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People frequently ask me if swimming or other water exercise can help build or maintain bone density. I’ve always thought (and so have other researchers) that water exercise wouldn’t be the best possible exercise for bone — after all, swimming is low-impact, and the water supports your body weight. I could see how the full-body muscle movement in water exercise might reduce the “use-it-or-lose-it” peril of sedentary living, but could this form of exercise really stimulate the bones to build new bone?

Well, I have good news for all you swimmers: Studies from all around the world suggest that you not only can maintain bone density with aquatic exercise, you can also build bone.

How water exercise helps after menopause

Several studies over the years that have found that water exercise does indeed offer benefits for bone building in postmenopausal women — but not in terms of bone density increase. Rotstein and colleagues (2008) followed a group of 35 postmenopausal women for seven months as they participated in hour-long water exercise three times a week. It found that the mineral content of their bones improved — meaning, the bones were stronger — but their bone density wasn’t noticeably greater.

This has been a fairly constant theme in research of water exercise and bone health: Swimmers’ bone densities are found to be comparable to sedentary control subjects, but their rate of bone turnover is significantly higher (Gómez-Bruton et al., 2013), meaning their bones became more resistant to fracture and able to repair themselves more effectively.

Personally, I’m happy for women to have stronger bones even if they’re not dense — I’ve long maintained that strong bones are the key to avoid debilitating fractures. Brazilian researchers, however, have been getting great results on both fronts by using a high-intensity interval-training method in their water exercise studies.

In 2014, one study (Moreira et al. 2014) found that high-intensity water exercise for 6 months reduced bone resorption markers even though bone density didn’t change — not that different from what earlier research found. More recently, however, Aboarrage and colleagues (2018) trained study participants in a high-intensity aquatic exercise protocol that included a form of interval training using jumping and hopping performed for 20 minutes in warm water that was about chest deep.

This new study offers a different twist: By using exercise that encouraged jumping in water and fairly high exertion, the water exercisers increased bone density throughout the body, and specifically in the spine and femur. As an added bonus, the exercise group also had greater leg strength and agility after the six-month time frame than the controls.

Swimming builds better bones

For those who prefer water exercise, this is great news! You’re not shortchanging your bones by swimming or doing water aerobics. And if, for one reason or another, you can’t perform other types of exercise due to severe joint pain or poor balance — or perhaps you’re recovering from a fracture to an arm or a leg — exercising in water is one way to keep your muscles strong without overloading your joints or risking a fall. 

So, I for one am going to let go of the mentality that water exercise isn’t useful for promoting bone health. Jump in, the water’s fine — and it’s good for your bones!

References

Aboarrage, AM Jr, La Escala Teixeira CV, Dos Santos RN, et al. A high-intensity jump-based aquatic exercise program improves bone mineral density and functional fitness in postmenopausal women. Rejuvenation Research 2018;21(6). https://doi.org/10.1089/rej.2018.2069

Gómez-Bruton A, Gónzalez-Agüero A, Gómez-Cabello A, et al. Is bone tissue really affected by swimming? A systematic review. PLoS One 2013;8(8):e70119.

Moreira LD, Fronza FC, Dos Santos RN, et al. The benefits of a high-intensity aquatic exercise program (HydrOS) for bone metabolism and bone mass of postmenopausal women. J Bone Miner Metab. 2014;32(4): 411-419.

Rotstein A, Harush M, Vaisman N. The effect of a water exercise program on bone density of postmenopausal women. J Sports Med Phys Fitness 2008;48(3):352-359.

The post Can swimming and water exercise really build bone? appeared first on Better Bones.

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I’ve seen a lot of anxious, worried people who’ve just been diagnosed with osteoporosis and are struggling to cope with what it means. One thing I tell them is that getting a diagnosis of osteoporosis is a good thing. Really! Here’s why.

I’ve seen a lot of anxious, worried people who’ve just found out they have osteoporosis and are struggling to cope with what it means. One thing I tell them is that getting a diagnosis of osteoporosis is a good thing. Really! Here’s why.
Osteoporosis can be completely silent — until it isn’t

When you have undiagnosed osteoporosis, you lack a key piece of information that you need to take action — you can’t solve a problem you don’t know exists. If you’ve gotten an osteoporosis diagnosis, it means that “silent” disease is no longer hiding from you. That means you can do something about it, hopefully before you experience a fracture.

