Menopause is a time of many changes for women. But there’s no reason for one of them to be bone loss, osteoporosis, or increased fracture risk.
You have so many options to preserve your bone density — or even increase it — in the time around menopause.
Since most women experience accelerated bone loss in the first few years before and the first few years after their last period, these years are the most important ones for preventing excessive bone loss.
Let’s take a look at 6 ways you can take action.
Step 1: Give your bones the nutrition they need.
Tips to improve your diet and supplement routine:
- Get the 20 key nutrients needed for strong bones.
- Include in your meals a variety of vegetables and fruit, whole grains, seed and nuts, and lean protein.
- Avoid excess animal protein, refined grains, sugar, and preservatives.
- Support your body’s acid-alkaline balance to keep much-needed minerals in your bones. See my list of alkalizing foods and acid-forming foods.
- Pay close attention to vitamin D levels:
- Minimum intake of 2,000 IU vitamin D3 daily.
- Test your 25(OH)D vitamin D level.
- Natural sunlight is a good source of vitamin D.
- Add more vitamin K:
- Try sauerkraut, aged cheese, natto and kimchee.
- Supplement with the form of vitamin K2 known as MK-7.
Step 2: Exercise to increase your muscle mass — and bone.
When you build muscle mass, you build bone — no matter what your age. As most of us have reached our peak muscle and bone mass at age 30, exercise is an ideal opportunity for building bone density and strength during the years leading up to and right after menopause.
Tips to build (or preserve) muscle mass:
- Hopping 100 times a day helps to increase bone density and strength.
- Aim for a half hour of aerobic exercise three times a week.
- My Exercising for Bone Health DVD offers a sample of five modalities for bone-building:
- Isometric training
- Weight-bearing exercises
- Strength training
Step 3: Protect your bones during any weight loss.
Many women find weight gain — especially around the middle — is a distressing symptom
in menopause. But before you try to drop those pounds, know that age, weight loss and low weight
are three important risk factors for low bone density. Any efforts to lose weight during menopause should include a plan to protect your bones.
Tips for losing weight without losing bone:
- Eat a healthy alkaline diet.
- Supplement with the 20 key bone-building nutrients.
- Get your vitamin D levels tested and supplement with vitamin D and K as needed.
- Include exercise in your plan to build both muscle and bone.
Step 4: Decrease inflammation and improve digestion.
Chronic inflammation can cause your bones to break down more quickly than they are being built up. And these effects of inflammation speed up during menopause.
One reason is the decline in levels of estrogen, which has a natural anti-inflammatory effect. Another is that as we age, free radicals and the effects of oxidative stress accumulate, which increases bone breakdown and lowers bone mineral density.
Tips for reducing inflammation:
- Increase the “good bacteria” in your gut by eating fiber or yogurt. GI tract irritation
may contribute to inflammation in your entire body.
- Try a detox to remove harmful toxins that can cause inflammation.
- Monitor your diet for any food sensitivities.
- Avoid foods that can increase inflammation: sugar, processed foods, caffeine, and
- Keep daily exercise as part of your plan.
- Eat an alkaline diet and daily omega-3 fatty acids to help reduce inflammation.
- Practice effective stress management
Step 5: Find ways to manage your stress level.
Stress harms bone through the release of cortisol, which in turn may lead to increased
programmed cell death in our bone-building cells. Our bodies experience extra stress during the menopausal transition, so it’s important to incorporate calming routines into your life.
Tips to bring more calm into your life:
- Meditation is a time-honored practice for inviting a sense of calm and relaxation
into your body and your life.
- Try t’ai chi, yoga and qi gong to reduce stress and build bone and muscles. (You’ll
also improve balance to reduce risk of falls.)
- Focus on getting enough sleep.
- Make sure you are eating a whole foods diet.
Step 6: Keep your hormones in balance.
We know that changing hormone levels in menopause do have an impact on bone health.
But it isn’t as simple as “too much estrogen” and it doesn’t mean you should turn to hormone replacement therapy, especially given the health risks of HRT.
My Better Bones for Menopause Program focuses on both bone support and relief for troubling menopause symptoms. It includes:
- Better Bones Builder with 17 key bone-building nutrients.
- Herbal Equilibrium to balance your hormones.
- Eating plan and lifestyle guidelines.
- Exercising for Bone Health DVD.
- pH test kit to track your progress.
- Free support from women who understand your concerns and can answer your questions.
I’m Dr. Susan Brown. I am a nutritionist, medical anthropologist, writer, and speaker. Get my free weekly newsletter here.