Osteoporosis & Gut Health
There are over one million osteoporosis-related fractures per year. In fact, with a hip fracture, the percentage of an individual’s mortality increases by 24% within 12 months of said fracture. Osteoporosis is a serious condition that should not be overlooked. It is not a condition that affects just the elderly, but those starting from the early age of 30.
Osteoporosis is a disease process based on stem cell and immunological dysfunction and it is where this dysfunction collides with energy regulatory mechanisms leading to weak and brittle bones. The skeleton is a large block of calcium that the body taps into to survive. This leaves the skeleton depleted of essential nutrients if not properly maintained. One thing that is important is to work on skeletal health from a metabolic level. Not only do we want to improve the bone structure of individuals, but their bone quality and reduce their fracture rate as well.
The skeletal system is a shield to our nervous system. Additionally, inside our bones is bone marrow. Bone marrow is the birthplace of our immune system. After being produced, about 70% of our immune system resides in the gut. Note here that skeletal health is related to immune health, which is related to gut health, which is ultimately responsible for overall health and autoimmune conditions. Without skeletal health, we see a rapid decline in overall health.
To diagnose someone with osteoporosis we do a DXA test, an X-ray, look for physical signs/symptoms, and do labs. The main reason we do a DXA test is that right now, it is really the only tool we have to assess a person’s bone marrow density. However, we use these other tests for diagnosing to ensure that we adequately treat our patients. For an X-ray, we are looking to see if they have a 30% bone loss. Additionally, those with a low pH has an increased chance of bone loss. A physical examination is highly important as it can allow a physician to feel how soft and bendy the bones are. In this assessment, we also look for health factors such as height, weight, fingernails, muscle strength, posture, and abdominal bloating and tenderness. You are never too young to be examined for osteoporosis. Many individuals are not tested until their 60s when in reality, if they were tested earlier they would not have suffered from as much bone loss.
Once we see our patient has osteoporosis we run a set of core labs. These labs will give us a more measurable mark on how much of certain supplements this individual needs. The core labs we run are CBC for red blood cell count, CMP for glucose, bilirubin and liver function, Vitamin D, Celiac Profile, Bone resorption marker, and urine pH. These are all important as all have to do with the production and regulation of biochemical pathways. A celiac profile is one of the most unique as many do not associate osteoporosis with celiac. However, as mentioned above, the gut is what drives inflammation and is responsible for many other body functions. If the gut is unhealthy and being irritated by gluten, the rest of the body will reflect that and nutrients will not be properly absorbed. One test we use on our patients is the micronutrient test form SpectraCell. This test not only shows the vitamin D levels of our patients but also their energy mechanism in the body and how they are functioning. A sample is shown below:
For more information relating to gut health and osteoporosis, please read: Gut Microbiota and Osteoarthritis Management: An Expert Consensus of the European Society for Clinical and Economic Aspects of Osteoporosis, Osteoarthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases (ESCEO)
I think it is highly important that we educate patients on the importance of proper gut health and how it factors into so many other diseases such as osteoporosis. By having an understanding of proper gut health and clear markers when it comes to bone health, we are able to better help patients get their health back on track. -Kenna Vaughn, Senior Health Coach
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Biver E, Berenbaum F, Valdes AM, et al. Gut microbiota and osteoarthritis management: An expert consensus of the European society for clinical and economic aspects of osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and musculoskeletal diseases (ESCEO). Ageing Res Rev. 2019;55:100946. doi:10.1016/j.arr.2019.100946
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