The word osteoporosis means ‘porous bones’, and that is exactly what happens with the condition. Your bones weaken and therefore break easier. It mainly affects older people, but anyone at any age can be afflicted with this condition. With an aging population, it’s a problem that is on the rise in the west, with more cases being diagnosed each year.
It can lead people to become cautious and worried about everyday life, in effect wrapping themselves in cotton wool to avoid any bone fractures. Scientific research has found that cannabidiol (CBD) products may well be a good alternative form of treatment for osteoporosis. CBD works upon the body’s natural endocannabinoid system, which studies have found is actually involved in bone density regulation.
This article takes a deeper look at osteoporosis, what the condition is, the traditionally used treatments, and then compares CBD with these. If you are wondering if CBD oil could be a suitable treatment for osteoporosis, then please read on for all the information you need.
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a condition that weakens bone strength, making them fragile and much more likely to break. Your bones are living tissue made of a gritty, hard material made of minerals and tough, elastic fibres called collagen fibres. The cells can make, mould and take back up (or reabsorb) bone. When we are young and growing, our bones form faster than they reabsorb, but as part the aging process, this reverses. From around 35 onwards, you begin to lose overall bone material, leading to bones becoming less dense and less strong. How much bone is lost varies from person to person, and if you have too much loss, you have osteoporosis.
When you suffer from osteoporosis, your bones break more easily, especially with accidents such as falling over. Often, it develops over several years and those afflicted are only diagnosed when an accident or sudden impact leads to a bone fracture.
The most common injuries in individuals with osteoporosis are wrist, hip and spinal bone (vertebrae) fractures, but they can occur in most bones, including the pelvis or arms. Something as small as a sneeze can fracture a rib or even cause the partial collapse of a vertebra. It isn’t usually a painful condition until you fracture something. However, fractures, especially spinal fractures, can lead to chronic pain. Another possible sign of osteoporosis is the stooped forward posture associated with older people. This happens because vertebrae have fractured, making it hard to support body weight.
Losing bone density is a normal process associated with getting older, but there are several factors that increase the risk of suffering from osteoporosis. They are:
- Gender – women are more at risk than men, especially if their menopause begins before the age of 45.
- Genetics – having a family history of osteoporosis increases the risk, particularly if a parent has a history of hip fracture.
- Usage of high-dose oral corticosteroids over an extended period of time.
- Various medical conditions – including malabsorption problems, hormone-related conditions or inflammatory conditions.
- Long term usage of certain medications which affect bone strength or hormone levels.
- Heavy drinking and smoking.
- A low body mass index (BMI).
Traditional Treatments for Osteoporosis
The treatment of osteoporosis focuses on minimizing your risks of falls and using medication to strengthen your bones. You can minimize falls by being cautious and keeping active to maintain independence and balance. The medications typically used are:
- Bisphosphonates – There are a number of different bisphosphonates that can be taken, but they all reduce the rate at which your body breaks down bone. This maintains bone density, reducing the risk of fractures. It typically takes 6 to 12 months for them to take an effect and they usually need to be taken for five years or longer. The most common side effects of bisphosphonates are problems swallowing, stomach pains, and irritation of the esophagus.
- Parathyroid hormone treatment (teriparatide) – This is a naturally occurring hormone in the body involved in regulating the amount of calcium in bones. Teriparatide stimulates the cells that create new bone, which can increase bone density. Feeling nauseous and being sick are very common side effects, and parathyroid hormone treatment is only used in a small number of patients who have very low bone density and have not reacted to any other treatments.
- Selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) – The hormone estrogen is essential for healthy bones. This is why women are more likely to be affected by osteoporosis after menopause, where their bodies stop producing estrogen. SERMs have a similar effect to estrogen, helping maintain bone density and reducing fracture risk. The side effects commonly associated with SERMs include leg cramps, hot flushes and a potential increased risk of blood clots.
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) – HRT is usually used to help women control the symptoms of menopause, but it has been shown to maintain bone density and reduce fracture risk. It is rarely used however, as HRT increases the risks of developing several, serious conditions including ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer and breast cancer.
- Supplements – Getting enough calcium is vital to maintaining healthy bones. If you have osteoporosis, you may require extra calcium in the form of supplements. Similarly important is vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium. It is difficult to ensure you receive enough vitamin D from diet alone, as it is found in a very small amount of foods. All adults should consider consuming a daily supplement of vitamin D, but especially those with osteoporosis.
How does CBD help with osteoporosis?
CBD has an effect on the body due to working upon our internal endocannabinoid system. There are two receptors in the endocannabinoid system: CB1 and CB2. CBD works on both of these. A recent breakthrough revealed that CB2 receptors are present in bone tissue, predominantly in the bone-forming cells (osteoblasts) and the cells which reabsorb bone (osteoclasts). These receptors play a role in bone metabolism regulation, helping maintain the balance between osteoblasts and osteoclasts that ensure optimal bone health. With osteoporosis, this balance is impaired, causing loss of bone density.
CBD works upon these CB2 receptors, increasing the osteoblast count and activity, whilst also inhibiting osteoclasts. This stimulates the bone formation and prevents bone loss, helping the body maintain normal bone mass. As such, CBD should prove to work as an effective medication for osteoporosis.
Research into the suitability of CBD for osteoporosis
The scientific research carried out into the effectiveness of CBD as an osteoporosis prescription so far has had immensely positive results. Here are the details of a few:
- One study* used targeted inactivation of either the CB1 or CB2 receptors upon mice. With both groups, they found the mice had normal peak bone mass but suffered from age-related osteoporosis. These results show the cannabinoid receptors play an important role in bone remodeling.
- Another study* followed up the findings that cannabinoid receptors are involved with bone mass regulation by looking at the effects of THC and CBD on rat femurs. They found CBD increased the maximal loads and work-to-failure rate of the rat femurs. THC did not have the same positive effect. From this, they concluded CBD enhances the healing of femurs and strengthens them.
- In a preclinical trial, scientists created a synthetic CB2-specific agonist which affected the body in a very similar way to how CBD works. They found it rescues bone loss. From these results, they concluded that cannabinoid-based treatments should be used to combat osteoporosis.
Final Thoughts on CBD for Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is something which can really affect your life. With your bones being so fragile, you can become scared to even sneeze for fear of the damage you could do to yourself. Treatments are available to help with the disorder, but the science now suggests that CBD-based oils may be a good solution. The other most commonly used treatments all have more severe problems associated with them, but CBD seems to be the future.
There are fewer, less intense side effects with CBD, especially as THC is the active ingredient in cannabis that gets you “high,” not CBD. This compound works on receptors in the body that are naturally involved with ensuring you maintain a stable bone density.
If you or someone you care about is suffering from osteoporosis, why wouldn’t you try CBD? It is non-invasive, easy to use, and the research backs up its effectiveness.
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