisol, the stress hormone, that causes more bone breakdown.
- Lack of exercise, especially weight-bearing exercise, is common as we age.
- Deficiency of vitamin K is common in those who do not eat greens.
- Magnesium deficiency also contributes.
There are many other things that cause people to lose bone:[iii]
- Autoimmune Disorders
- Celiac disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Weight loss surgery
- multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Spinal cord injuries
- Eating disorders
- Cushing’s syndrome
- Low levels of testosterone and estrogen
- Chronic kidney disease
- Poor diet
Anything that affects absorption of nutrients, increases stress and inflammation, or decreases the ability to exercise will lead to osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis Causing DRUGS
When a drug was manufactured that would “build bone” the name was changed from “Rickets” to “osteoporosis.” The treatment for Rickets was vitamin D, but the treatment for the same problem by a different name, osteoporosis, is a drug.[iv]
Warning: Prescription drugs for osteoporosis should be avoided. They kill bone cells, called “osteoclasts” doing permanent damage. They may cause a disease called “osteopetrosis” which is thick, brittle bone, as well as necrosis of bone, especially of the jaw. They also damage the lining of the esophagus and may lead to esophageal cancer. This is the first kind of medication I remove from every patient who comes in my office.
There are four main kinds of drugs prescribed for osteoporosis:[v]