The Menopause & Bone Health
The Menopause & Bone Health
During and after the menopause women are encouraged to look after their bones. This is because oestrogen is intimately involved in the building and protection of healthy bone tissue. Falling oestrogen during the perimenopause and menopause has been directly linked to the development of osteoporosis or brittle bone disease.
Osteoporosis is a ‘silent disease’ in that most people do not know that they have it until they crack or break a bone, by which time the disease is often fully developed. Therefore, women are encouraged to take pre-emptive steps during menopause and perimenopause to protect their bones, to try and prevent this disease.
Important factors in Bone Health
• Healthy diet – Calcium-rich foods – such as leafy green vegetables, dairy, almonds, figs and broccoli – and fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines help sustain blood calcium levels and reduce inflammation, supporting healthy bones. It is also important not to limit food intake too severely, as this can negatively impact bone health.
• Exercise – Weight baring exercise and strength training helps to ensure strong bone tissue is produced.
• Avoid cigarettes – Smoking can actually accelerate bone losses.
• Moderate alcohol – 1-2 servings of alcohol per day has been linked to bone health, however binge drinking and drinking in excess of this figure appears to have a destructive effect.
• Sleep well – Some studies have indicated that lack of a good night’s sleep may be detrimental to bone health.
• Manage your medication – Some medications can impair the body’s ability to absorb important minerals like calcium, so it is important to check with your doctor. The most common culprits here are PPI inhibitor medications (antacids) like omeprazole or lansoprazole. These medications inhibit stomach acid, which in turn will significantly reduce calcium absorption. The World Health Organisation has suggested that menopausal women should not take these medications long term because of this.
Supplements for Healthy Bones:
• CALCIUM – Possibly the most well-known supplement for bone health, calcium is very important to supporting healthy bones. What is also essential, however, is to ensure that the calcium provided by the diet and by supplements is absorbed properly and utilised by the body for building bones. This means making sure it is taken alongside nutrients such as magnesium, vitamin D and vitamin K. If calcium is not properly absorbed and utilised, then there is an increased risk of developing issues like kidney stones and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
• MAGNESIUM – Often overlooked, magnesium is nearly as important in bone health as calcium. Low levels of magnesium can affect the formation of healthy bones. Ideally, any bone health supplement should provide 800mg calcium and 400mg magnesium.
• VITAMIN D – The body needs adequate vitamin D to absorb calcium and build healthy bones. Taking supplemental vitamin D has been shown to help reduce the risk of falling due to instability and muscle weakness, helping to prevent falls and bone fractures.
• ZINC – Zinc plays an important role in the development of healthy bones. Research has indicated that postmenopausal women given a supplement of trace minerals, that included zinc, magnesium and copper, had a lower rate of loss in bone mass than those who took calcium alone.
• VITAMIN K2 – Osteoblasts (cells that make bone) produce a Vitamin K-dependent protein called osteocalcin. This protein helps bind calcium in the bone, leading to increased bone mineral density (i.e. stronger bones). Osteocalcin needs natural vitamin K2 to function optimally. Studies have suggested that Vitamin K2 can help to support bone health in menopausal women.
Written by Jenny Logan DN Med.(Jenny is a nutritional therapist who has worked with clients in health food stores and private clinics for over 20 years.)