Answers for your osteoporosis questions: calcium supplements, vitamin D, prevention, and natural medicine

Are prescription drugs for the rest of your life really the only answer for osteoporosis?

In case you had not noticed, pharmaceutical companies are spending enormous sums of money creating television advertisements hoping that you will say yes. A holistic medicine approach takes a somewhat different view.

Since you are here, you may wish to take a moment to check out my new audio CD, a one-of-a-kind medical hypnosis program for bone health:Healing Images for Strong Bones.

Those television ads are partly designed to increase your awareness that if you have low bone density you may be at risk of fractures at any time in the next 30 years. The marketing bonanza for the drug companies is based on the premise that a preventive medicine (bisphosphonate) should be taken for life in order to reduce the chances of an uncertain event. To better understand your chances of a fracture, use the fracture risk calculators as explained here. 

In the case of osteoporosis, this is a very tricky presumption. It is true that many older Americans, especially women, will experience a hip fracture. It is also true that approximately half of these occur after the age of 80. So while some degree of bone thinning (osteopenia) is normal in a large percentage of women at age 50, not all of those women need to be taking prescription bone density drugs for life as the television ads may imply. It is important to get advice from a medical professional before relying on television ad information as your impetus to start a prescription.

So while there are many times when a prescription for treating bone loss is important, natural solutions are always in order, and can complement and augment the effects of conventional medicine. Here are a few of my safe and reliable suggestions:

Have a blood test done for vitamin D deficiency. Your doctor (or our office if you are within reach)can order a vitamin D 25OH test and have an answer in a few days. That can be corrected by supplements or by prescription forms of Vitamin D (ergocalciferol). Nutrition information is clear for preventing osteoporosis and its treatment, and includes some surprises. I recommend several servings of soy foods weekly, as scientific evidence supports its benefit for bone health. You can find calcium in cow’s milk, but sometimes cow milk creates problems for humans, so look for other calcium rich foods such as calcium fortified orange juice, broccoli, collards, bok choy, and kale.

Supplements for bone health can be helpful. Some can be harmful, so choose carefully. Be careful that your multivitamin does not contain preformed vitamin A (retinyl palmitate or retinol). A minimum daily maintenance supplemental dose of vitamin D3 is 1000 IU (for prevention, much higher than previous recommendations), and higher doses than that if you have vitamin D deficiency. Bone thinning is at least in part an inflammatory condition, so I recommend a preventive daily dose of fish oil (omega 3 fats) for almost everyone. If you are not certain you are getting somewhere around 800 mg calcium per day, a calcium supplement can be considered. However, recent data suggest there could be a link between taking calcium supplements and heart attacks, so I have some specific cautions and recommendations on that. And there are very encouraging new data about the use of lactoferrin as a natural osteoporosis treatment.

My experience in practicing clinical hypnosis has suggested it may have powerful effects for many medical conditions where my medical colleagues are skeptical. There is no area of the body which is “off limits” to the power of medical hypnosis. With the unmet need in this area, I have produced an audio hypnosis program called “Healing Images for Strong Bones” which can be ordered by calling the office (803 426-1421) directly or by going to CDBaby.com and searching on “Pendergrast.” 

Physical activity is the single most important determinant of bone health over a woman’s lifespan. Some regular aerobic as well as weight bearing exercise is crucial to bone health. Start simple, start easy, and work up from there.

Be well, and keep in touch.


Robert Pendergrast, M.D. 

How can I know my risk for a fracture?

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The best calcium for osteoporosis prevention doesn’t have to be expensive. But some say to prevent the calcium from migrating to our arteries and soft tissue it must include Vitamins D & K andMagnesium. Learn more at Osteoporosis and Vitamins..