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April 14, 2022
12 Tips to Strengthen Your Bones (None of Them Are Dairy)
Over the course of a lifetime, as many as one in three women will experience an osteoporosis-related bone fracture (1).
More than 200 million people are estimated to be living with osteoporosis at this very moment.
But here’s the rub: Osteoporosis typically has no symptoms until you experience a fracture. You might not even know that you have it.
While these numbers don’t sound great, they’re not a reason for panic. For starters, you’re not alone…
This is a concern for every woman who is experiencing or about to experience menopause. Luckily, there’s a whole lot you can do to strengthen your bones and help prevent osteoporosis….but it’s probably not what you think.
Menopause and Bone Loss Go Hand in Hand
As we age, we develop a higher risk of osteoporosis, in which the bones get weaker and brittle.
Around 35 years old, we start losing bone density faster than our body can produce it (2). With that in mind, it’s important to keep tabs on your bone health throughout your life—but this becomes especially important in menopause.
During menopause, your body loses estrogen, which plays an important role in keeping your bones dense. In the US, by the time women reach age 65, one in four are experiencing osteoporosis.
So it’s clear that strengthening our bones is vital—but how? First things first: Milk is NOT the answer.
Why Milk Is Not Going to Rescue You
We’ve all heard the cliche about milk and strong bones…
It’s usually the first thing people reach for when they’re worried about their bone health.
But milk isn’t the bone-boosting sensation we once thought it was…
Science hasn’t actually found milk to reduce the risk of bone fractures (3). In fact, milk may even increase your risk of fractures (4)! And get this: Nations with lower dietary intakes of dairy and calcium experience lower rates of osteoporosis (5).
Dairy has long been touted for its high calcium content, but studies have found that supplementing with calcium has shown no impact in curbing the risk of bone fracture (6). Calcium has other health benefits, like helping your heart and nerves function properly, so it’s beneficial to make it part of your diet. But when it comes to bone health, you can leave milk in the fridge.
So without dairy, how can you strengthen your bones? Here’s what to do…
12 Dairy-Free Ways to Naturally Strengthen Your Bones
If you received a low T-score on your DEXA scan, fear not. Osteopenia and osteoporosis are, in fact, reversible. Read on to get 12 bone-boosting tips that you can implement as soon as today.
1. Switch from Dairy to Collagen for Bones
Instead of supplementing with calcium (or drinking your weight in milk), make collagen a part of your daily routine.
Your bones are primarily made of collagen, but as the body ages, the amount of collagen in your system steadily decreases (7). As the literal building block of your bones, a decrease in collagen poses an osteoporosis risk.
You can mix collagen with your coffee or tea, blend it into your smoothie, or bake with it. Some women like to drink it first thing in the morning, while others like to sip on collagen before sleep.
It doesn’t matter how you take it, just that you stick with it. When you do, you’ll be on your way to better bone health than a glass of milk could ever offer!
2. Take Up Weight-Bearing Exercise
Exercise is integral to keeping your bones strong, but it’s all about doing the right kind of exercise. Some forms of fitness can actually pose a greater risk to your bones.
There are a few different types of workouts that can protect your bones, and weight-bearing exercise is one of them.
A weight-bearing aerobic exercise is any type of workout that involves working against gravity. This helps protect the bones in your legs, hips, and spine from density loss (10).
Walking, hiking, dance class, working in your garden, and hitting the tennis court all fit the bill. If you like to going the gym, look to the stair climbing machine, racquetball, or jumping rope to get a high-impact weight-bearing workout in.
3. Start Resistance Training
Weights, resistance bands, and bodyweight workouts keep your bones strong while strengthening your muscles and improving your posture, too.
These workouts are about so much more than just lifting weights at the gym. They help you build strength for everyday movements like gardening, picking up grandkids, and carrying groceries or the laundry.
If you’re new to strength training, start by talking to a personal trainer who can help you learn proper form and show you what moves to avoid.
4. Get in Balance
Avoiding fractures means staying grounded on your own two feet. Tripping and falling is the last thing you want for your bones.
To stay steady even in the most precarious moments, build stability and balance exercises into your routine (10). These moves can be as simple as practicing safely standing on one leg at a time, or as robust and rewarding as practicing tai chi.
5. Make Time to Stretch
Keep your muscles (and in turn, your bones), flexible and happy with regular stretching. You want your joints and muscles to stay familiar with their entire range of motion.
The best time for stretches is once you’re already warmed up. You could squeeze them in after a workout or at the end of a walk. Consider avoiding stretches that require bending too sharply at the waist or flexing your spine, as that could put your bones at risk. Talk to a doctor if you have any questions.
