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Probiotics, Osteoporosis and Osteopenia

By Dr. Susan E. Brown, PhD

I often joke that we humans are just as much a “walking compost heap” as a human body. This is because the average healthy adult has 10 times more bacteria than human cells, including an estimated 500 species alone living on our skin.

Our bodies are interacting with trillions of bacteria each second…and here’s how these invisible residents help bone.

Probiotics: The “Good Guy” bacteria

The two well-known species of health-promoting probiotic bacteria residing in our intestinal tract are lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. These creatures are known as “probiotics” and serve many functions for us, including assisting in digestion, producing vitamins, and inhibiting growth of harmful bacteria.

Focusing on osteoporosis and osteopenia, numerous studies suggest the bone-effects of probiotics — such as increased bone mass, decreased bone breakdown and increased calcium and phosphorus blood levels. Specifically, a healthful probiotic balance improves bone strength by:

• Increasing calcium and magnesium absorption
• Making milk more digestible (reducing lactose)
• Reducing leaky gut and allergies
• Enhancing immunity
• Reducing the impact of dietary phytates which limit mineral absorption
• Enhancing absorption of phytoestrogens

Boosting probiotics

I recommend consuming at least one food offering probiotics each day. Also if you have digestive or immune concerns, candida or have recently taken antibiotics it is wise to use more probiotics — from 15 to 50 billion units daily — until the issue is resolved.

You can support beneficial probiotics with food and supplements. Try to consume fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut and fermented pickled products. A yogurt with active cultures provides a good daily dose of probiotics, and kefir contains even more (the kefir in my frig boosts 7-10 billion per cup).

Probiotic rich foods:

• Yogurt
• Buttermilk
• Kefir
• Sauerkraut
• Olives
• Pickled ginger
• Kimchi
• Tempeh
• Miso
• True pickles
• Natto

Another option is to add a probiotic supplement, such as Super Biotic, a blend of eight different “friendly” microorganisms supplying 15 billion organisms per dose.

References:

Parvanch, K. et al., “Effect of probiotics supplementation on bone mineral content and bone mass density’. The Scientific World Journal, Vol. 0214 (2014), Article ID 595962

Scholtz-Ahrens, K et al., Prebiotics, probiotics and synbiotics affect mineral absorption, bone mineral content and bone structure”. J Nutr. Vol 137, no 3 8385-8465, March 2007.

You can try Dr. Brown’s comprehensive supplements in her at-home bone health program, developed with Women's Health Network. Get her exclusive formulations along with her detailed lifestyle and diet guidance, plus telephone support whenever you need it. Learn more about the Better Bones Health Program.

We created the Better Bones blog as our forum to express opinions and educate the public about natural means of supporting and improving bone health and overall wellness. As part of this forum, we sometimes discuss medical issues and medications, and their effects on bone health in general. However, we cannot advise readers about specific medical issues in this forum. If you wish to obtain advice from Susan E. Brown, PhD, about your specific bone health and nutritional concerns, please visit our Consultations page. Other specific medical questions should be referred to your healthcare provider.

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