Menopause is renowned for its many symptoms with somewhere over 30 commonly listed. The most visible and tangible – including hot flushes, mood swings, anxiety, fatigue and brain fog – are most easily recognised. However, there is one common symptom of menopause that is neither seen nor felt – and you ignore it at your peril.
Thinning bones during and post-menopause can go unnoticed until you break a bone: by which time the damage is done. Deterioration in your bone density is one menopause symptom that won’t eventually go away on its own and, if left untreated, could lead to the degenerative condition osteopenia. This, in turn, puts you at a higher risk of developing full-blown osteoporosis.
Why does this happen?
The female hormone oestrogen plays a vital role in bone health, helping to stimulate bone building cells which keep our bones strong, flexible and healthy. As you go through menopause, your oestrogen levels drop dramatically reducing your ability to form good strong bone tissue.
Women can lose up to 20% of their bone density between five to seven years after menopause and it’s estimated that up to half over all women aged over 50 will break a bone because of osteoporosis. Those who have an early menopause – before the age of 45 – run an even greater risk of developing osteoporosis, as their oestrogen levels will be lower for longer in their lifetime.
Time to take action
Menopause signals a time to actively build flexible bone to reduce the risk of a fracture in the event of a fall.
When it comes to bone loss, prevention is FAR better than ‘cure’. Knowing how the changes in your body at menopause can affect your bones, it makes perfect sense to adjust your lifestyle and ensure your diet includes bone-friendly foods. While you wouldn’t take a medication ‘just in case’ of thinning bones, there’s no reason why shouldn’t introduce natural ways to help keep your bones strong.
Bones are living structures that are being constantly built up and broken down. Even during perimenopause and post-menopause when oestrogen levels are dropping, fresh new bone tissue can be built – provided you have the right ingredients…
Bone friendly foods
Three key ingredients help form healthy bone: calcium, vitamin D and collagen.
- Aim for 1,200 mg/day, through eating a healthy diet and additional supplements
- Good food sources of calcium are low fat dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yoghurt, dark green leafy vegetables, almonds, pulses and calcium-fortified cereals
Calcium is absorbed better in smaller doses so take your 1,200mg recommended daily amount in 2 x 600mg doses split over the day – perhaps one at breakfast time and one with your evening meal
- Aim for a minimum of 800-1,000 IU/day (check your multivitamin as they often don’t have quite this much vitamin D!)
- Good food sources of Vitamin D are oily fish, eggs, fat spreads and breakfast cereals.
- Sunshine helps synthesise vitamin D and you should aim for 15-20 minutes in the stronger spring or summer sunshine each day.
1) sunscreen PREVENTS this process so you should expose your skin for just 15 minutes before putting on your suncream. Set an alarm to remind you to apply it after that time
2) the weaker sun in autumn and winter is less beneficial to bones. Between October and May, don’t rely on the sunshine and top up your levels with a vitamin D supplement
- Type 1 and Type 3 collagen are essential for strong, flexible bone tissue.
- Good food sources of these specific collagen types are bone broth, eggs and red meat
- However, to ensure you have enough collagen in your daily diet, you’d have to eat quite a lot of these foods every day!
- To ensure you’re getting enough of the right type of collagen, opt for a daily serving of bonebalance™ as its bioactive collagen peptides are specifically formulated to reach your bones.
- Collagen comes in different forms and different molecular weights to reach different body tissues: a ‘skin, hair and nails collagen’ will not reach your bones! To be sure, choose a product specifically optimised to reach bone tissue such as bonebalance™
Cut back alcohol – and cut OUT smoking
Alcohol and smoking are bad for bones. A little alcohol is fine but avoid ‘binge drinking’. And try to give up smoking completely as it’s very bad for your overall health.
Take regular exercise
The NHS recommends you do at least 150 minutes of exercise per week. You must do what is called ‘weight bearing exercise’. This doesn’t mean you need to hold weights! The ‘weight’ here is your body weight so any exercise that sees you use your body weight against gravity will count – such as jogging, dancing and playing tennis.
If you already have weaker bones – as shown on a Dexa scan – opt for low impact movements where you don’t leave the ground and ‘land’. Walk rather than run and do low impact aerobics rather than high impact classes.
Swimming and cycling are great for your heart and lungs, but because you’re not putting your weight through your body, they are not good forms of exercise to build strong bones.
Quite apart from the physiological benefits of exercise, being active can help boost your mood, reduce anxiety and help you sleep more soundly. Beneficial at any stage of your life, this is particularly helpful during menopause to manage other symptoms you may be experiencing.