“Can stress cause osteoporosis?” I’ve been asked this question by thoughtful women at least a thousand times. Until now, my response of “yes” was based on ancient Eastern medical sciences which directly link emotions and bone health.
For some 5,000 years ancient Eastern medicine has said that skeleton health, as all health, flows from a state of internal mind-body-spirit-emotional balance. Strong emotions and one’s response to them hold sway over specific organs and internal energy circuits. For example, while anger upsets the liver, the emotion of fear, anxiety and worry drain and dry the bones.
Modern Science catches up with Ancient Science
Now with the concept of “stress-induced osteoporosis,” modern Western science is catching up with ancient Eastern science. Here’s how.
One important way Western medicine is showing a healthy respect for the power of emotions is by recognizing that depression and anxiety are linked to weaker bones. The emphasis is the detailed study of the biochemical mechanisms involved, and I recently saw the first medical article identifying “stress-induced osteoporosis.” The research focused on the production and activity of stress hormones such as cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine.
As most things in modern medicine tend to do, the article attempts to unravel the nuts and bolts mechanisms by which stress alters physiology. I suspect they are most likely looking for knowledge which would allow for the development for a drug to interfere with the mechanics stress-induced damage. While contemporary medicine is not exactly aimed at getting to the roots of anyone’s stress response, it at least now recognizes the emotion-bone link.
However, from my clinical practice it is clear to me that Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda of India and ancient biblical texts had it right. Health lies in balance, and chronic negative emotions are powerful forces that can disrupt internal balance. As for bone…fear, anxiety and worry take their toll. Previously I detailed a simple procedure to begin modulating the fear response. Read more here.
I’ll be writing more on this soon.
Baldock, P. A., et al. 2014. Neuropeptide y attenuates stress-induced bone loss through suppression of noradrenaline circuits. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research 29(10):2238–2249. DOI: 10.1002/jbmr.2205.
Furlan, P. M., et al. 2005. The role of stress-induced cortisol in the relationship between depression and decreased bone mineral density. Biological Psychiatry 57(8):911–917. DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2004.12.033.
I’m Dr. Susan Brown. I am a nutritionist, medical anthropologist, writer, and speaker. Get my free weekly newsletter here.