In perimenopause and into menopause, many women experience symptoms such as mood swings, low libido, vaginal dryness, hot flashes, and weight gain.
What you they may not notice is changes in bone health; there are typically no symptoms but as hormones shift, but as esrogen declines women are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a condition characterized by low bone density, which can lead to fragile bones.
You might have heard the term “bone resorption” which is the process in which bone is broken down to release minerals like calcium into the bloodstream. Bone resorption is normal, and healthy for the most part, although when it is happening more than it should be, it becomes a problem.
The process of bone breakdown and rebuilding is regulated by hormones like the parathyroid hormone, calcitonin, vitamin D, and estrogen.
Why is bone health important?
- keeps you active, independent and enjoying life
- bones produce immune cells
- a bone fracture often results in a significantly reduced quality of life and other health problems due to a sedentary lifestyle
Why osteoporosis can develop in menopause
During menopause, estrogen levels decline affecting bone health, brain health, and heart health.
Estrogen plays a role in bone health by:
- Lowering the sensitivity of bone to parathyroid hormone, regulating bone resorption
- Increasing calcitonin production, inhibiting bone resorption
- Reducing excretion of calcium from the kidneys
- Interacting with estrogen receptors in the bones
When estrogen levels are low, bone resorption increases and bone mineral density decreases, leading to fragile bones and osteoporosis.
- age 35 +
- women at higher risk than men
- family history of osteoporosis
- small body frame
- hormone changes with age: lowered estrogen and testosterone
- women with inadequate calcium intake
- women with sedentary lifestyles
- history of trauma or chronic stress: high cortisol levels
Vitamin D and Osteoporosis
There is also a connection between osteoporosis and vitamin D. Osteoporosis is an inflammatory condition, and vitamin D has been linked to immunomodulation (aka regulating the immune system), and has anti-inflammatory effects. Because inflammation is more controlled with vitamin D, it can reduce the risk of osteoporosis and other diseases.
How to redue your risk:
Eat a wide variety of foods including those high in vitamin D, calcium, and magnesium.
If you follow a restrictive diet such as gluten free, dairy free or vegan you may need a supplement.
- Necessary for calcium to be absorbed
- Fatty fish (swordfish, salmon, sardines mackerel); fortified foods (dairy, cereal); egg yolk
- Get tested: Dr. Kristin Spark can order vitamin D blood work and prescribe a therpeutic dosage of vitamin D based on your current level
- Insufficient calcium intake can cause your body to take the calcium it needs from your bones.
- Dairy* (milk, cheese, yogurt), fortified alternative milks (soy, almond, coconut), sardines or canned salmon with bones, organic tofu, dark green vegetables (collards, kale, broccoli, bok choy, okra), seeds (poppy, sesame, chia), almonds
*if tolerated; choose grass-fed, high quality when possible
- Allows for proper calcium and vitamin D regulation
- Green vegetables (collards, kale, bok choy, okra); seeds (poppy, sesame, chia); nuts; legumes; whole grains; avocado
Other nutrients for bone health (cofactors) – vitamin K, phosphorus, vitamin C, zinc, B vitamins
- Sources include collards, turnip greens, spinach, kale, broccoli, natto, soybeans, carrots & carrot juice, canned pumpkin, okra, blueberries, grapes
- Vitamin K2 – low blood levels of vitamin K are associated with lower bone density and possibly increased fracture risk. Some vitamin D supplements contain K2.
The importance of exercise
Nutrients are extremely important, but exercise is also part of the equation.
Resitsance exercise helps prevent bone loss, but also helps to stimulate bone growth.
It also promotes muscle growth which helps to protect your bones and keeps you independent and active as you age.
If you’re currently in perimenopause or have already entered menopause and are looking for support, book a session with Dr. Kristin Spark, ND.
Worried about osteoporosis?
Or maybe you’re dealing with perimenopause or menopause symptoms?
Book a session with naturopath Dr. Kristin Spark, ND.