Here’s the thing about osteoporotic fractures: Even when you have them, you may not know you have them unless you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis and have had your bones assessed with x-rays or DEXA scans. Many osteoporotic fractures (especially vertebral fractures) are tiny and relatively painless, so they go unnoticed for months or even years. This allows the underlying imbalance in your bones to worsen until suddenly that “silent” bone loss turns into a potentially devastating major bone break.

A lot of people only find out they have significant bone loss when they have a low-impact bone fracture — one where they have an obvious (and, yes, painful) bone break under a situation that normally wouldn’t cause one, like breaking a bone in your foot after slipping off a curb. If instead of a small foot fracture you wind up with a major fracture to an arm, leg, or worst of all, a hip, it can be life-altering — so if being diagnosed with osteoporosis helps you avoid that, it’s something to be thankful for!

Osteoporosis shines a spotlight on your health

Being diagnosed with osteoporosis offers a window into the health of your entire body. It may simply be showing you that you need more exercise to strengthen your muscles, or better nutrition to provide your bones the building blocks they need to become stronger and more resilient — but it could also be illuminating a hidden health problem that may be uncovered through further testing. And without the osteoporosis finding, you might never have known to look.

A diagnosis is an opportunity

If it sounds like I’m urging you to “look on the bright side” of a finding most people would dread, well, I am — positive thinking is a good way to support your bones, after all — but there’s more to it than that! The most important benefit of getting an osteoporosis diagnosis is the opportunity it gives you to improve your bone health, as well as your overall health. Being told you have osteoporosis is a wake-up call and reminding you to take care of yourself — which is especially important if you’ve spent much of your life taking care of others.

The diagnosis opens the door to building better bones in a better body and learning new things — like the importance of pH balance and the multi-dimensional roles that vitamin D plays, or even how to assess your own nutritional adequacy. And it motivates you to explore exercise — clearly a very important way to build bone and to increase overall sense of well-being and overall health.

There are many options available to address the problem once you understand it exists — and my Better Bones, Better Body program was developed specifically to guide you in solving it.

The post You’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis — congratulations! appeared first on Better Bones.

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May is Osteoporosis Awareness Month and a great time to renew our intentions of self-empowerment. The care we take of ourselves daily determines our long-term health and wellbeing. 

The strength of our skeleton and that of our entire body is derived from the food we eat, digest and absorb.  Enhancing digestion is a central component of my Better Bones, Better Body Program® and nearly everyone I see with a bone health concern, including myself, has a few signs of digestive weakness. So, I sat down with my good friend and colleague, Dr. Liz Lipski, to brainstorm on how to build great digestion. Dr. Lipski is a professor at Maryland University of Integrative Health, a renowned nutritionist who specializes in healing and supporting digestion, and the author of the popular book  Digestive Wellness.

As you may be aware, our digestive tract not only allows us to transform food into flesh and bones, but it also serves as a “second brain” — really a “second nervous system.” And of course, the gut houses the trillions of bacteria that work synergistically with our own cells to create and maintain the health of our entire system.

In this video interview, Dr Lipski describes the importance of whole foods for building digestive strength and emphasizes that how we may be eating as important as what we eat. Successful digestion is a parasympathetic process, a process of “rest and digest” that’s most successfully carried out when the nervous system is relaxed and the hormones of distress are absent. The factors that allow us to successfully absorb those nutrients are important, too, so we delve into options for improving nutrient assimilation as well. 

Our discussion also covers enhancing our powerful microbiota through the use of probiotics and prebiotics. The benefits of a diverse and healthy microbiota become more evident daily, as we’ve learned in recent years that our bacterial companions produce at least 16 hormones and uncounted neurotransmitters to help us maintain a healthy system.  

I hope you’ll take a few minutes and enjoy this interview — and that you use this opportunity to take a few new steps towards developing stronger digestion.  Also, because many of you have asked about schools of nutrition, I will post a separate video with Dr. Lipski in which she discusses the many nutrition and holistic health programs offered by the Maryland University of Integrative Health.

The post Gut health and osteoporosis — what’s the connection? appeared first on Better Bones.

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Is Osteoporosis Genetic?

“Osteoporosis runs in my family,” is an explanation I often hear when people come to me with concerns about weak bones and fracture risk. But though it’s true that there is often a genetic component to osteoporosis, there’s a widespread misunderstanding when it comes to genes.

