World Osteoporosis Day – October 21, 2021


World Osteoporosis Day

Today is World Osteoporosis Day and we want to highlight this important day for a number of reasons.

1. Unfortunately we women are at a higher risk than men of developing osteoporosis.

2. We have real concerns about the number of women that we’re seeing in our clinics who have adopted overly restrictive diets and as a result are at risk of damaging their bone health.

3. Women lose up to 10% of their bone-strength in the first five years after menopause*. This is due to the decline in oestrogen levels we experience.

Affects of osteoporosis on women

Why is this post important?

Because having weaker bones makes you more vulnerable to experience fractures or breaks during your lifetime. These fractures can occur anywhere, but can be particularly problematic if they occur in the spine. Mild thinning or reduction of bone density is called osteopenia and when it is more severe, it is called osteoporosis. These are not conditions that develop overnight and typically you won’t know if you have either of these conditions unless you suffer a fracture or break unless you have a DXA scan (bone scan) or an x-ray, which can also pick it up (but less sensitive and accurate than a DXA scan). So it’s important to realise that you can make positive changes to your diet or lifestyle to reduce your risk of developing osteopenia or osteoporosis, and the younger you do this the better.

Who is at risk of reduced bone density?


The Menopause and Perimenopause

World Menopause Day has just passed and there has been lots of talk of the many changes that can occur around this time of a woman’s life. Looking after your bones is particularly important during and after the menopause due to the loss of bone strength as a result of the hormonal changes we experience. HRT has been shown to reduce the rate of bone density loss in women around perimenopause and menopause, and can also reverse some bone loss that has already occurred. However the benefits of HRT on bone health mainly last while taking it, and there is some bone loss once HRT is stopped. It’s very important that HRT is only one part of a strategy to maintain your bone health and by this we mean that it’s important that you do all the other things to promote healthy bones – we’ve got a list below.

Coeliac and Crohn’s Disease

If you have coeliac or Crohn’s (particularly if it involves the small intestine) you are at particular risk of having low vitamin D levels. If you have coeliac and you stick to your gluten-free diet, then your ability to absorb vitamin D should also return to normal. But many people with newly diagnosed coeliac disease will have low vitamin D levels and require a supplement. It’s important to check your vitamin D levels in these instances, or if that is not possible, take a vitamin D supplement.

Excessively “Clean eating”

We’ve seen a significant increase in the number of women in our clinics in recent years, particularly young women but not always, who have started “clean eating” regimes. Many of them have started these with good intentions but for some, their diets become more and more restrictive over time and this often comes at a cost to their health. Some come to us having adopted gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free and meat-free diets in a bid to be healthier.

But in fact many find that they are more tired, their gut issues are worse and they have become deficient in many key nutrients as a result of their restrictive diet – and for some this is having a worrying impact on their bone health because of poor calcium and vitamin D intake in their diet. Good calcium intake is essential for teenage girls (13-18 years). They need 1,200mg of calcium per day, it’s essential for building bone
foundation for later life.

Restrictive Diets

Please, don’t follow restrictive diets, they really can be detrimental to our health. Professional supervision is required with all dietary modifications.

Pregnant and breastfeeding mums

Pregnant and breastfeeding mums also need to ensure they’re receiving enough calcium. Whilst the female body is usually incredible at providing for a child and typically can recover any boss loss experienced during breastfeeding some months later, mums should take steps to ensure they’re taking enough calcium.

The Gut Experts’ Top 6 Tips To Protect Your Bones:

    Do some daily weight-bearing exercise e.g. walking, running

    Ensure that you’re getting enough calcium in your diet. Our top 5 dietary sources of calcium for those with gut issues are milk, yoghurt, cheese, tofu and tinned salmon. Choose plant based sources fortified with calcium.

     Ensure that you’re taking adequate vitamin D in your diet (check out Dietitian Elaine’s video on Instagram or Facebook) and take a supplement during the winter months

    If you are perimenopausal / in menopause, discuss the option of HRT with your GP / family doctor 

    Stop smoking (it has a really negative effect on bone density)

    Keep your alcohol intake within the safe-drinking guidelines (excess alcohol is also a risk for developing
osteopenia and osteoporosis)

If you’re not getting enough dietary calcium, consider taking a calcium supplement. Daily dietary calcium intake should be 800 – 1,200mg per day depending on age or if you’re pregnant/breastfeeding. This looks like, one glass of milk, one yogurt and one matchbox size of cheese daily to meet 800mg calcium per day.

Osteoporosis Around the World

Osteoporosis Statistics

It’s estimated that up to 300,000 people in Ireland have osteoporosis – Irish Osteoporosis Society 

Osteoporosis affects over 3 million people in the UK – NHS

In the US, 10.2 million adults are estimated to have osteoporosis, of which more than 80% are women – International Osteoporosis Foundation

More than 2 million adults in Canada are living with Osteoporosis. And about 80% of those living with  diagnosed osteoporosis are women – Osteoporosis Canada 

Osteoporosis Global Statistics

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*The Menopause Doctor 

 ©The Gut Experts 2021

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