Stress, Hormones, Diet and Osteoporosis
Our body normally changes as we get older. We are designed for this and our body's hormone system has natural backups for this change. Osteoporosis is a direct result of our body abnormally adjusting to these changes. Why does our body not adjust to the aging process without bone loss? We do not live in a perfect stress free world, we need help to get through these normal body changes. You can do a lot to help yourself either to prevent bone loss or to do as much as you possibly can to prevent further bone loss.
The ovaries produce estrogens and progesterone in high concentrations for the purpose of bearing children. As you age the ovaries begin to produce less and less of these hormones. Totally normal changes as your child bearing years end. This is not the end for you though, in Traditional Chinese Medicine this is called The Second Spring, no more cycles. To maintain a healthy level of hormones our body has a built in system that makes up for the ovaries that are now on minimal function.
On top of the kidneys is a small gland called the adrenal gland. This gland makes adrenaline (cortisol) to stimulate normal body functions and to react under stress. The adrenal gland also produces cortisone ( anti inflammatory balancer), and progesterone. Estrogens are made from a number of organs in small dosages, the primary source of estrogens is fat cells. In a perfect world everything is covered by nature with the estrogens and progesterones in the right ratio. Here is what goes on in real life.
The first thing to start to recede on most people is progesterone production from the ovaries. As the progesterone level drops you will notice irregular cycles, hot flashes, mood swings. The adrenal gland should be making enough progesterone to bring the system in balance. Two things most commonly disrupt the system. First is stress and second is weight gain (fat cells). The estrogen and progesterone have to be in a delicate ratio. Having an ideal ratio is as important as not having enough of the hormone. If the ratio is not kept we have symptoms. The hidden symptom is the lack of new bone cells produced by progesterone. We live in a fast paced world. This constant go all the time leaves our body under stress. The adrenal gland is so busy stimulating our body with adrenaline to keep us going, and on top of this we have our daily worries, and the adrenal gland has a hard time keeping up. Progesterone production suffers. We at the same time, usually have put on a little weight by now and the extra fat cells are producing estrogens. As the ovary begins to shut down the level of estrogen stays fairly constant at first because there is plenty of fat cells to make the estrogen, not supplied by the ovary. The progesterone level can not be maintained adequately however, because of the stressed adrenal gland. The ratio of estrogen to progesterone begins to alter due to a lack o progesterone in comparison to the amount of estrogen present. Also called estrogen dominant. With Progesterone not there to make new bone cells the decline in bone density begins. (One noticeable symptom of a stressed adrenal gland is not being able to sleep. If you are awake all night with your mind racing - that is a stressed adrenal gland.)
Estrogen will eventually begin to fall. How fast it falls will determine the amount of minerals that are lost by bone structure. This is where diet comes in to play. Soy isoflavones have been shown to help maintain a persons normal estrogen. It does not make estrogen, what it does is support your own estrogens so they stay active longer. When the ovary begins to decline production rapidly, faster than the body can supply estrogens from other sources, there is a sudden drop in bone density. This is the sudden decline in bone density right before menopause. Soy isoflavones and other estrogen supporters like red clover have been shown to help maintain your estrogen levels so there is not a sudden drop in estrogen. Eating plenty of tofu and drinking soy milk or soy isoflavone pills can really help.
WHAT YOU CAN DO!
I like using calcium products that contain the soy isoflavones. Avoid excessive intake of caffeine and colas as these are hard on the bones and can add to bone loss. Dark green vegetables are your best naturally occurring sources of calcium and other minerals you need for your bones. Knowing your hormone levels is important too. Estradiol, estriol, and estrone are the estrogens. Progesterone levels can also be measured with lab tests. When the hormone levels are lower than they should be, I like the human duplicate hormones derived from plants, these are exact copies of the human hormones naturally occurring from fermented plants, not synthetically made.
Stress really does matter. Make sure you are getting enough quality sleep. Also called REM sleep. This is rapid eye movement sleep - dream sleep. If you are not dreaming you can be sleeping, but not experiencing the body rest you need. Stress is important because saying someone is high stress really means they have a high output of adrenaline and they are showing signs of being over stressed. This means a high output of cortisol - adrenaline. It just so happens that prolonged exposure to high cortisol results in bone loss. The adrenal gland uses lots of B vitamins especially B 6 and pantothenic acid. It also uses large amounts of vitamin C and protein.
A bone density test is a very good way of telling what your overall bone density is at the present time. The cross link peptide Dpd urine or blood test will tell you if you are in active osteoporosis, if you a losing bone at this minute. You can have a good bone density but you still need to know that what you are doing to prevent osteoporosis from occurring or from getting worse is really working. Talk to you doctor.
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