Q: have fractured my wrist twice in 12 months, and the doctor says I have osteopenia. Can supplements help and, if so, what should I take?
A: Osteopenia is lower than normal bone density, meaning bones are less strong but are not yet at the stage of osteoporosis. It’s important to take action now, says Dr Marilyn Glenville, a leading nutritionist specialising in women’s health (marilynglenville.com, for appointments, tel: 01892 515905). I recommend her book Osteoporosis: How to Prevent, Treat and Reverse It (Kyle, £10.99*).
As well as an appropriate diet (see below), supplements of some nutrients are important, notably calcium, magnesium, vitamin D and boron (best taken in a combined formula), plus vitamin C, and a probiotic. Calcium improves bone density and reduces risk of fracture. For best absorption, choose calcium citrate.
Vitamin D is vital for strong bones. There is a widespread deficiency problem of the ‘sunlight vitamin’ in the UK, and the Chief Medical Officer advises at-risk groups – including pregnant and breast-feeding women, under-fives, over-65s, people who have low sun exposure, and people of colour – to take a supplement (dh.gov.uk/health/2012/02/advice-vitamin-d).
Take vitamin D3, which is 87 per cent more effective than vitamin D2 in raising and maintaining vitamin D levels. Dr Glenville suggests a multivitamin with calcium, magnesium, boron and D3 (eg, MenoSupport by NHP, £21.77 for 60 capsules). If possible, get your vitamin D levels checked; ask your GP about this simple blood test. If you are deficient, Marilyn suggests adding 400iu of D3 in liquid form; try D Lux 400 Spray by Better You, £6.25 for 15ml (100 doses), which usually corrects the deficiency within three months.
Magnesium helps the body metabolise calcium and, with boron, converts vitamin D to the active form. The National Osteoporosis Society (tel: 0845 450 0230, nos.org.uk) advises ten minutes of sun exposure without sunscreen, once or twice daily (depending on skin type), between 11am and 3pm from May to September so your vitamin D levels are topped up for the dark months.
Vitamin C is crucial for the manufacture of collagen, the ‘cement’ that holds the bone matrix together. Take 500mg twice daily of vitamin C as ascorbate, rather than ascorbic acid (Gentle Vitamin C 500mg by Lamberts, £8.12 for 100 tablets).
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help improve calcium absorption within the gut (Mega Probiotic ND by Food Science of Vermont, £18.50 for 60 capsules).
Choose an alkaline diet. Women who eat the most acid producing diets have four times as many hip fractures as those eating the least because the body leaches calcium from bones to neutralise the acidity. Animal protein, particularly in red meat and cheese, is acid-forming in excess, so eat lots more alkaline fruit and vegetables, plus oily fish and eggs. Avoid calcium-leaching caffeine and fizzy drinks.
Get active. As well as weight-bearing exercise (walking, dancing, tennis etc), you need resistance to create mechanical stress and put calcium on bones. Yoga is a perfect all-rounder (iyengaryoga.org.uk).
And don’t smoke!
FOUR TIMES THE FUN
Children who love to customise their look, such as Suri Cruise, above, will revel in the organic cotton Reversi-T from Green Kids, which – by an ingenious turning-inside-out method – gives you four looks in one T-shirt. So keep an eye out for Green Kids fan Suri in the London 2012-themed Ts, available in boys and girls designs up to age ten. Priced £12-£18, from greenbaby.com.
MORE REASONS TO DIG GARDENING
Gardening therapy is now recognised as a valuable resource for many disabilities, helping both mind and body. I spent an inspiring morning wandering around the Old English Garden in London’s Battersea Park, recently replanted under the aegis of Thrive, a wonderful charity whose mission is to harness the healing power of gardening, with funding from fragrance brand Jo Malone. The blooms and foliage are tended by a team of trainee gardeners, all living with physical disabilities or mental ill health, from learning difficulties to depression, stroke survivors to schizophrenia. Training can lead to professional qualifications in horticulture. Thrive supports over 900 garden projects in England and the Irish Republic. Visit thrive.org.uk or tel: 0118 988 5688.
WEBSITE OF THE WEEK:
This site, which also offers a free app (downloadable from the Apple App Store), offers directions to accessible lavatories and parking spaces for the 1.2 million wheelchair users in the UK. Users can also add to locations on the list, which is now available in French and German, and extending worldwide.