I can’t say it strongly enough: Your biology is not your destiny, and having a gene that increases your chance of developing osteoporosis isn’t something you “just have to accept.” As recent research shows, genes can be changed by how you live your life, and especially, how you deal with stress.

How the mind flips the genetic switch

A growing number of studies have shown that your mind is one key to taming your DNA. These studies examined the physical indicators of stress in small groups of participants practicing the particular stress-reduction methodology that study was interested in —psychotherapy, deep breathing, or meditation in some cases, Asian practices like qi gong or acupuncture in others. They compared markers of inflammation and gene expression in the participants to similar healthy controls who did not practice these techniques.

The general findings of these studies show that when a person practices stress-reduction techniques, a number of physical changes take place — some at the gene level. Participants in one study with different levels of experience and training in stress-reduction techniques showed changes in the expression of genes that affect the response to oxidative stress and cellular metabolism (Dusek et al. 2008). These effects seemed to be cumulative — that is, people who were new to their practice had a response, but those who had experience or who did their practice more often had a greater response. Another study (Kaliman et al., 2014) found decreased expression of proinflammatory genes and increased expression of genes associated with cortisol recovery in subjects who meditated.

The genetic destiny of your bones

Chronic inflammation can take a heavy toll on bone, so anything we can do to keep inflammation in check is a bone health bonus. In one small study, qi gong practitioners had enhanced immune function and cellular metabolism, especially in terms of reducing inflammation quickly (Li et al, 2005).

In a second study, older adults practicing a mindfulness-based stress-reduction program had reduced expression of the inflammatory NF-κB-related gene expression and C-reactive protein (Creswell et al, 2012). I’ve talked about how reducing C-reactive protein protects your bones (and your heart), and this study shows great promise for how to do just that. In a third, psychotherapy was found to reduce cortisol and other stress hormones and improve immune function (Feinstein & Church).

Now, it’s true that all of these studies are small — but their findings are remarkably consistent in showing that reducing stress helps to alter how genes regulating inflammation and other key metabolic processes that affect bone can absolutely be changed.

Do whatever works best

These studies show that it doesn’t matter what you do to reduce stress. If you like meditating, do it. If psychotherapy helps, do that — but if you prefer qi gong, that works too! All that really matters is that you actively seek to restore peace and balance to your emotional and mental life.

References

References

Creswell JD, Irwin MR, Burklund LJ, et al. Mindfulness-based stress reduction training reduces loneliness and pro-inflammatory gene expression in older adults: a small randomized controlled trial. Brain Behav Immun 2012;26(7):1095-1101.

Dusek JA, Otu HH, Wohlhueter AL, et al. Genomic counter-stress changes induced by the relaxation response. PLoS One 2008;3(7): e2576. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0002576.

Feinstein D, Church D. Modulating gene expression through psychotherapy: The contribution of noninvasive somatic interventions. Rev General Psychol 2010;14(4):283-295.

Kaliman P, Álvarez-López MJ, Cosín-Tomás M, et al. Rapid changes in histone deacetylases and inflammatory gene expression in expert meditators. Psychoneuroendocrinology 2014;40:96–107.

Li QZ, Li P, Garcia GE, et al. Genomic profiling of neutrophil transcripts in Asian qigong practitioners: A pilot study in gene regulation by mind-body interaction. J Altern Complementary Med 2005;11(1). DOI: 10.1089/acm.2005.11.29.

The post Reducing stress can alter your genes — and protect your bones appeared first on Better Bones.

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It’s no secret that exercise helps strengthen thin, weak bones, even in people with osteoporosis. Explaining why it works can be a bit of a challenge — unless you understand the five principles that we at Better Bones use as the basis for our program.

Bones and muscles form interconnected muscle–bone units

The very idea that exercise can help strengthen bones makes no sense at all unless you understand the close relationship between the bones and the muscles. They work together in supporting and moving the body, but can’t do much separately. Remove the bones from an arm or leg, and the muscles have nothing to attach to; eliminate the muscles, and the bones hang uselessly, unable to move or function.

Once you view them as a unit, it makes intuitive sense that lean muscle mass predicts bone mass (rather than total body weight). It also makes sense that chronically strong muscles are associated with strong bones, and by the same token, chronically weak muscles are associated with weaker bones. Both bone mass and muscle mass are lost with aging, but we can do a great deal to limit this loss through modifications of lifestyle (including exercise) and nutrition.

