Managing Osteoporosis holistically with Ayurveda
On a cold winter morning, 54-year old Lakshmidevi was admitted to the hospital with a broken hip bone. There was no accident or fall but a slight jerk during her morning walks that resulted in a life-altering hip fracture. Lakshmidevi was suffering from Osteoporosis, a silent, progressive bone condition with very few early signs. Osteoporosis is common with aging and is known to affect a large proportion of women, past their menstrual age.
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is characterized by diminution in the density of bone structure and strength, making bone more fragile. Osteoporosis literally means ‘abnormal porous’ in bones that make it appear compressible, like a sponge. This abnormality in bones weakens the skeletal structure resulting in frequent fracture with or without any force.
Protein, collagen, and calcium all together give bone its natural hardness and strength. In Osteoporosis, the bone composition that heals, repairs and helps in regeneration process by replacing old ones are affected thus causing brittleness of bone. Most common fracture sites are spine, hip bone, ribs and wrist. Fracture can be either in the form of crack in the bone like in the hip fracture and ribs or of collapsing nature in similar to fracture of spinal vertebrae.
Some of common causes of osteoporosis are lack of physical exercise, low consumption of calcium, poor health condition, body weight, mal-absorption of nutrition, improper lifestyle changes, excessive alcohol consumption, low estrogen level in women, menopause, drug reaction and its side effects.
Osteoporosis by itself doesn’t have any major symptoms in the early stages of loss in bone density but once the bone structure weakens, one may have signs and symptoms that include:
- Chronic back pain due to collapsing fracture in vertebrae over years.
- Shorting of height or bending forward with hunch over back.
- Stress fracture over foot bones while walking.
- Pain in chest region due to rib fracture with simple cough.
A simple routine X-ray can reveal appearance of any abnormal thinning of the bone in Osteoporosis but it’s not an accurate indicator of bone density. Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry scan (DXA) is more precise diagnostic tool in osteoporosis to measure density in the hip, the spine and the forearm.
The conventional medical approach to osteoporosis usually includes supplementation of calcium, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and use of drugs such as bisphosphonates that reduce the activity of osteoclasts. These increase bone density for a short period but the side effects of HRT and other drugs are many. They may cause heartburn, headaches, constipation, diarrhea, muscle and joint pain, stomach cramps, dizziness, ulcers and even fractures. Though there is short term increase in bone density when you look at the long term usage one can understand that the old bone is not replaced at the right time which leads to further weakening of the skeletal system.
Ayurveda and Osteoporosis
According to Ayurveda, the depletion of bone is called as Asthi Dhatu Kshaya which is caused either due to vitiation of Vata dosha or due to Dhatu Agni Mandya due to blocking of channels with the ama or toxins. Sometimes both the factors may be involved in causing the problem. Ayurveda treatment aims to balance the imbalanced dosha and to improve the agni so that the metabolism is corrected and the formation of bone happens in a proper way. When there is blockage of channels and when calcium supplement is given but is not absorbed into the bone, it results in side effects like constipation. Therefore correction of agni and balancing of dosha is important.
Ayurveda herbal medicine, Panchakarma treatments, dietary changes and yoga practices are advised to balance Vata dosha. Fasting or even Agni Deepana drugs are given to improve the agni bala or digestive fire. Panchakarma especially Basti or medicated enema is one of the best treatment in restoring Vata dosha and it also has a nourishing (Brahmana) quality that helps is proper regeneration of bone tissue. Basti is done with medicated oils or ghee and herbal decoctions and milk. In a few cases Virechana or purgation is also opted to restore normal course of vata and agni. Other treatments like Abhyanga application of medicinal oils, medicine paste, Shashtika Shali Pinda Sweda/ Navarakizhi are done to nourish and nurture Asthi Dhatu.
Some of the medicine that are used for treatment are Dhanwantharam thaila, Bala thaila may be used to balance vata dosha. Ashwaganadabala thaila, lakshadi thaila, maha masha thaila are oils that are used for dhatu kshaya or emaciation.
Internal medications such as Gandha taila, ksheerabala 101, mecal, Lakshadi Guggulu, Abhadi guggulu, Maharasanadi kashaya, Dhanwantaram kashaya, Nucart OA, shallaki tablet, Vatagajankusha rasa, vata vidhwamsini rasa, mukta shuti bhasama, shringa Bhasma, Pravala pishti, Dhanwantaram 101, Reosto, Geriforte may be given.
Some of the dietary suggestion to improve your bone density:
- White sesame or til seeds are a rich source of calcium. Just 1 tablespoon of sesame contains 55 milligram of calcium in it. These seeds are extremely pitta in nature so during summer, soak one teaspoon of white sesame seeds in some water overnight and next morning drain the water and chew the seeds slowly. In winter, chew one teaspoon slowly every morning without soaking them in water. One could add a glass of milk if they want to relish the taste with milk.
- Roast and grind some white sesame seeds. Add 1 tsp of this powder with a cup of milk and red sugar candy or rock sugar and consume this drink morning and evening for better bone density.
- Everybody knows that orange is a good source of vitamin C and is a good immune booster but orange is also a very good source of calcium. Eating one orange a day gives 6 per cent of calcium that is required per day.
- Broccoli is another source of calcium and vitamin K both of which are required for a healthy bone. One cup of broccoli contains about 213 milligrams of calcium.
- Milk and milk products such as yoghurt, cheese, buttermilk, paneer (or cottage cheese) are a rich source of calcium too.
- For those who are lactose intolerant soya milk is also a rich source of calcium.
- Spinach, pineapple, pear, apple, almond, dry fig, Flux seeds, sunflower seeds, tofu are some of the other source of calcium that you can include in everyday diet.
Apart from diet one has to take exercise regularly to maintain the health. Avoiding junk food, dry and fried food, cold and stale food will help in reduction of Vata.
The purpose of this article is to provide information about Ayurveda and Osteoporosis. Never self-diagnose and take treatments. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained doctor who can fully assess your needs and provide necessary treatment.