Treatment For Osteopenia
The best treatment for osteopenia will include a diet that emphasizes fruits and vegetables; vitamin and mineral supplements and exercise. Rebuilding bone density is possible with patience and determination.
Most doctors understand and trust pharmaceuticals more than they understand vitamins, diet and exercise. But the U.S. Surgeon General recommends a tiered approach to bone health rather than reliance on drugs.
NUTRITION AND EXERCISE
Nutrition, exercise and fall prevention are the foundation of the Surgeon General’s pyramid. A natural approach to the treatment for osteopenia will emphasize an alkaline diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in meat, carbonated drinks and coffee. Supplements can reinforce a good diet when calcium is taken with meals; blood levels of vitamin D are adequate and vitamin K2 is added to push the calcium into the bones and away from the heart. But as few supplements have sufficient vitamin D to support recommended blood levels, additional vitamin D tablets are often necessary. Weight bearing exercises are also important for the treatment of osteopenia... and these exercises are not restricted to the use of weights. Tai chi, yoga and walking all encourage bone renewal by using the natural weight of the body. Tai chi has the additional benefit of improving balance that will help with fall prevention.
ASSESSING AND TREATING UNDERLYING CAUSES
If a doctor informs a patient that she or he has osteopenia, it is usually because a bone density test (DEXA test) reported a T-score between -1 and-2.5 in one or all of the following locations:
- lower spine bones (lumbar vertebrae L1-L3)
- the narrow neck of your thigh bone (femur) that adjoins your hip
- the femur itself (thigh bone)
A diagnosis of osteoporosis is made when the T-score is lower than -2.5.
Baseline bone density tests are recommended for women when they reach perimenopause (menstrual irregularity occurring usually between 45 and 55) or earlier if they are at risk from the use of certain medications. Men should have a bone density test at age 70 or earlier if using corticosteroids or prostate cancer drugs. Malabsorption diseases such as Crohn’s or inflammatory bowel disease may also warrant treatment for osteopenia in order to prevent bone loss rather than restore bone density.
While experts agree that vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption, research has shown that over 60% of North Americans are vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D supplements and regular blood tests are especially encouraged for people in northern regions (north of Boston) where the ultraviolet rays from the sun are too weak to produce vitamin D during the long winter months.
A simple PH test is also a useful tool in the treatment of osteopenia. Adequate stomach acid is essential for breaking down and absorbing calcium but acid production decreases with age. A simple pH test strip can help to assess and monitor stomach acid levels.
Drug treatment is found at the top and smallest portion of the Surgeon General’s treatment pyramid-after the causes of bone loss have been identified and addressed. While some argue that drugs should only be prescribed once a person has been diagnosed with osteoporosis- in cases where there is rapid bone loss, physicians may prescribe medication to slow or prevent further loss.
Prescription medication should always be accompanied by adequate levels of calcium and vitamin D, as pharmaceuticals often help to increase bone density but do not necessarily support bone quality. A daily program of vitamins and minerals through a good diet and the use of supplements is an essential part of the treatment for osteopenia as well as the prevention of osteoporosis.