Bone adapts to the load put upon it 

In all her wisdom, Mother Nature is economical. Energy and resources are spent to build the amount of bone and muscle that an individual’s activity patterns shows they need. That is, bone acclimates itself to the load put upon it: More activity tells the body that more muscle and bone are required; less causes muscle and bone to decrease.  Intermittent spurts of higher-impact loading, in particular, stimulate the strengthening of bone.

The loading of bone has a site-specific effect

You don’t, unfortunately, get a full-body effect for a partial-body workout. The muscles pulling on the tendons that in turn pull on the bone sends an important signal to build bone strength, but that signal is localized — meaning, if we exercise in such a way as to work the hip and  leg, such as in jumping or hopping, we will build bone strength in the hip and leg, but not necessarily in the arms, wrists, or upper skeleton. Similarly, a right-handed tennis player will have stronger bone in their right arm, which moves more, than in their left arm. So if overall bone strength is your goal, you need to exercise in ways that work all (or most) of the major muscle groups. 

Rest is required to build bone (and muscle)

Building bone is not all about working the muscles, though. Rest is very important for both the bone and muscle renewal process. We show the bone and muscle we need them to be stronger by the stress we put upon them during our activities, but it is in the recovery period, when we’re at rest, that bone and muscle renewal take place.

The impact of exercise on bone strength follows a direct dose-response relationship 

Even small amounts of exercise benefit bones, but the bone-strengthening benefits of exercise are increased with a higher dose of exercise. The more frequent your exercise sessions are, and greater the intensity per session, the greater the strength you’ll impart to your bones.

Age is no barrier to bone strength

There are plenty of people in their later years who are worried about osteoporosis. They sometimes say, “I wish I’d started exercising when I was still young enough!” But if I were to add a sixth principle to this list, it would be this: It is never too late to build bone strength with exercise. Studies have shown that even wheelchair-bound 90-year-old seniors can build bone with weight bearing exercises, and even a little bit helps a lot

The post Osteoporosis and Exercise: The Better Bones, Better Body® Exercise Principles appeared first on Better Bones.

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Better Bones by Dr. Susan E. Brown - 3M ago

Over the years, thousands of women have come to me fearing they might break a bone. Often, this fear of fracture has been instilled in them by their doctor looking at their bone density tests and saying things like, “You have the bones of an 80-year-old. You’re going to fall, break a hip and end up in a wheelchair unless you take this bone drug.” 

Sometimes the fear comes from watching an elderly relative suffer multiple, painful spinal fractures, or see an elderly experience a hip fracture —in other cases there is really no good cause for the fear beyond a doctor’s threatening comment. 

The truth is that in most cases, the body heals from fracture spontaneously and there is life after fracture. Even better, we know there are many ways to help fractures heal faster and make weak bones stronger. And it’s part of my mission with Better Bones, Better Body to make sure fewer women spend their time being afraid, and more of them learn how to take action to prevent bone fractures.

Last October, at our annual Love Your Life, Love Your Bones retreat, my staff and I had the opportunity to become friends with a woman who exemplified that there is life after fracture—and an exuberant life at that. Lassie is a bright, vivacious, 70-year-young woman who casually revealed to us that she had experienced 30 fractures in her lifetime—yet she’s till joyful and going strong. Why not take a few minutes and be inspired and uplifted by her story?

There is life after fracture! - YouTube

The post There is Life After Bone Fracture! appeared first on Better Bones.

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Better Bones by Dr. Susan E. Brown, Phd - 3M ago

I talk a lot about the key nutrients for bone health. But of course, those nutrients won’t do you much good if they can’t get from your food into your system—and this is where something as simple as sprinkling a little pepper on your supper can offer you surprising nutritional benefits.

How black pepper helps with nutrient absorption

Black pepper is used in Ayurvedic medicine for a great many purposes, and there’s a tremendous body of research on it. Most of the literature focuses on a compound called piperine found naturally in black pepper. Piperine has been explored on many different fronts because it has a great many beneficial effects that are good for bones. It has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant  properties, among many others.

But one of the more intriguing effects of piperine is the way it increases bioavailability of many different nutrients. That is, it makes it easy for the body to absorb and use many important bone-supporting nutrients, including vitamins A, C, D, E, and K, the B vitamins, minerals such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium (among others), and various amino acids.

