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Glutathione: Improve Bone Density and Prevent Osteoporosis

Diet, physical activity and supplementing glutathione can positively impact your bone health and help prevent osteoporosis.

Diet, physical activity and other healthy lifestyle habits can positively impact your bone health and help prevent osteoporosis.  Supplementing with glutathione can also help improve bone density and limit your chances of developing osteoporosis.

Glutathione, Bone Density and Osteoporosis

Found in every cell of the human body, glutathione is so important, that your body produces it internally (but you can get more glutathione from the food you eat too.)

Glutathione has antioxidant properties that shield bones from oxygen-stealing free radicals but also supports the health of the liver, helping you to retain bone density. 

The primary purpose of glutathione is to neutralize free radicals by offering them an oxygen molecule, thereby protecting cells from damage. Glutathione keeps cells healthy and functioning all over the body, but its impact is particularly significant in the immune system, where it helps your body ward off disease, and in the liver, where it helps remove toxins, including drugs and pollutants.

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Maintaining Healthy Bones

Face it: You take your bones for granted. Many folks haven’t had a broken bone and don’t realize how important preserving that statistic is. Imagine having to use crutches or a wheel chair for weeks due to a broken hip or leg. Fractures of the spine, secondary to osteoporosis, affect more than 20 percent of post-menopausal women and account for pain and interference with activities of daily living. Mobility is important at any age, and supporting good bone health as you age is one way to keep you on your feet.

An ounce of prevention: Live a healthy lifestyle

It’s never too late to start thinking about bone loss, but the earlier the better. Whether you’re 20-something and still have time to build up your bones or 60-something and want to preserve what you have.

The formula for maintaining healthy bones isn’t a secret, but it does take a heavy dose of practice and good common sense in the following areas:

Exercise regularly. The effects of exercise on the bones are continuously researched, but it’s quite clear that certain exercises cause stress on the bones, which stimulates the bones to hold on to calcium. The reason weight-bearing exercise helps keep bones strong is that pulling the muscles against the bone creates a force that stresses the bone. That kind of stress drives calcium back into your bones, reinforcing their strength.

If you have osteoporosis, there are a few exercises that you should avoid. High-impact exercises—such as jumping rope or jogging—or exercises that make you bend or twist can place too much stress on the bones and can increase your risk of fractures. Talk to your doctor about an appropriate exercise regimen that’s good for your health condition.

Consume good nutrition and supplements. Your body has two primary ways to feed your bones a balanced meal: the foods you eat and the supplements you take. Of course, getting the daily recommended nutrients through fresh whole foods is your best bet because they’re in natural form—your body is made to digest them. In addition to the obvious calcium from eggs, canned fish (sardines, salmon with bones), soybeans and other soy products (soy-based beverages, soy yogurt, tempeh), some other dried beans, and some leafy greens (collard and turnip greens, kale, bok choy and broccoli).

Your body can’t absorb more than 600 to 700 milligrams of calcium at a time. Eat small meals and snacks rich in calcium throughout the day to ensure that you’re absorbing adequate calcium.

Getting regular bone-density screenings

As you age, the list of tests you should have done as a baseline reading just keeps growing. Testing for osteoporosis is one more test that you should add to the list. Exactly when you should have your first evaluation depends on several factors. Here are some guidelines to go by.

We recommend screening if you have any of the following risk factors:

  • You’ve gone through menopause
  • You’re 60 to 65 years old
  • You’re over the age of 50, post-menopausal, and have at least one other risk factor for osteoporosis
  • You have other diseases that effect bone loss, such as diabetes, kidney disease, or hyperparathyroidism (excess release of parathyroid hormone)
  • You’re taking medications, such as steroids or anticonvulsants that affect bone mineralization and resorption. Bone mineral density tests (BMD) measure how saturated your bones are with minerals such as calcium. By using X-rays, CT scans, or ultrasound technology, your doctor can review the results and advise you of our bone strength.
  • You have a few options for a professional measurement of your bone density:

Ultrasound: Your doctor may use ultrasound as the first test to see whether your bone density is low. The test is usually performed on your heel rather than the bones most likely to break from osteoporosis (like your hip or spine). If the results are positive, your doctor schedules DEXA to confirm the results.

Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA): This fast test uses very low doses of radiation and is the most accurate method for measuring BMD (it can measure as little as a 2-percent bone loss per year). DEXA uses two X-ray beams to estimate bone density in your spine and hip. The amounts of each X-ray beam that are blocked by bone and soft tissue are compared to each other. Bones with higher mineral density allow less of the X-ray beam to pass through.

A regular X-ray can’t detect bone loss until the loss is greater than 25 percent.

Quantitative computed tomography (QCT): This test measures the density of a bone in your spine. QCT isn’t usually recommended because it’s expensive, uses higher radiation doses, and is less accurate than DEXA.

BMD is described in terms of standard deviations (SD) from two different norms. The T score compares your bone density to that of a typical 30 year old, and the Z score compares you to others of your age. Being one standard deviation below normal on either test is considered normal. Lower than -1, the breakdown is a follows:

  • -1 to -2.5 SD = osteopenia
  • -2.5 or more = osteoporosis
  • -1 SD is equal to a bone loss of 10 to 12 percent on most tests.

Treating Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis can be detected early and treated effectively with diet, exercise, and medication. It can’t be cured, but the main risk of osteoporosis—fractures—can be reduced. After proper screening and evaluation, your doctor can help you decide on the best treatment options based on your test results and any other contributing medical factors. Women are the main candidates for osteoporosis, and estrogen is essential for healthy bone density. When the production of estrogen is reduced (primarily due to menopause in women0, bones become brittle and break easily. One of the options for treatment of osteoporosis, therefore, is hormone therapy (HT), also called hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

HT was once the mainstay of treatment for osteoporosis because it treated the slowing of the bone resorption that occurs with estrogen deficiency. After some major studies done by the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) found concerning conclusions about hormone therapy and cardiovascular and breast cancer risks, management with this therapy changed. Women at risk for certain forms of cancer (endometrial and breast cancer) as well as some clotting disorders are cautioned against HT. Also, estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) increases the risk for heart attack, stroke, breast cancer, and blood clots. Discuss the various options with your doctor to determine which may be best for you.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has been used much more conservatively in recent years in light of its potential risks. HRT is now primarily used in lower doses for shorter periods of time as a temporary treatment for the worst menopausal symptoms, but only in women who don’t have heart disease or a strong family history of breast cancer or cardiovascular disease. In such cases, HRT gives women relief from menopausal symptoms, and it slows down the resorption of bone that occurs with estrogen decrease during menopause.

If your doctor determines that HRT isn’t for you, and lifestyle changes don’t help control your osteoporosis, prescription drugs can help slow bone loss and may even increase bone density over time.

Discuss medical treatment options with your doctor before taking any medications. As with many prescriptions, certain risks and side effects may be associated with each drug, and you also need to watch out for interactions that may occur if you’re taking other meds.

*Agin, B., & Perkins, S. (2008). Healthy aging for dummies. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Pub.

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