Many women and men diagnosed with osteoporosis are immediately prescribed prescription drugs which, they discover sooner or later, can have difficult-to-tolerate side effects as well as frightening long-term risks. Can osteoporosis be reversed? This realization leads many individuals with osteoporosis to ask, “Can osteoporosis be reversed without drugs?” Unfortunately, there is no cure for osteoporosis, even with drug treatment, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
Experts unanimously agree that osteoporosis is far easier to prevent than treat. (The condition is diagnosed via bone mineral density scans known as bone densitometry or dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, or DXA, also written as DEXA. A “T-score” of osteoporosis -2.5 or -3.0 or lower indicates that you have osteoporosis.) Treating osteoporosis may be difficult, but that does not mean that it cannot be reversed, at least partially, as many studies have demonstrated. Certain natural treatments in addition to some pharmaceuticals have been showed in the scientific literature to rebuild bone and decrease the risk of bone fractures in those with osteoporosis.
Can Osteoporosis Be Reversed? Catch It as Early as Possible
When you lose too much bone, make too little bone, or both, your bones become weak and may break from a minor fall or, in serious cases, even from sneezing or bumping into furniture. This can leave you crippled and in debilitating chronic pain. Fortunately, even weakened osteoporotic bone can become stronger and more flexible again with treatment. Reversing osteoporosis requires more than just a drug, however, and success generally depends on the severity of the osteoporosis at the time treatment is initiated.
Generally, answering the question “Can osteoporosis be reversed without drugs?” depends on how severe and advanced the osteoporosis is and how comprehensive and aggressive the non-drug treatment plan is. The milder the bone loss, the more likely natural osteoporosis treatments can improve bone density.
“Once osteoporosis has been diagnosed, many of the natural interventions such as diet, exercise, nutritional supplementation and herbal medicines could be used aggressively in milder cases to slow bone loss, reduce fracture rates and possibly have a small impact on increasing bone density,” according to Dr. Tori Hudson, ND, a naturopathic physician and well-known expert in women’s health. In more serious osteoporosis cases, she says, the natural intervention will become adjunct to a primary drug therapy such as a bisphosphonate like Fosomax.
Address the Many Underlying Causes of Osteoporosis
In the past, the cause of osteoporosis was considered a hormonal imbalance (primarily a lack of estrogen). But more and more men are suffering from osteoporosis, and research now clearly shows other underlying causes, among them oxidative stress, elevated blood sugar, inflammation, and components of the metabolic syndrome. Reversing osteoporosis requires an aggressive, comprehensive treatment plan that addresses the multiple underlying factors causing the bone loss.
Multi-faceted treatment plans that attack the many underlying causes of osteoporosis by incorporating nutrition, supplements, exercise, and, if necessary, drugs or hormone therapies, can reverse osteoporosis to some extent. Many experts in natural and integrative medicine have put together powerful osteoporosis treatment plans that comprehensively address underlying causes of osteoporosis by utilizing supplements, diet and lifestyle changes, and sometimes other integrative therapies such as hormone optimization using bioidentical hormones.
Common treatments include isoflavones, vitamins K and D, multiple minerals in highly absorptive forms (including strontium), melatonin, antioxidants, essential fatty acids, anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, acid-lowering and anti-inflammatory diets, and bioidentical hormone replacement therapy.
Seeking Effective Natural Osteoporosis Treatments
While many studies have already validated the benefits of these types of natural therapies for osteoporosis, even more studies are currently underway. Naturopathic physician Mark Swanson, ND, is collaborating with Dr. Paula Witt-Enderby and her colleagues at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh on a double-blind, placebo controlled study examining whether melatonin, strontium citrate and vitamins D3 and K2 can treat bone loss in women with thinning bones (osteopenia).
“Current drug treatments for osteoporosis are not ideal,” Witt-Enderby said in a recent interview. “They have only a 30 percent compliance rate, which really drops after six months. What’s needed is a convenient, safer and better-tolerated treatment. Many women are worried about having to take a powerful drug for months to years before they see results, so a more natural treatment is appealing. In the end, it’s all about safely preventing fractures and improving quality of life.”
 Hudson. T. Osteoporosis: Strategies for prevention and management. (Blog.) 2006 Oct 17. (Accessed Feb 25, 2014.)
 Duquesne University Times. Witt-Enderby Conducting Bone Loss Trial. 2013 July 24. (Accessed Feb 25, 2014).
Originally published in 2015, this post is regularly updated.