Studies of the bioavailability-enhancing effects for piperine have found that it can increase the bioavailability of different nutrients and pharmaceutical compounds by anywhere from 30 to 200%. (This isn’t always a good thing, by the way. Certain drugs, like the anti-seizure medication phenytoin and the antibiotic rifampin, can act more powerfully on the body than the usual dose intends when bioavailability is increased.)

Spice up your health

How it works isn’t fully understood yet, but several key effects are known or suspected. For one thing, piperine stimulates the digestive enzymes of pancreas, enhances the digestive capacity, and significantly reduces the gastrointestinal food transit time . That means there’s a great deal more opportunity for the gut to break down and absorb a lot more of the nutrients in food. It also stimulates amino acid transporters in the gut, improving absorption of amino acids needed for bone building.

When you look at all of the studies together (and I’ve just picked a few here; there are many more!), they suggest that black pepper does more than just spice up your food — it spices up your health, too. Click on References

References

Bang JS, Da HO, Choi HM, et al. Anti-inflammatory and antiarthritic effects of piperine in human interleukin 1β-stimulated fibroblast-like synoviocytes and in rat arthritis models. Arthritis Res Ther. 2009;11(2):R49.

Gohil P, Mehta A. Molecular targets of pepper as bioavailability enhancer.  Oriental Pharmacy and Experimental Medicine2009 9(4), 269-276

Dudhatra GB, Mody SK, Awale MM, et al. A comprehensive review on pharmacotherapeutics of herbal bioenhancers. Sci World J. 2012; 2012: 637953. doi: 10.1100/2012/637953

Kesarwani K, Gupta R. Bioavailability enhancers of herbal origin: An overview. Asian Pac J Trop Biomed. 2013 Apr; 3(4): 253–266.

Srinivason K. Black pepper and its pungent principle-piperine: a review of diverse physiological effects. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2007;47(8): 735–748

The post Health benefits of black pepper appeared first on Better Bones.

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Back in 2016, I posted about how osteoporosis connects to high blood sugar. Since then, research has continued to come in showing that excessive intake of sugar in the diet is really bad for bones. One recent review pointed to accumulated evidence suggesting that consuming lots of sugary foods strips the body of essential bone nutrients like calcium, potassium, and magnesium, and it may even prevent the body from metabolizing vitamin D. And that’s in addition to the known effects it has on insulin metabolism, inflammation, acid-base balance, and so many other systems that impact bones.

So all of this adds up to one thing: Sugar in your diet is bad for your bones as well as your whole body. But the real question is, how do you get rid of it?

The growing realization that sugar can be addictive is starting to be backed by science showing it affects similar brain pathways to opioid medications. Getting rid of excess dietary sugar requires a lot more than “just say no” for most people, first because it hides in so many places in our food, and second because so many of us are used to using it as a “reward” or the centerpiece of a celebration.

How to support your bones and break the sugar habit

Here are some ways that you can dial back your sugar intake and free yourself of sugar addiction:

Exercise. Yes, it’s true: the healthy habit that is so very good for bones is also helpful when it comes to avoiding sugar, because the same pathways that sugar lights up in the brain respond to exercise, too. The drawback is that it takes a lot more exercise to get a positive jolt to the brain than sugar gives immediately — which is one reason sugar is so hard to quit. But if you approach your exercise regimen mindfully, rather than looking at it as a time-centered chore to “get through” each day, in time it may give you the same pleasant feeling that you get from eating something sweet.

Follow my six steps for blood sugar regulation to avoid sugar cravings. For most people, avoiding sugar is easy enough until mid afternoon, when that well-known energy slump hits and you reach for something sugary or caffeinated (or both) as a pick-me-up. This 3 p.m. crash can undo all your best intentions — so taking steps to prevent it can help. If you consistently crash at the same time each day, that might be a good time to go for a walk to revive yourself — as long as you’re not walking to Starbucks! Also, an afternoon protein snack of nuts or cheese can help a lot.

Manage cravings. It’s been my experience that most people go through two to three weeks of significant sugar cravings when they quit “cold turkey.” The moment cravings hit is another good time to get outside and exercise — you may get through the craving by being active, stimulating your brain, and “changing the channel” to take your mind off it. If that doesn’t work, try to select something that’s naturally sweet, such as a piece of dark chocolate  or a bowl of fresh pineapple chunks, to satisfy the craving with something of better value to bones. Finally, be sure your multivitamin has at least 200 micrograms of chromium; this mineral helps stabilize blood sugar and eliminate sugar cravings. (Our Better Bones Builder contains 300 mcg of chromium.)

