The Gut Health and Bone Health Connection
by Meghan Griech, PT, DPT, cert MDT, CKTP
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Osteoporosis is a disease that affects our body’s ability to produce new bone cells at the same rate our body is breaking down old bone cells. There is a lot of information about how osteoporosis affects our bone health, and our risk of fractures, especially for women. There is also a significant amount of research about how postmenopausal women are at greater risk of osteoporosis due to changes in hormones and their body’s ability to absorb calcium and vitamin D at the rate needed to maintain bone strength.
The vitamins and minerals that our body requires to maintain our bone strength, our immunity, and our overall health go through our digestive system. The gut contains healthy bacteria and immune cells that fight off otherwise infectious agents like bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Your gut also communicates with your brain through nerves and hormones, which ultimately helps you maintain your health and well-being.
When gut health is thrown off balance, it’s not hard to tell. It is common to experience distressing side effects, such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, stomach pain, or nausea. Often such imbalances go away all on their own after a short time, but in some individuals they can become chronic issues. Chronic inflammatory disorders such as inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) affect bone metabolism and are frequently associated with the presence of osteoporosis. Losing bone density over time is regulated by various immune system mediators. The awareness and early diagnosis of osteoporosis in states of chronic inflammation.
The Bone Cycle
Our bones are living tissues that are constantly breaking down and rebuilding. Bone tissue is constantly reconstructed through our body’s production of osteoblasts, but when the new bone isn’t replaced as fast as the loss of old bone you can experience a condition of low bone density known as Osteopenia. Osteopenia is a precursor (warning sign) that our bone health is changing.
With osteoporosis, new bone creation doesn’t keep up with old bone removal, causing them to be brittle and more easily break. Change to the shape of our vertebrae is a warning signs of osteoporosis prior to permanent changes to our posture These fractures are most often in the femur near the hip, the wrist, and the vertebrae (spine).
People with osteoporosis are at risk of fracturing a bone even from a minor injury such as bumping into something. Making muscle strength, daily weight-bearing activities, and balance are very important to help maintain good bone health. Balance is a learned activity, meaning balance requires practice to maintain it and keep it effective for your muscles, joints, and body’s proprioceptors (our body’s sensory the understand ones that respond to position and movement.)
Weakened bones can fracture due to a trip over an uneven sidewalk, lifting something heavy from the ground that adds stress to the vertebrae, a slip out of bed, or a momentary loss of balance that happens so fast, you don’t even know how it happened. Screening for balance and finding your balance and muscle weakness is important to combat osteoporosis effects from a physical aspect.
Gut inflammation is the term used to describe chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. The most common cause of gut inflammation is infection with Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium that can cause peptic ulcers. Other causes include Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, ulcerative colitis, and diverticulitis.
Gut inflammation occurs when too many of certain types of bacteria grow in your gut, causing your gut wall to become inflamed and irritated. This can cause your immune system to react, which can lead to osteoporosis as well as other health problems such as heart disease, asthma, and diabetes.
It’s not just the gut that can be inflamed. Microbiome imbalances lead to systemic (full body) inflammation and a host of issues such as osteoporosis, autoimmune disease, as well as the others that you have listed (Diabetes, heart disease etc). In fact, inflammation is the driver behind all chronic disease. Through identifying the root cause of inflammation, we can reverse these things. Root causes of inflammation can include toxicities, gut bacterial imbalances, chronic stress, nervous system dysfunction, immune system dysregulation leading to food allergies and autoimmunity, and more.
Safeguarding yourself against osteoporosis is more than addressing bone health, muscle strength, and balance. It’s addressing the chronic inflammation that could be present within your gastrointestinal (GI) tract also. Gut health, weight-bearing exercises, and balance improvements is the triad needed to improve bone health and gut wellness.
Osteoporosis can often be a silent condition, as many people who have osteoporosis don’t even know they have it. Often there are no outward symptoms such as pain or discomfort that would clue us that something is wrong. Gut health is important for everyone as the inflammation our body holds within our gut is instrumental to our overall health, and digestion and affects every aspect of our body.
*Disclaimer: All information in this article is intended for instruction and informational purposes. The author(s) are not responsible for any harm or injury that may result. This information is used to supplement not replace any advice you were provided from your doctor or another medical health professional. No guarantees of specific results are expressly made or implied with this article.