Some people have osteoporosis and break bones, while others have it and never break a bone.

A reader asked me what I thought about how to prevent osteoporosis.  This is a hard question and I would not presume to answer it.  You have to make your own decisions about your health- but without knowledge, there are no choices.   You may want to let others choose for you and that is also your choice. 

            After being diagnosed with osteoporosis about 20 years ago, I was forced to learn and decide what steps I would take.  I share what I learned and continue to learn.  You can check it out for yourself.

            Some people have osteoporosis and break bones, while others have it and never break a bone.  Porous bones do not necessarily mean weak bones.  Your bones can be porous and be tough or they can be porous and brittle.  Bone density tests can’t tell the difference. 

            It was once standard treatment to give women entering menopause the drug premarin (conjugated estrogen) to treat symptoms of menopause and prevent osteoporosis.   When I was in my forties, I infuriated an obstetrician when I refused to accept the prescription for it.  The seventy percent increase in risk of breast cancer was not appealing. 

            The oral bisphosphonate osteoporosis drugs, which include Actonel, Boniva, and Fosamax require you to be upright for 30 minutes after taking because they can irritate the esophagus.  New studies have shown these drugs double the risk of esophageal cancer, according to report from Dr. Joseph Mercola, a physician in the Chicago area who seeks safer alternatives.  You may get his online newsletter at

            Mercola explains how the bones are living tissues and how the drugs work to increase bone density, " It’s important to realize that, over time, these drugs will only worsen, not improve, your condition, because all you’re doing is fooling your body to produce a denser bone that is actually weaker – as evidenced by increasing rates of thigh bone fractures:  Healthy bones maintain their strength from a continual process of bone breakdown and bone rebuilding. Osteoclasts are cells that break down bone, and osteoblasts are the cells that rebuild it. Healthy bone undergoes a dynamic process of cyclical removal of unhealthy bone and replacement with new bone. This is how they remain strong.

In osteoporosis, the net rate of bone resorption (breakdown) exceeds the rate of bone formation, which results in a decrease in bone mass.  But it’s important to realize that Fosamax and similar drugs do NOT build any new bone. Rather they are metabolic poisons that kill off your osteoclasts, which halts the normal bone repair process since you now lack the cells that break bone down.  Your bones will indeed get denser. However, denser bones are NOT stronger, which is the part they don’t tell you. Eventually your bones become weaker and more prone to fracture.  In women who have been taking a bisphosphonate-type drug for five or more years, their bones have literally lost the ability to regenerate and this is why many may be faced with more brittle bones and fractures.”

How do you keep your bones strong or make them strong again? 

            Eat high quality food (locally grown and organic when available) fresh vegetables and fruits.  Avoid packaged processed and fast foods (a recommendation for maintaining overall health).   Mercola says onions are of special importance since they are high in gamma-glutamyl peptides that have been shown to increase bone density.  Avoid artificial sweeteners.

            We hear a lot about supplementing the diet with calcium to prevent osteoporosis.  However, Mercola says there are at least a dozen minerals that are needed for bone strength.  He recommends the use of unprocessed salt which is rich in minerals. Himalayan salt is his favorite.   Regular salt, sodium chloride, creates imbalance because it is devoid of minerals (much like white sugar which has had all the nutrients removed).

            Another recommendation is to optimize your vitamin D level.  The best source of vitamin D is the sun.  We need sun each day but not to the point of burning the skin.  When tested with the 25(OH)D, also called 25-hydroxyvitamin vitamin D, the therapeutic level needs to be 50-70.  If it is below this level, you can supplement with D3.

            To prevent or reverse osteoporosis, we need exercise, including weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, dancing, weight lifting, or yoga in which you lift your own weight and stretch with resistance. 

            Mercola writes, "Steroid hormones, like prednisone, have revolutionized the management of many illnesses, reducing morbidity in conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and mortality in other diseases such as asthma. However, they have many side effects, one of the most troubling being osteoporosis. It is interesting that the way they destroy bone density is by impairing the cells that build bone (osteoblasts). These are the same cells that natural progesterone builds up."

            After studying the research done by Dr. John Lee, I made the decision to use a high quality natural progesterone cream which is applied to the skin.  He said after menopause, women need progesterone, not estrogen.  His research showed that natural progesterone can rebuild bones.

            It’s a complicated subject and worth studying.

(Janice Norris lives in Heber Springs, has a B.S. in home economics from Murray State University, owned and operated health food stores in Illinois and Heber Springs, and wrote a weekly column in Illinois for 15 years. She can be reached at