Is Osteoporosis Reversible? How to Increase Bone Density Naturally

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After 50, adults lose 1-3% of their bone density annually. And without proper care, that can lead to chronic, potentially devastating diseases like osteoporosis. But is osteoporosis reversible, and how can you avoid relying on prescription medication if diagnosed with it?

In this article, you’ll learn how to increase bone density naturally, paving the way for a healthier, more vibrant future. But first, let’s explore what we mean by “bone density” and osteoporosis.

Understanding bone density and osteoporosis

Bone density is a measurement quantifying the strength and stability of bones. It’s essential for an active, injury-free lifestyle as we age.

If you’ve already lost substantial bone density but do not have osteoporosis, you may be diagnosed with osteopenia–a condition in which bone density is lower than normal but not low enough to be classified as osteoporosis.

Osteopenia is an early warning, signaling the need for proactive measures to prevent progression to osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis affects 41.5 million people, worldwide–approximately 19.6% of women over 50 and 4.4% of men over 50. The disease is characterized by porous, fragile bones that increase your risk of fracture.

It’s a “silent disease” because it typically progresses symptom-free until a fracture occurs.

How osteoporosis happens

Factors contributing to osteoporosis include:

  • Aging
  • Hormonal changes, such as estrogen deficiency post-menopause
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Certain medications, including proton pump inhibitors and some antidepressants
  • Genetic predisposition

These factors can affect the body’s natural bone remodeling process, which involves the coordinated actions of two types of cells:

  • Osteoclasts, which resorb old, damaged bone
  • Osteoblasts, which form new bone

Ideally, this remodeling maintains balance in bone density. But when you have osteoporosis, increased resorption or decreased formation leads to weakened, fragile bones.

Is osteoporosis reversible?

While fully restoring bone density to its previous state may not be possible for everyone, you can make significant improvements to your bone health.

A growing body of research suggests that certain lifestyle interventions as well as supplements can substantially repair bone density and decrease your risk of fracture.

Osteoporosis treatment

Conventional treatment for osteoporosis involves the use of prescription medications called bisphosphonates. Unfortunately, these drugs come with serious risks.

Bisphosphonates are corrosive substances, originally used in the textile, fertilizer, and oil industries. Studies show they can actually disrupt the natural bone remodeling process rather than support it, potentially leading to serious side effects like:

  • Osteonecrosis of the jaw (death of jawbone tissue due to lack of blood supply)
  • Atypical femoral fractures (stress fractures in the thigh bone)

These risks highlight the importance of learning how to increase your bone density through natural means.

How to increase bone density naturally

Here are the most effective ways to prevent and reverse bone loss.

Bone-healthy diet tips

Eat ample organic fruits and vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables–particularly organically grown–are packed with essential nutrients that support bone health.

Leafy, green vegetables like spinach and collard greens are especially rich in calcium, which is the primary mineral in bones that provides strength and rigidity. These vegetables also contain potassium, which reduces calcium loss, and vitamin K, which helps preserve bone density.

Other bone-boosting produce options include:

  • Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts)
  • Green beans
  • Okra
  • Asparagus
  • Berries (blackberries, blueberries, raspberries)
  • Citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits, pomegranates)
  • Dried fruits (prunes, raisins, dates)

Limit your sugar intake.

While everyone enjoys a sweet treat occasionally, research has linked excess sugar consumption to an increased incidence of osteoporosis and bone fractures. This is especially true for those who frequently drink sodas.

One reason is consuming lots of sugary foods and beverages can indicate you’re not getting enough vital nutrients from your diet. But sugar also increases the excretion of calcium in urine, meaning the body doesn’t retain the calcium necessary to maintain strong bones.

So limit your indulgences to special occasions.

Load up on protein.

Contrary to previous expert concerns, recent research shows protein supports bone health and reduces the risk of fractures–especially when combined with adequate calcium. One reason for this is protein supplies amino acids that are essential for forming and maintaining bone.

Dietary protein also increases levels of a hormone called insulin-like growth factor 1, which promotes bone formation and improves the absorption of calcium and phosphate–both vital for bone mineralization.

Both animal and plant proteins are beneficial for bone health as long as your diet is rich in calcium and low in saturated fats. Excessive saturated fat not only impairs calcium utilization but promotes bone resorption and reduces new bone formation.

Excellent sources of lean protein include:

  • Chicken
  • Eggs
  • Tofu
  • Salmon
  • Yogurt
  • Peanuts
  • Quinoa
  • Beans

Aim for at least 50 grams of protein each day.

Get the right amount of sodium.

While excessive salt can harm your bones, insufficient intake can, too. That’s because bones act as a reservoir for sodium, which is essential for balancing calcium and magnesium levels. Both of these nutrients are crucial for healthy bone remodeling.

