Treat osteoporosis without the drugs


You wake up. Its pouring with rain. You stub your toe on the foot of the bed. You burn the toast. You open up the morning paper and your horoscope says:

Go back to bed. Things just arent going to go your way.

Treat osteoporosis without the drugs: The fall of a giant

Thats what I imagine life must be like for executives at the American drugs giant Merck these days. A few months ago their bestselling arthritis drug Vioxx had to be pulled from the market because of proven increased risks of heart attacks and strokes. This was followed by a perfect storm of Vioxx lawsuits (as many as 10,000 by some counts), along with accusations that Merck insiders knew about the drugs dangers for years.

And now Fosamax, their $3 billion-a-year osteoporosis drug, has taken a hit, drawing fresh controversy with a court battle over an unusual side effect bone decay of the jaw. And then as if all that werent enough along come alternative healthcare writers who tell their readers about safe, non-drug methods for treating and preventing osteoporosis.

Treat osteoporosis without the drugs: Grain drain

When the subject of osteoporosis comes up, youll rarely see any mainstream attention given to the fact that diet may be a key aggravating factor for many osteoporosis patients.

The problem: coeliac disease (CD), a condition in which gluten a component of grains reduces the small intestines ability to absorb essential nutrients, such as calcium. The gluten dilemma is further complicated by the fact that coeliac disease symptoms are so subtle that doctors often miss the diagnosis.

A 2005 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine examined the link between coeliac disease and osteoporosis in a test that compared 260 coeliac patients with 580 healthy subjects. Blood tests revealed that CD was much more common among subjects with osteoporosis. In addition, subjects with the most severe cases of coeliac disease tended to have the most severe cases of osteoporosis.

Subjects who were diagnosed with CD were asked to follow a gluten-free diet for one year. Bone mineral density (measured before and after the follow-up year) was considerably improved in subjects who followed the non-gluten diet.

Barley, rye, oats and wheat are the four gluten-rich grains that CD patients need to avoid.

Unfortunately, gluten is hidden in many processed foods such as soups, soy sauce, low-fat or non-fat products, and even sweets. Some common food ingredients that may contain gluten include modified food starch, hydrolyzed vegetable or plant protein, and some binders and fillers, as well as malt and natural flavorings.

Treat osteoporosis without the drugs: Spotting the symptoms

It is estimated that one in 100 people in the UK have coeliac disease, but that four out of five are unaware they have the condition. This indicates a figure of half-a-million people in the country at risk of non-diagnosis.

Coeliac disease is not an allergic reaction to wheat. Rather it is an auto-immune disease, which means that the body produces antibodies that attack its own tissues. Symptoms of the disease include: bloating, diarrhoea, nausea, wind, tiredness, constipation, anaemia, mouth ulcers, headaches, weight loss, hair loss, skin problems, short stature, depression, infertility, recurrent miscarriages, joint/bone pain and osteoporosis.

The charity Coeliac UK explains: Some symptoms may be confused with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or wheat intolerance, while others may be put down to stress, or getting older. As a consequence, it can take some time before an accurate diagnosis is sought, or made.

Long-term calcium deficiency also plays a key role in osteoporosis. Ill address the calcium issue in an e-Alert later this week.

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  • Finally saw a doctor who diagnosed severe vitamin D deficiency, longstanding and probably responsible for osteopenia. Just wondered why this wasn’t spotted before – years ago, when I had the first low bone density result.

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