Explore sugar alternatives. I was never a fan of the chemical sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose, but there are some sugar substitutes that are actually good for you. One is xylitol, which is derived from wood alcohol, and another, stevia, is made from the tropical plant of the same name. Both have no impact on blood sugar (they’re great for diabetics), and they work well in beverages and baked goods—which means you don’t have to go without birthday cake or lemonade on a hot day. As an added benefit, xylitol suppresses the bacteria that cause dental caries, so keeping some xylitol-sweetened gum handy to stop cravings for sweets can literally prevent a “sweet tooth”!

Be prepared to try again… and again. Like any addictive substance, eliminating sugar from your life is hard. And just as quitting smoking can take multiple attempts, so does quitting sugar — so persevere. If your efforts to manage your cravings are unsuccessful and you splurge on cookies or ice cream, don’t beat yourself up; refresh yourself with some cool water or a cup of hot tea, remind yourself that there are good reasons why you’re doing this, and start over tomorrow — because sooner or later, you’ll find yourself looking back and realizing you’ve been without sugar (and no longer miss it) for weeks, if not months.

References

Avena NM, Rada P, Bartley Hoebel BG. Evidence for sugar addiction: Behavioral and neurochemical effects of intermittent, excessive sugar intake. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2008; 32(1): 20–39.

Codella R, Terruzzi I, Luzi L. Sugars, exercise and health. J Affect Disord. 2017 Dec 15;224:76-86. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2016.10.035. Epub 2016 Oct 27.

DiNicolantonio J, Mehta V, Bin Zaman S, O’Keefe J. Not salt but sugar as aetiological in osteoporosis: A Review. Missouri Med. 2018;115:247–252.

DiNicolantonio JJ, O’Keefe JH, Wilson WL. Sugar addiction: is it real? A narrative review. Br J Sports Med. 2018 Jul;52(14):910-913. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2017-097971. Epub 2017 Aug 23.

The post Why your bones want you to kick the sugar habit appeared first on Better Bones.

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Better Bones by Dr. Susan E. Brown - 4M ago

[Updated March 8, 2019]

Ancient health practitioners in Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine considered breath (prana in the Vedic system and qi in TCM) so important to health that they developed very specific breathing exercises to ensure the effective intake of air energy. We in the West recognize breathing as essential, too, yet we take for granted that its only purpose is providing our “must-have” oxygen—and that’s far from the case.

Western science has started to learn from Eastern tradition and is discovering and documenting the many benefits of deep nasal breathing. These include:

  • Reducing blood pressure.
  • Increasing availability of oxygen to the tissues.
  • Decreasing the workload on the heart.
  • Improving sleep and reducing insomnia.
  • Reducing of negative emotional states like anger, confusion, fear, depression, or anxiety.

Interestingly, two of the most ancient forms of Eastern practice, qigong and yoga, include a technique called “bone marrow breathing” or “bone breathing” in which one performs very careful deep nasal breathing while focusing attention on different parts of the skeleton. Studies of women practicing qigong showed increased bone density despite the fact that, as an exercise regimen, qigong is extremely low intensity and offers no loading on bones. Yoga, which offers some bone loading, has similar positive results.

Numerous studies also show both qigong and yoga (among others) have positive effects on other health issues that indirectly impact bone, such as blood glucose regulation, improved mood, and heart function. Of particular interest to bone health is the last item in my list above: the effects deep breathing has on negative emotional states. When the lower lobes of the lungs are activated by deep breathing, the parasympathetic fight-or-flight response calms.

I’ve talked before about how stress hormones, specifically cortisol, can be harmful to bone; deep breathing is a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to reverse that through the reduction of stress.

Get started with deep breathing

Here are some basic steps for starting your breathing practice:

• Sit comfortably and tighten and release your muscles, noting how it feels like to relax them.

• Breathe slowly and normally through your nostrils. Your normal breathing is generally quite shallow, so your next step is to begin breathing in and out more deeply—but not so deeply that you feel like you are forcing the breaths.

• Imagine that you have lungs in your belly and that you are creating a gap that you need to fill. Sink into that gap as you breathe in and out.

• Imagine that each breath is bringing in energy. Close your eyes and visualize a bright light that’s powered by your breath. Let go of any draining, heavy thoughts.