6. Get the Quality Sleep You Deserve
Among the many health benefits of quality sleep is its ability to help protect your bones. A short night’s sleep is associated with decreased bone mineral density, as well as an increased risk of osteoporosis (11). Getting a proper snooze each night is paramount.
Of course, deep sleep isn’t always easy, especially in menopause. According to a 2017 study, women going through menopause are more likely to be sleep-deprived than women who are not. This includes trouble falling asleep, getting less than 7 hours per night of rest, and waking up feeling under-rested more than half the week (12).
One way to combine two healthy bone habits—collagen and great sleep—is to take your collagen at night as part of a before-bed drink.
Collagen PM, one of our most popular products, does exactly that! It offers a blend of collagen and several sleep-boosting ingredients: GABA, melatonin, magnesium, and l-theanine. When you’re getting the sleep you need, your bones can get the protection they need.
7. Make Vitamin D Your Best Friend
However, vitamin D deficiency is shockingly common, with experts predicting it could impact as much as one-eighth of the entire global population (14). But the good news is that it’s relatively simple to make sure you’re getting enough.
Get outside for 10 to 30 minutes as many days as you can to soak up those vitamin D rays (don’t forget your sunscreen!), and consider adding a quality vitamin D3 supplement to your routine. Women over 50 should strive to get at least 800 IU of vitamin D3 each day, so be sure to read the dosage on the label of any supplements (15).
Tip: When purchasing a vitamin D3 supplement, make sure it has K2 in it as well. When both D3 and K2 are combined together, bone mineral density increases significantly (16).
8. Downsize Your Drinking
Research has found that chronic heavy drinking during your teen years and young adulthood can increase your risk of osteoporosis later in life (17).
No one can change the past—and don’t feel like you should, either! Regret only stifles your joy in the present.
Still, this connection between alcohol and osteoporosis is important, because it gives an idea of what excessive drinking during menopause could do to our bones as well. Heavy alcohol consumption can decrease bone density and increase your odds of fractures (17). On the plus side, research has indicated that heavy drinkers who curb the habit may experience a relatively quick increase in bone health (18).
That doesn’t mean it’s time to ditch the wine and dirty martinis altogether. It’s all about balance. Guidelines suggest sticking to about one to two drinks per day (19).
9. Avoid Smoking
Nicotine interferes with and slows your bones’ ability to heal themselves (20).
Studies have also linked smoking to a loss of bone density and a higher risk of fracture (21). This is especially true when smoking is accompanied by an unhealthy diet, limited exercise, and being underweight.
If you don’t smoke, great! If you do smoke, and you’re ready to quit, take things one step at a time. Along the way, focus on eating a nutrient-dense diet and getting regular exercise to keep yourself healthy in the process.
10. Increase Your Magnesium Intake
Magnesium occurs naturally in the body, but many women experience a deficiency as they age and choose to take a regular magnesium supplement. Consuming high amounts of magnesium is linked to higher bone density (23).
If you’d like to add magnesium to your regular routine, you can take it at the same time as your collagen with our sleepytime Collagen PM blend. Collagen PM includes 10 grams of collagen and 10 milligrams of magnesium to deliver better bone health and a great night’s sleep.
11. Eat More Omega-3 Fatty Acids
(In case you were curious, the study also found that the acids may preserve bone density in space….)
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in some of the tastiest foods out there, like salmon, mackerel, avocados, and many rich nuts. Sprinkle these foods throughout your day to reap the benefits. You can also supplement with krill oil—another type of omega-3 bursting with health benefits: Improved mood, reduced inflammation, enhanced cognition, and more.
12. Stock Up on Veggies Rich in Vitamin K
Vitamin K helps the body create proteins that play a role in the building of your bones. Multiple studies have linked low vitamin K intake to low bone density and higher fracture risk (25).
To combat this, load up on leafy green veggies that are rich in this vitamin (think: kale, Swiss chard, romaine, spinach, parsley, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli). Your salads will thank you!
In addition to this, you can supplement with a vitamin D3 + K2 supplement to reap the same benefits with just one dropperful a day.
The Bottom Line
There are plenty of ways to boost your bone health. But dairy isn’t one of them.
Instead, research suggests switching to collagen as your first line of defense against osteoporosis. Make bone protection a part of your daily routine by supplementing with collagen, fitting in bone-protective workouts, and building bone-friendly habits.
As a writer, editor, and wellness seeker, Claire has written for Self, Health, Prevention, CNN, Mic, Livestrong, and Greatist, just to name a few. When she's not writing, she specializes in traveling, getting lost in health-related research rabbit holes, and finding new ways to spoil her cat.
This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.