What happens to your bones in the menopause?
In simple terms, there is two-way traffic of calcium to and from your bones, and the trick is to make sure that enough calcium remains in the bones to keep them strong. If this two-way traffic is interrupted then more calcium is taken from the bones, which will weaken your bones over time, causing conditions such as osteoporosis. This in turn will make your bones much more fragile and susceptible to fractures. It is known that low oestrogen can be a factor in the gradual weakening of bones.
Other factors that interfere with keeping your bones strong
As we know, many of you menopausal ladies are so busy with full-on lives that you don’t often leave time for rest and relaxation or play. Outdoor activities are really important to keep your vitamin D levels high from sunlight, and if you end up with low vitamin D, this can affect the bones – calcium can’t absorb properly without sufficient vitamin D in the body.
Are you doing enough weight bearing exercise? Being inactive is a big factor in poor bone health.
How’s your digestion? As we age our ability to digest and absorb the important bone minerals calcium and magnesium decline, so even if you are getting plenty in your diet your body may not be utilising them properly.
How good is your diet? A diet low in fresh foods may not give you enough calcium and magnesium to support your bones.
Are you stressed? Most of us are! Stress burns up magnesium and also hampers our digestive processes, leading to low absorption of both calcium and magnesium.
What can you do to help keep your bones strong and healthy in the menopause?
The are a number of things you can do to keep your bones strong an healthy:
- Diet: diet is so important for all aspects of the menopause. Make sure that you are eating lots of calcium and magnesium rich foods such as nuts and seeds, dried fruits, dark green leafy veg and a variety of fruits. Fish such as sardines with soft bones can be beneficial and fish oils are also great for the memory, skin and joints!
- Many women ask if they should be increasing their dairy intake to get extra calcium. In short… no! Dairy is high in calcium but very low in magnesium; you need a healthy balance of both for good, strong bones as a high calcium intake teamed up with low magnesium can result in osteoporosis!
- Check you are getting enough vitamin D; see my blog on how vital this vitamin D is in the menopause for all sorts of reasons
- Exercise: weight-bearing exercise is vital for keeping your bones strong so do make sure that you keep as active as possible. Even a brisk walk for 20-30 minutes a day will bring benefits
- Try to keep stress at a minimum – I know, easier said than done; but stress is so bad for the menopause in general and can trigger all sorts of symptoms from flushes to joint pain
- Take a good quality magnesium supplement, as stressed menopausal women are likely to benefit from this mineral for all sorts of issues, from stress to muscle tension to bone density. A liquid magnesium product will work faster than a tablet
What I highly recommend…
Try a phytoestrogen supplement such as fermented soy, as phytoestrogens are known to gently raise and balance oestrogen but without the big clout and side effects of HRT.
Menopause Support is a daily nutritional supplement, which has been specially formulated with soy isoflavones from fermented soya beans, magnesium, hibiscus extract, vervain essential oil and – a supportive combination for all stages of the menopause.
What about HRT?
Some women ask if taking HRT can help to protect the bones. In theory, yes, as HRT will keep your oestrogen levels up and reduce the likelihood of osteoporosis whilst you are taking it. The main drawback of HRT for the bones is that when you have to come off it you will quickly lose this protection and your bone density will be back to where you started within a year. If you haven’t been looking after your bones health through diet, exercise etc, you can very quickly end up with problems.
If your doctor just wants to put you on HRT for your bones alone do ask them how it is going to help, what the risk factors are, and what happens to your bone health when you come off the HRT.
Looking after yourself well through diet, exercise and lifestyle can be a really important step at keeping your bones healthy throughout your life!