Studies suggest adequate sodium consumption can lower the risk of hip fractures. However, too much–especially in those with calcium deficiency–can heighten this risk.

So aim for moderation. Keep your sodium intake below 2,300 milligrams (about one teaspoon of salt) each day.

Supplements to increase bone density

Calcium

As mentioned previously, calcium is fundamental for bone structure and strength. Bones consist of a protein matrix hardened by deposits of calcium and phosphate, forming calcium hydroxyapatite–which gives bones their hardness.

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Calcium is essential for mineralization of bone, as it’s incorporated into the bone matrix by osteoblast cells to form new bone. Because bones are continuously remodeled, calcium is vital for maintaining bone mass and strength throughout your life.

Furthermore, the body regulates calcium levels in the blood meticulously, storing excess in bones and mobilizing it as needed. Inadequate amounts lead to the body withdrawing calcium from bones to maintain normal blood levels, which can result in bone loss.

If you’re one of 90% of women or 42% of all Americans who don’t get enough calcium, look for a calcium citrate supplement. It’s especially effective when combined with vitamin D.

Vitamin D3 

50% of women treated for bone loss are deficient in vitamin D, which is vital for skeletal health. And unlike D2, D3 is derived from animal sources, making it more bioavailable.

Vitamin D3 supports the absorption of calcium from the intestines into the bloodstream. Without enough D3, the body can’t effectively use calcium, leading to:

  • Poor bone mineralization
  • Impaired remodeling
  • Increased risks of bone loss and fractures

Choose a high-quality D3 supplement, and enjoy some sunshine to further optimize your levels. For even better bone health, complement it with vitamin K2.

Vitamin K2

Whereas vitamin D3 improves calcium absorption, vitamin K2 makes sure the body efficiently transports calcium to bones and teeth, preventing accumulation in arteries. This synergistic effect is why experts recommend combining D3 and K2.

Vitamin K2 activates osteocalcin, a protein that binds calcium to the bone matrix, supporting bone mineralization and strength–which reduces the risk of fractures. What’s more, K2 is crucial for producing other proteins like matrix Gla protein (MGP), which helps regulate bone formation by osteoblast cells.

Studies show K2 significantly lowers fracture risk in those with osteopenia and osteoporosis.

Magnesium

Approximately 60% of the body’s magnesium is stored in the bones. This essential micronutrient supports bone formation and mineralization by regulating osteoblast (rebuilding) activity and ensuring proper crystallization of hydroxyapatite to harden bones.

Research has linked magnesium deficiency to:

  • Impaired vitamin D metabolism
  • Diminished calcium absorption
  • Reduced bone density
  • Higher risks of fracture

However, excessive magnesium can also be harmful, inhibiting crystallization of hydroxyapatite in bones. So consider supplementing with 350-420 mg only if you don’t eat an abundance of magnesium-rich foods, such as:

  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Black beans
  • Leafy greens

Collagen 

Collagen is more than an anti-aging supplement for skin. It’s the primary protein in bones, composed of amino acids like lysine and proline–which are vital for skeletal development.

Research shows that supplementing with hydrolyzed collagen peptides can significantly improve bone density and strength. They increase bone formation activity by osteoblasts and reduce critical breakdown of damaged bone by osteoclasts.

Other bone-boosting lifestyle habits

Don’t smoke.

Smoking is a major risk factor for accelerated bone loss–particularly affecting the hip, spine, and forearm.

Nicotine in cigarettes disrupts the delicate balance between bone formation and resorption, leading to excessive breakdown. It also constricts blood vessels, reducing blood flow and the delivery of essential nutrients and oxygen to bones.

So, if you smoke, utilize cessation resources or community support and quit as soon as possible.

Limit alcohol.

Studies show that excessive alcohol consumption is detrimental to bone health. That’s because alcohol disrupts the absorption of vital nutrients like calcium and vitamin D from the intestines, leading to deficiencies that hinder bone formation and mineralization.

Like smoking, alcohol also suppresses osteoblast (bone formation) activity while increasing osteoclast (breakdown) activity. It can trigger hormonal imbalances, too–in particular, elevated cortisol levels, a stress hormone that further obstructs bone formation.

Consuming up to one drink per day for women and two for men may not significantly affect bone density if you’re getting enough calcium. But if you drink more than this, consider cutting back to allow your bones to recover and rebuild.

Avoid caffeine.

While a cup of coffee in the morning can be largely harmless, excessive amounts could negatively affect your bones.

Research suggests that consuming 800 mg of caffeine over a six-hour period can nearly double the calcium excreted in urine. That said, this equates to about eight cups of coffee–so if you only enjoy the average 200 mg (2 cups), you’re likely in the clear.

