Alternative Treatments for Osteoporosis
The goal of any alternative treatment is to manage or heal the condition without the use of medication. Some alternative therapies can be used for osteoporosis. While there is little scientific or clinical evidence to suggest that they are truly effective, many people report success.
Always inform your doctor before beginning any alternative medicine or therapy. There may be interactions between herbs and the medications you are currently taking. Your doctor can help coordinate an overall treatment plan that best suits your needs.
While more scientific research is needed on the subject, some herbs and supplements are believed to reduce or potentially stop the bone loss caused by osteoporosis.
Red clover is thought to contain estrogen-like compounds. Since natural estrogen can help protect bone, some alternative care practitioners may recommend its use to treat osteoporosis. However, there is no scientific evidence to show that red clover is effective in slowing down bone loss. The estrogen-like compounds in red clover may interfere with other medications and may not be suitable for some people. Be sure to discuss red clover with your doctor, if you are considering taking it. There are significant possible drug interactions and side effects.
The soybeans used to make products like tofu and soymilk contain isoflavones. Isoflavones are estrogen-like compounds that may help protect bones and stop bone loss. It’s generally recommended that you talk to your doctor before using soy for osteoporosis, especially if you have an increased risk of estrogen-dependent breast cancer.
Black cohosh is an herb that has been used in Native American medicine for years. It also has been used as an insect repellant. It contains phytoestrogens (estrogen-like substances) that may help prevent bone loss. A 2008 study found that black cohosh promoted bone formation in mice. More scientific research is needed to determine if these results can be extended to treatment in humans with osteoporosis. Again, discuss this with your doctor if you are considering using it, due to potential side effects.
Horsetail is a plant with possible medicinal properties. The silicon in horsetail is believed to help with bone loss by stimulating bone regeneration. Although clinical trials to support this assertion are lacking, horsetail is still recommended by some holistic doctors as an osteoporosis treatment. Horsetail can be taken as a tea, tincture, or herbal compress. It can interact negatively with alcohol, nicotine patches, and diuretics, and it’s important to stay properly hydrated when you’re using it.
Acupuncture is a therapy used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The practice involves placing very thin needles in strategic points on the body. This method is believed to stimulate various organ and body functions and promote healing. Acupuncture is often combined with herbal therapies. While anecdotal evidence supports these as complementary osteoporosis treatments, more studies are needed before we know if they truly work.
Tai chi is an ancient Chinese practice that utilizes a series of body postures that flow smoothly and gently from one to the next. Studies by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine suggest that tai chi might promote increased immune function and overall well-being for older adults. It may also improve muscle strength and coordination, and reduce muscle or joint pain and stiffness. A regular, supervised routine can help improve balance and physical stability. It may also prevent falls.
Melatonin is a hormone that is made by the pineal gland in your body. Melatonin has been touted for years as a natural sleep aid as well as an anti-inflammatory agent. Researchers are now coming to believe that melatonin promotes healthy bone cell growth. Melatonin can be found in capsules, tablets, and liquid form almost anywhere, and is considered extremely safe to take. But it can cause drowsiness and interact with antidepressants, blood pressure medications, and beta-blockers, so talk with your doctor first.
Traditional treatment options
When a person is diagnosed with osteoporosis, they are advised to change their diet to incorporate more calcium. Though bone mass cannot be instantly corrected, dietary changes can stop you from losing more bone mass. Hormone replacement drugs, particularly ones that contain estrogen, are often prescribed. But all hormone therapy drugs carry side effects that can interfere with other parts of your life.
Medications from the bisphosphonate family are also a common treatment option, as they stop bone loss and reduce the risk of fractures. Side effects from this class of medication include nausea and heartburn.
Because of the side effects of these synthetic medications, some people choose to try alternative methods to stop bone loss and treat their osteoporosis. Before you start taking any medication, always discuss it with your doctor.
Osteoporosis can be prevented. Exercise, especially lifting weights, helps to maintain healthy bone mass. Healthy lifestyle choices, such as choosing not to smoke or abuse substances, also decrease your risk for developing osteoporosis. Vitamin supplements that contribute to bone health, such as vitamin D, calcium, and vitamin K, should also be a staple in your diet to avoid bone weakness later in life.