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It isn't just medications and supplements that can help preserve and restore bone devastated by osteoporosis. A number of purely natural approaches help, too.

Natural approaches make a real difference in osteoporosis. None of these methods qualifies as a cure, but all of them make a sometimes intangible but very satisfying difference in bone health.

1. Exercise

At least 43 clinical studies involving over 4000 women have looked at the benefits of exercise in preventing and treating osteoporosis. No-weight bearing but vigorous exercise seems to be best for preventing fractures of the femur. Progressive weight training seems to be the most effective form of exercise for preventing fractures of the spine. Overall, exercise increases bone mineral density slightly and reduces the risk of fractures slightly.

It seems to take just three sessions of 12 to 20 minutes each every week to make a difference in bone mineral density. The benefits of exercise may be not so much that is strengthens bones that it strengthens muscles so that there are fewer falls.

2. Prayer

A clinical trial found that praying for women who have osteoporosis was associated with worsened bone mineral density. However, this study recruited people who had performed the same prayer at least weekly for 40 years or more. It is possible that the postures required by the prayer account for the differences in the strength of bone.

3. Yoga

Scientists at Rockefeller University and NYU report that a 12-minute yoga routine done every day may reverse bone loss caused by osteoporosis. A study of 741 volunteers who did the routine for 10 years found that the average increase in bone mineral density in the hip was 50 percent, but there were large individual variations in the effectiveness of the intervention.

4. Kitty care 

Scientists who study cats believe that a cat's purring is its natural mechanism for maintaining bone mineral density that otherwise would be depleted during long periods of sleep and inactivity. Snuggling up to your feline companion may have a beneficial effect on your bones, too. Because cats purr in the range of 20 to 140 Hz, they help the humans they own lower stress hormone levels that interfere with bone formation.

5. Tualang honey

Malaysian scientists have done clinical studies of the benefits of a locally produced "tualang" honey for bone health in postmenopausal women. The honey has unquestionably potent antioxidant power. It is, according to these scientists, richer in antioxidant phenols than any other tested tropical honey. Tropic honey has to be rich in antioxidants to avoid spoilage. In laboratory tests, the quercetin content of the honey seems to be responsible for reducing the activity of bone-destructive osteoclasts, and in a clinical trial with Malaysian women, taking 20 grams (a little less than an ounce) a day of the honey was as effective in restoring bone mineral density as estrogen replacement therapy. The science of how the honey works is far from being worked out, but it would be worth a try for almost any woman who has osteoporosis.

6. Magnet therapy 

There is a long history for various magnet therapy cures for bone diseases. There is an easy way to distinguish potentially helpful forms of magnet therapy from wastes of time and money. The magnets that make a difference create pulsating current. They aren't refrigerator magnets. A pulsating magnetic field helps cells of all kinds expel sodium, import potassium, and modify their surface voltage so that they absorb more minerals. Bone cells (and pancreatic cells) are especially susceptible to this effect. 

7. Kacip fatima

Kacip fatima (botanical name Labisia pumila) is a Malaysian herb that is capturing a great deal of research attention. Completed scientific studies are only at the laboratory safety testing stages, but it appears that extracts of the herb enhance the collagen connections in bone after menopause.

8. Natural dentistry

Natural health commentators have been telling the world for years that mercury amalgams for filling cavities are toxic. More recentlythe claim is that titanium in dental implants causes granulomas that weaken bone, but evidence for this claim is lacking.

9 and 10. Dietary intervention and nutritional supplements

There is enough evidence for taking calcium and vitamin D supplements for preventing and treating osteoporosis that they can't really be considered "alternative". However, there is also a growing body of evidence for a holistic program of nutritional supplementation that includes magnesium, vitamin K, boron, silica, and bone growth factors. There is very little downside to taking the recommended daily intake of a variety of bone-related nutrients, and they don't cost a lot of money. Nutritional supplements are a good idea for anyone who is concerned about bone health.

The best recommendations about food for bone health are not as restrictive as they once were. Protein is not as big a bugaboo as it was thought. High-protein diets increase the amount of calcium the body excretes, but they more than offset this by increasing the amount of calcium the body absorbs. One natural health recommendation regarding diet for bone health remains constant: Too much salt is a problem. This does not mean you should never consume salt at all, but if you have osteoporosis, you need to avoid salted meats, dried fish, and pickles.

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  • Photo courtesy of SteadyHealth

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