If you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, you need to make changes in your lifestyle so your body builds up bones. Nutritional supplementation plays a part, but it's at least equally important to stop smoking, limit alcohol consumption to one (for women) or two (for men) drinks three days a week, give up fizzy soft drinks, and eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day. It's also essential to work with your doctor to take any medications you need. That means, if a medication is causing you unbearable side effects, then you need to let your doctor know so you can work out a medication plan you can tolerate. When you do all of those things, then it is time to consider nutritional supplements.
Sometimes it seems a everybody knows that bones need calcium except doctors. Doctors tend to forget to mention the need to take it. Fortunately, most us know to take it on our own. The problem is that just downing a few calcium tablets every day and hoping for the best isn't going to have a positive impact on your skeleton.
Most people who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis benefit from taking 1200 mg of calcium a day, but not more than that. Your body can only absorb about 1200 mg of calcium daily, and not more than about 400 mg of calcium at a time. That means you need three tablets that contain not more than 400 mg of elemental calcium in each.
It's not critical to get fussy about the kind of calcium you take as long as it is not calcium oxide. Calcium oxide delivers the most calcium in the smallest sized pill, but this calcium tends to be contaminated with heavy metals. (That's also true of dolomite and most coral calcium.) Microcrystalline hydroxyapaptite is best, because it contains both calcium and natural growth factors for bone. Calcium citrate, dicalcium malate, and chelated calcium bisglycinate are also good sources of calcium. All of the sources of calcium other than calcium oxide work about equally well.
Nearly everyone who has osteoporosis is deficient in vitamin D, and doctors who forget to mention calcium usually don't mention vitamin D, either. The minimum dosage of vitamin D that makes a difference is about 800 IU a day. Up to 10,000 IU per day is fine, although there is such a thing as too much vitamin D: taking 50,000 IU or more may make your skin extremely sensitive to sunburn. How long should you take vitamin D? There's a blood test for that. Your doctor can order a blood test for D, and if your level is 35 ng/ml or higher, you are on the right track. If lower, you and your doctor should discuss taking more vitamin D.
Do you have sensitive skin? Do you get muscle spasms at night? Are you frequently constipated? If the answer to any of these questions is "yes," then you may be among the billions of people around the world who are magnesium-deficient.
Magnesium doesn't just smooth out problems with your skin and central nervous system. It also helps your bones absorb the calcium they need. Ideally, you should always take magnesium supplements if you take calcium supplements. The ideal ratio is about two to one, 2 mg of calcium for every 1 mg of magnesium. For instance, if you took 1200 mg of calcium per day, you should take about 600 mg of magnesium per day. Taking more than 600 mg of magnesium daily can give you diarrhea.
Vitamin K comes in two forms, vitamin K1 and vitamin K2. Vitamin K1 is found in leafy greens. This form of the vitamin helps your body use calcium to clot blood. Vitamin K2 is found in fatty foods from animals that feed on vibrant, green grass. For many of us, these would be Irish butter, French cheeses, and eggs from free-range chickens. Vitamin K2 is also found in a Japanese food called natto, which is an acquired taste. The second form of the vitamin helps the body move calcium into bone and keeps it out the linings of arteries. Taking K2 has been shown to enhance bone health.
The dose of vitamin K2 that has been shown to reinforce mineralization in the hip bone is 45 mg daily. If you live in Canada, you may have trouble finding products that contain this much K2. You should focus on eating good butter, good cheese, or eggs with brightly colored yolks, or if your diet restricts these foods or your are vegan, eat natto at least a few times a week.
What about all the rest?
There are several other supplements that can be helpful in osteoporosis. Zinc coupled with copper enhances calcium absorption. Boron and strontium are also useful in maintaining bone health. However, it's more important to take the four nutrients you need most on a consistent basis rather than taking every imaginable nutrient occasionally. Taking these four nutritional supplements regularly will support bone health.