Why is bone health so important in menopause?
Bone health is a worry for many menopausal women and understandably so. Why? Oestrogen has a protective effect on bone density, and when oestrogen drops during menopause, you lose its protection of your bones. Bone density is lost by up to 3% each year in post-menopausal women (so that's up to 30% in just 10 years!), and in some cases can lead to osteopenia and osteoporosis.
However, although women lose the protective benefits of oestrogen through menopause, dietary and lifestyle changes can slow down bone loss, prevent bone loss and even strengthen bones. As a result, it is really important to invest in your bone health during and after menopause, before too much density is lost and symptoms of osteopenia and osteoporosis show. You may also enjoy reading 5 things nutritionists wish all women knew.
It is also a good idea to have a bone density scan to assess your fracture risk so you can keep track of any bone loss, and track your progress with diet and lifestyle changes.
Not sure what nutrients your diet provides? Create your free Diet Profile.
6 nutrients for bone health in menopause
Here are the essential nutrients you need in your diet to support and strengthen your bones during menopause. Not sure what nutrients your diet is providing? Create your free Diet Profile in only 3 minutes and find out.
Calcium is one of the main building blocks of bone. Enough calcium must be consumed to maintain bone density. Calcium doesn’t necessarily need to come from dairy products as most people think, there are plenty of plant-based calcium sources that don’t come from animals. As well as dairy, great sources of calcium include beans, chickpeas, sesame seeds, almonds, green leafy vegetables, kale, spinach and broccoli. That said, taking calcium in a bone supplement, with supporting nutrients, will also boost intake of calcium.
Magnesium is a 'mineral superhero' and works directly in balance and with calcium for the structure of bones. If you're unsure about whether your diet includes enough Magnesium, read our expert nutritionists' article 'How do I know if I'm deficient in Magnesium?'.
While deficiency in magnesium is quite rare, up to one in eight adults have too low intake of magnesium. Whatever your diet, it can be difficult to consume enough magnesium to support your bones, particularly through menopause. The body uses magnesium for over 300 processes in your body, including to help you manage stress and anxiety, and to process sugars and caffeine, so the more of these you have, the more magnesium your body requires. Certain medications such as blood pressure medication can also deplete your magnesium levels. Supplementing with magnesium alongside calcium will ensure you have enough magnesium, and in the right ratio to calcium.
Vitamin D3 is an essential vitamin for bone health. Vitamin D is needed to make calcium available for the body to absorb. So, in a nutshell, insufficient Vitamin D means that the calcium you do consume in your diet can't be used by your body, increasing the risk of weaker bones. Vitamin D can also be synthesised by the body from exposure to the sun.
Unfortunately many people don't spend enough time in the sun, particularly in the darker months. Vitamin D3 is a superior form of Vitamin D supplementation than Vitamin D2 - this is because the body makes a more active Vitamin D from D3 compared to D2. Supplementing with a vegan form of vitamin D3 ensures you have a good daily intake of Vitamin D in its preferential form. Learn more about 'Why Vitamin D is so important'.
Vitamin K2 is another essential vitamin needed for the body to use calcium. Vitamin K2 takes the calcium in your body and puts it into your bones. Having enough vitamin K2 is just as important as having enough calcium. Deficiency in Vitamin K2 is rare because it is abundant in plenty of foods in most diets. That said, it should be included in high quality bone & muscle support supplements to ensure optimal absorption of calcium.
Red clover is a herb with phytoestrogen properties. Phytoestrogens are plant-based oestrogens and have an 'oestrogen effect' in the body, and when in the form of red clover, research shows they may reduce the rate of bone loss in menopausal women.
Wild Yam is a plant ingredient in MenoFriend®, the #1 natural formula for relieving menopause symptoms. Wild Yam has oestrogen properties and studies show the benefits of menopausal women supplementing with Wild Yam, which includes a higher oestrogen level. The naturally higher levels of oestrogen may decrease the rate of bone loss in menopausal women.
5 top tips for bone health in the menopause
Here are five tips to keep your bones healthy and strong during menopause and post-menopause.
1. Weight-bearing exercise daily
Daily weight-bearing exercise is one of the best ways to decrease the rate of bone loss and to maintain bone mass. Weight-bearing exercise tells the bones that they are still needed and reduces the rate at which they are broken down.
Going for a walk is a good weight-bearing activity - it is gentle on the body and can be done by most people. Add in the benefits of being with nature which reduces stress, it becomes even more beneficial. Strength and resistance exercise is also very beneficial for bone density. You can also use a vibration plate while exercising at home for 15 minutes twice daily which also helps to prevent bone loss.
Read our nutritionists advice in 'Best supplements for women over 50'.
2. Eliminate refined sugar and carbohydrates from your diet
Refined sugar and refined carbohydrates are a disaster for the body for everyone, but especially in menopausal women looking out for bone health.
Sugar and refined carbohydrates have an acidic affect in the body. Since calcium is alkaline, and the body tries to keep the blood at a constant pH, it releases calcium into the blood. When this calcium has done its job with balancing pH, it is then excreted in urine and is lost forever. Preventing the tissues from becoming acidic by cutting out refined sugars and carbohydrates, you prevent this from happening, and the calcium stays in your bones. You may also enjoy reading 'Is sugar that bad for you?'.
3. Manage stress
Menopause is a window of vulnerability for women going through menopause, and potentially a vicious circle of mood swings, anxiety, sadness, loneliness, vulnerability and even depression. Research shows half of women going through menopause suffer mild depression, while two thirds will experience a loss of confidence. Learn more about the mental health effects of menopause.
Cortisol is your stress hormone and has an acidic effect on your body's tissues and cause calcium to drain away from bones - learn more in 'What is cortisol?'. Ashwagandha KSM-66® is an adaptogen that lowers your cortisol levels and is acclaimed for supporting mental well-being, reducing stress, improving stamina and promoting relaxation in your body.
Ashwagandha KSM-66 forms part of our Menopause Support Bundle and is also an ingredient in Stay Calm, the best-selling natural supplement for relieving anxiety, overcoming stress and bringing natural calm, balance and focus. Managing stress through meditation, yoga, re-organising your life and daily walking in nature will all have a positive effect on your bone health.
4. Eat plenty of phytoestrogens
Phytoestrogens are plant-based oestrogens and found in many plant foods, and there are particularly high levels in nuts, seeds, berries, chickpeas and in soya. Adding in as many of these foods as possible each day in to your diet can help the body deal with oestrogen loss better.
To learn more, we recommend reading 'Nutrition for menopause', written by Dr Katie Hodgkinson, a menopause and hormone health expert and registered nutritionist.
5. Take probiotics
A good level of probiotics in the gut is the foundation for good health. Probiotics are vital for the digestion and absorption of foods and nutrients which are necessary for maintaining bone mass. Learn more in 'What are probiotics?'.
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Probiotics also produce Vitamin K, an essential bone nutrient. Research suggests that probiotics taken from food and supplementation can increase bone density.
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