01/27/2012 01:00 pm ET Updated Mar 28, 2012

Natural Osteoporosis Help

For most people the first sign of osteoporosis is a broken bone or a fracture, and the frightening part is that often a person does not know they have osteoporosis until a minor fall ends up causing a serious fracture.

Osteoporosis happens when the cells that remove bone matter do so at a faster rate than the cells that build it. This leaves empty space in the bones, which then become brittle and vulnerable to fractures or breaks. Bone growth peaks in our late 20s, so by starting to build strong bones early in life, one can slow and even prevent bone loss. Osteoporosis is preventable and treatable, but the key is to begin now.

Orange Juice for Strong Bones

For good bone health, both calcium and vitamin D are needed. Calcium is necessary to build and maintain bones and vitamin D is needed because the body cannot absorb calcium without it. Cow's milk has traditionally been credited as the best food for strong bones, but there are many people who have an adverse reaction to lactose. However, your body is able to absorb calcium and vitamin D from orange juice as readily as it does from milk. Another bonus? Orange juice is packed full of vitamin C, a potent antioxidant.

Another source of vitamin D is exposure to a healthy amount of sun; the ultraviolet rays of the sun promote the production of vitamin D. To prevent skin damage, be sure to limit direct sun exposure to less than 30 minutes every day, within two hours of sunrise or sunset.

Bone-Building Foods

Your body absorbs important minerals better through whole foods. Calcium and vitamin D can both be found in chestnuts, clams, dark green vegetables, leafy greens, soybeans and salt-water fish such as flounder, salmon, sardines and shrimp. Quercetin, a potent antioxidant, promotes the action of bone-building cells and is found in green tea, red wine and microalgae such as chlorella, blue-green algae and spirulina. Sulfur, phosphorus and other minerals that build healthy bones can be obtained from garlic and onions. Tofu, tempeh, pineapple, grapes and dried plums also support bone health.

Bone-Boosting Supplements

As calcium can bind up the stools, find a supplement that is formulated with magnesium, preferably 1,200 mg of calcium to 600 mg of magnesium. Calcium carbonate and liquid calcium in a citrate base are both good choices. As the body cannot absorb calcium all at once, take several doses during the day and try to take trace amounts of boron, copper, zinc and vitamin B3.

Exercise for Bone Strength

If people do not engage in activities that exert weight on their bones, supplements will not help them. Exercise early in life builds bone mass and strengthens the skeletal structure and even later in life, regular exercise can slow the progress of osteoporosis. Moderate weight-bearing exercises, such as walking or tai chi, when practiced for 30 minutes three times a week, can sufficiently restore calcium to bones.

Consider this: The bone fractures that come with osteoporosis are often due to falling. Aged people often lose their balance because of weak ankles. You can help prevent falls and fractures by exercising the muscles that keep you upright. Here's how:

  1. Sit in a chair and hold one leg straight out in front of you, parallel to the floor. Flex the top of your foot as far back toward the shin as is comfortable and hold for 15 seconds. Repeat this five times.
  2. Now rotate your foot clockwise in as wide a circle as possible, slowly and with isometric pressure, five times. Repeat with your foot moving in a counterclockwise direction.
  3. Repeat this whole set of exercises with your other foot. Perform these exercises three or four times a week to decrease your chance of a debilitating fall.

What to Avoid

Various medications can do the same -- steroids, estrogen blockers and thyroid medications to name a few -- so if you are taking these, be sure your doctor carefully monitors your bone health. Women are much more prone to osteoporosis than men, so they should take precautions to avoid the pitfalls of bone loss.

There are many factors that are known or suspected to accelerate the rate of bone loss. These include lack of exercise, smoking, caffeine, and excessive alcohol, sugar, and salt. Soft drinks and sodas are very high in phosphorus, which in excess actually causes calcium loss from your bones.

May you live long, live strong and live happy!

Dr. Mao Shing Ni, best known as Dr. Mao is a bestselling author, doctor of Oriental Medicine and board certified anti-aging expert. He has appeared regularly on Dr. Oz, the Doctors and EXTRA. Dr. Mao practices acupuncture, nutrition and Chinese medicine with his associates at the Tao of Wellness in Santa Monica and Newport Beach. Dr. Mao and his brother, Dr. Daoshing Ni founded Tao of Wellness over 25 years ago in addition to also founding Yo San University in Marina del Rey. To subscribe to his tip-filled newsletter please visit To make an appointment for evaluation and treatment please call 310-917-2200 or you can email Dr. Mao at

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