Furthermore, the negative impact of caffeine on calcium absorption can be offset by adding just 1-2 tablespoons of milk to your coffee. So keep your caffeine intake low, and don’t skip the milk.

Incorporate weight-bearing exercises.

Studies show practicing weight-bearing exercises, long-term, helps regulate bone mass and prevent fractures. Both aerobic and strength-training workouts can be helpful, but resistance training (weight-lifting) is particularly beneficial.

A specific type of weight-bearing exercise called high-intensity resistance training (HIRT) may be even better, as it:

  • Improves muscle strength
  • Bolsters balance
  • Reduces the risk of falls

HIRT involves short, intense periods of exercise followed by rest or low-intensity periods.

So get yourself some dumbbells or resistance bands, and train a couple of days a week. Start with lighter weights, and gradually increase as you build your strength.

Try acupuncture.

Studies suggest that the ancient Chinese medicine practice of acupuncture might help preserve bone quality. Some experts believe it regulates the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis, a system of glands that influence hormones like estrogen–which are crucial for bone health.

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If you’re considering alternative treatments to increase bone density naturally, consider seeing a licensed acupuncturist for both targeted and whole-system benefits.

Hormonal balance for bone health

Hormones also play a critical role in bone health. Here are some particularly important ones, and how to approach any imbalances.

Balance estrogen and progesterone in women.

Estrogen helps regulate bone turnover and prevent excessive bone breakdown, while progesterone promotes new bone formation.

After menopause, a significant drop in these hormones can accelerate bone loss, prompting many women to consider hormone replacement therapy (HRT). But conventional (synthetic) HRT may increase the risk of breast cancer with long-term use.

Fortunately, there are natural HRT options that involve consuming plants or herbs which contain hormone-mimicking compounds. Examples include phytoestrogens from:

  • Soy
  • Red clover
  • Black cohosh
  • St. John’s wort

Boost testosterone in men.

Testosterone is essential for balancing bone resorption and formation in men. Levels of this hormone naturally decline with age, but a significant drop can lead to accelerated bone thinning.

See your healthcare provider to test your hormone levels, and consider natural testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) if you have an imbalance. Some options include:

  • Ashwagandha
  • Fenugreek
  • Longjack (eurycoma longifolia)

Manage cortisol.

Chronic stress increases cortisol levels, which not only inhibits the functions of osteoblasts, but also amplifies the activity and lifespan of osteoclasts. What’s more, high cortisol impairs calcium absorption, leading to deficiencies that can affect bone mineralization.

Chronic stress also lowers estrogen and testosterone levels, potentially disrupting bone mass maintenance and remodeling.

So make stress management a priority. Consider relaxing, hormone-balancing activities, such as:

  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Yoga
  • High-quality sleep

Balance thyroid hormones.

Excess thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism) can lead to rapid bone density loss as it accelerates osteoclasts’ bone resorption activities faster than osteoblasts can rebuild.

Consult your healthcare provider about monitoring hormone levels, and manage any thyroid conditions with targeted dietary and lifestyle changes.

Watch your parathyroid hormone (PTH).

The parathyroid is a gland next to the thyroid that secretes the calcium-regulating hormone, PTH.

Parathyroid gland dysfunction can lead to high PTH levels, which cause calcium to be withdrawn from the bones, weakening them. This condition is called hyperparathyroidism, and is often linked with severe cases of osteoporosis.

If untreated, hyperparathyroidism can lead to extremely low bone density, and treatment may require injections or surgery. Work closely with your healthcare provider to determine if hyperparathyroidism is affecting your bone health, and discuss treatment options.

Now that we’ve discussed ways to increase bone density, let’s discuss another less natural, yet vital piece of the bone health puzzle: bone scans.

Early detection and management with bone density scans

While you can substantially increase your bone density through natural interventions, it’s also important to consider regular bone density tests, such as the DEXA scan.

The DEXA scan uses minimal radiation to measure bone mineral density at the hip and spine. It can give you a clear understanding of your bone health, as well as your risk of fractures.

It’s particularly recommended for:

  • Women over 65
  • Men over 70
  • Anyone at increased risk of osteoporosis due to medication use or other medical conditions

Osteoporosis can be an intimidating and silent threat–but it’s not necessarily a losing battle as you age.

Whether you’re already dealing with osteopenia or osteoporosis, or are otherwise looking to prevent or reverse bone loss, discuss the above treatment options with your healthcare provider. By actively managing your bone health, you can maintain strength, flexibility, and an active lifestyle well into your later years.

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Author
Carrie Solomon

Carrie Solomon is a freelance health writer, web copywriter, and passionate wellness enthusiast. She’s on a mission to help wellness-focused companies everywhere educate, engage, and inspire their audiences to make the world a healthier, happier place. Learn more about her at copybycarrie.com or on LinkedIn.

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