The rate of osteoporosis continues to increase despite new drugs and an increase in vitamin D and calcium supplementation. Could it be that the focus on building bone has been going down the wrong path of drugs, supplements and hormone replacement? Although all of these can potentially help build bone, the key really lies in building lean muscle mass.
As we age, we also lose muscle mass (known as sarcopenia) which results in the following health problems:
- Frequent falls resulting in bone fracture
- Increased inflammation
- Increased mortality (dying earlier than you should)
- Physical disability
- Nursing home admissions earlier than necessary
- Increased hospitalizations
- Loss of cartilage
- Slow gait speed (walking slowly)
Osteopenia ⇒ Osteoporosis
You see, there is an intricate connection between your bones and your muscles known as the “bone-muscle unit”. This unit shares many characteristics including important hormones, chemical messengers and loading connections. Whenever a muscle and it’s connecting bone are loaded by physical stress, they adapt together and change their structure together. If you break a bone, it is the muscles that attach to that bone that aid in healing the fracture. The same goes for cartilage in your joints that rely on healthy muscles to keep cartilage from breaking down. This perfectly explains why you lose bone density and cartilage while you lose muscle mass in aging. When you think of osteoporosis and sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass), you should think of the same condition.
Why do people lose muscle and bone as they age?
The more body fat you have, the more inflammation you will have and inflammation causes muscle and bone loss. As many people age, they become less active so they lose muscle mass and gain weight. The stresses of daily life combined with convenience foods that are high in refined carbohydrates is a perfect recipe for muscle and bone loss. A vicious cycle is created with decreased activity ⇒ weight gain ⇒ refined carbohydrates ⇒ inflammation ⇒ muscle and bone loss.
An additional consequence is impaired absorption and utilization of vitamin D for healthy bones. The more body fat and inflammation you have, the less likely you are to optimally utilize vitamin D.
What are the most important supplements to build bone?
I cover many of the best bone building supplements in this article. A quick refresher includes calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, essential fatty acids from fish oil, vitamin K, Zinc, copper, manganese, boron, and potassium. None of these will work unless you are building muscle, reducing inflammation, maintaining an alkaline pH and if your hormones in balance.
What about supplements for building muscle?
The most important thing to build muscle is consuming enough protein in your diet. You can add protein supplements such as whey protein, hemp protein or pea protein for additional support. You can give your protein supplements a muscle building boost by adding leucine powder to your protein shake. Leucine is the most anabolic amino acid meaning it builds muscle the best. Magnesium and potassium supplements may be necessary if your pH is too acidic which leads to the loss of muscle and bone.
You can learn more about how much protein to eat in this video.
Why is acid-alkaline balance important?
Your growth hormone levels will decrease if you become too acidic and growth hormone is important for building muscle and bone. When you eat a highly acidic meal, your bones release calcium to buffer the acids from the food you eat. You’ll also excrete more magnesium, Zinc and potassium if you are consuming an acid-forming diet. I cover acid-alkaline balance in this video.
What are the most important steps to reverse osteoporosis?
- A good general guideline for exercise is to do resistance exercise with weights, bands or machines 2 days a week for 20-30 minutes as a minimum. You should exercise all of your muscle groups including the upper body, but with a special emphasis on the largest muscle groups which are the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and back muscles. Additionally, focus on flexibility by performing yoga 2 days a week for 20-30 minutes or a similar stretching routine. *Always consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program.
- Eat plenty of protein as outlined above and reduce your carbohydrate intake to lose body fat.
- Keep your pH in the alkaline range as outlined above.
- Get your hormones in balance including your thyroid, adrenal hormones and your sex hormones. Too much or too little of any of these can contribute to bone loss.
- Supplement with vitamin D and if you are osteoporotic then it may be beneficial to use a good bone-building support formula with the supplements outlined above.
If you suffer from inflammation, then it’s important to get evaluated by a functional medicine practitioner to find out the underlying causes of the inflammation. Some common causes of chronic inflammation are infections like viruses and bacteria, poor dental health, gut infections such as parasites, yeast and bacterial dysbiosis, food sensitivities like gluten and dairy, physical and psychological stress, insulin resistance and many more. If you are doing everything right as outlined above but you are still inflamed, it will be very difficult to build muscle and bone so get a thorough check-up.
The connection between building muscle and building bone may surprise you, but it just may be one of the best long-term approaches to preventing and reversing osteoporosis.