• Focus your mind in the direction of what you will accomplish — such as rest or energy building. Use the chart below for suggested inhalation, hold and exhalation counts to achieve these effects.

• Continue your deep breathing as long as it feels good to you. If you find yourself fretting that you should stop, then stop — but next time, try to push such thoughts aside and go longer.

If you’d like other short breathing exercises, we have some available on the on the Better Bones Exercise Evolution. Some can be done while walking, others while seated in meditation. I encourage you to give them a try!

References

References
An T, He ZC, Zhang XQ, et al. Baduanjin exerts anti-diabetic and anti-depression effects by regulating the expression of mRNA, lncRNA, and circRNA. Chin Med. 2019 Feb 1;14:3. doi: 10.1186/s13020-019-0225-1. eCollection 2019.

Chen HH, Yeh ML, Lee FY. The effects of baduanjin qigong in the prevention of bone loss for middle-aged women. The American Journal of Chinese Medicine. 2006;34:741–747.

Elliott WJ, Izzo JL Jr. Device-guided breathing to lower blood pressure: case report and clinical overview. MedGenMed. 2006 Aug 1;8(3):23.

Jahnke R, Larkey L, Rogers C, et al. A Comprehensive Review of Health Benefits of Qigong and Tai Chi. Am J Health Promot. 2010 JUL-AUG; 24(6): e1–e25. doi: 10.4278/ajhp.081013-LIT-248

Jerath R, Beveridge C, Barnes VA. Self-Regulation of Breathing as an Adjunctive Treatment of Insomnia. Front Psychiatry. 2018; 9: 780.
Published online 2019 Jan 29. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00780

Motorwala ZS, Kolke S, Panchal PY, et al. Effects of Yogasanas on osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. Int J Yoga. 2016 Jan-Jun; 9(1): 44–48. doi: 10.4103/0973-6131.171717

Russo MA, Santarelli DM, O’Rourke D. The physiological effects of slow breathing in the healthy human. Breathe (Sheff). 2017 Dec;13(4):298-309. doi: 10.1183/20734735.009817.

Zaccaro A, Piarulli A, Laurino M, et al. How Breath-Control Can Change Your Life: A Systematic Review on Psycho-Physiological Correlates of Slow Breathing. Front Hum Neurosci. 2018; 12: 353.

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The post Deep breathing for bone health appeared first on Better Bones.

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To track the health of its population, the federal government undertakes a massive health survey of the U.S. population every two years, known as the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Beginning in 2005, the survey has included bone mineral density measurements — and the most recent report shows a generalized decline in bone density. What’s the reason for this?

Bone density’s sudden downward spiral 

These national surveys study a multi-ethnic sample of non-institutionalized individuals age 30 and over. Between 2005 and 2010, NHANES data showed bone mineral density to be fairly stable, which seemed to correlate with the slight decrease in hip fracture incidence reported by other researchers. But when they measured bone mineral density in 2014, they found a significant and generalized decrease in bone density.

Survey cycles      Bone Mineral Density 

2005-2006              Generalized stability of bone density

2007-2008              Generalized stability of bone density

2009-2010              Generalized stability of bone density

2010-2014              Generalized significant decline in bone density

What’s the reason for this?

Take a look at what else happened to us as a population between 2005 and 2014

  • The percentage of people with a sedentary lifestyle more than tripled — in women, 9.59% reported being physically inactive in 2005 compared to 31.82% in 2014, while in men, 87% reported being physically inactive in 2014 compared to 22.83% in 2005.
  • Not surprisingly, the percentage of people with hypertension also increased, from 35.4% to 45.08% from 2005 to 2014.
  • Equally predictably, the percentage of self-reported diabetes increased 6% for both men and women

To me, it looks as though our ever-increasing lack of physical activity is catching up with our bones and our body, resulting in declining bone density. It makes sense. Exercise, even in small amounts, is known to positively affect inflammation, stress, cardiovascular health, and, of course, our bones. It stands to reasons that all of these would suffer if we spent too much time sitting.

Concerned about your bone density? Learn about how our natural approach to bone health can keep your bones stronger, longer.

Reference

Xu Y, Wu Q. Decreasing trend of bone mineral density in the US multiethnic population: analysis of continuous NHANES 2005-2014. Osteoporosis Int(2018) 29:2437-2446.

The post Bone density on the decline in the United States appeared first on Better Bones.

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