One of the conditions I run across from patients coming in with back or neck pain is osteopenia and in some cases osteoporosis. These are incidental findings and are usually unrelated to the pain that brought them to the office. These are conditions of bone loss or bone density reduction. While these are more common in post-menopausal women, it can occur in others, especially for those taking certain medications.
Bones are not just slabs of calcium that will just wear down over time. They are living tissue. They respond to movement, load and nutrition. They don’t lose strength just because we get older, but because we stop using and feeding them.
Heavy squats have been shown to improve bone mass and bone metabolism in women with osteoporosis. No, I don’t want grandma to put a barbell on her shoulders. In fact, squats with a heavy barbell on your neck are bad for most people. Unless you are a trained power lifter, I recommend finding alternatives to your standard barbell squat. The best thing to do is find a qualified professional experienced in working with older adults.
Osteoporosis is a common condition so it shouldn’t be too hard to find a gym or trainer qualified. At the very least, make sure they have someone who can monitor or “spot” them while doing any weight training. Squatting down to a chair holding some hand weights could be a good start.
Just remember that the older we get the longer recovery time we need. Listen to your body to avoid injury. “No pain, no gain,” is NOT a smart motto.
For movement I suggest a nice hike. Get together on weekends and take a short hike. Not only will this get you moving, you also get the added benefit of being in the sun. The sun is a great source of needed vitamin D. Vitamin D not only helps the bones, but it improves neuromuscular function and muscle strength. Start with short hikes and slowly increase to longer hikes with more elevation changes.
Along with vitamin D, vitamin K2 is an important supplement to make sure the vitamin D is working adequately. If you are on medication, contact your doctor to make sure there are no negative interaction problems with these supplements.
Also, make sure you are absorbing the nutrients you are taking for bone health. Studies have confirmed the beneficial effects of prebiotics on mineral absorption in humans. Galactooligosaccharides (a class of prebiotic fiber) increase calcium and magnesium absorption and improve bone mineral density. Both inulin and resistant starch also promote better mineral absorption.
Lastly, make sure you get enough protein. The older we get the less efficient we are at metabolizing protein. For this reason we actually need more as we age depending on our activity level. Protein plays a huge role in bone mineral density, so she should eat at least 0.6 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight, mostly from animal sources.
Since we are talking about bones, I thought a bone broth recipe would be appropriate.
Homemade Bone Broth
• Bones, saved from previous cooking
• Scraps of vegetables, such as celery, parsley, and any vegetable that looks “past its prime”
• Large stock pot or soup pot half full of water
• 2 to 4 tablespoons of vinegar
• 1 tablespoon dried powdered kelp or dulse, or part of a whole leaf
• 1 packet gelatin
1. Put all ingredients except seaweed and gelatin into the pot and simmer for 2 or more hours (ideally 24 hours).
2. Add water if needed.
3. Strain out the vegetables and bones and discard them.
4. Dissolve a packet of plain gelatin in the broth.
5. Freeze it in pint or quart batches for future use.
6. I leave one or two cups in the refrigerator to gently sauté vegetables in homemade broth. Because the broth has just a small amount of fat, sautéing with broth provides the benefits of sauté without the calories of using frying oil. Put three tablespoons in a pan whenever you wish to sauté or stir-fry fresh vegetables.
That’ll give you that stir-fry taste without losing the antioxidant capabilities in the food you’re cooking!
If you have a good paleo recipe to share or a non paleo recipe you want me to take a look at, please enter it and any other comments you have below. We LOVE comments.