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Hearing about stress hardly ever seems to calm anyone down. It’s the wearisome, unintended reverse-psychology that works just as effectively as the words “don’t panic!” which, inevitably, you do. It can be something of a killjoy, but you don’t have to make things worse for yourself. Whilst it is certain that stress can affect your bones, there are small, sweet and simple ways of reducing those effects so that the dilemma of thinning bones does not have to be as big and terrifying as it seems.
The case of cortisol shows that stress gradually thins out the bone density – cortisol is the measurement of mineral matter per square centimetre in bones. According to Dr. Pradeep Bhonsle, stressing out is a sure sign that your body will feel the blow, in which osteoblasts – cell regeneration for your bones – will be affected as new bone tissue replaces and breaks down the old.
Dr Bhonsle advises, “Your bone density is determined by the rate at which these cells work. Under stress, our adrenal glands increase the production of cortisol. Cortisol, known as the ‘stress hormone’ as it’s released by the body in response to stress, can decrease bone density by inhibiting the bone-building osteoblasts.” With decreased osteoblast activity, the body ends up with more broken down bone tissue than deposited, causing low bone density and eventually osteoporosis. Interestingly, America which figures among the countries with the highest calcium intake, also has one of the highest rates of osteoporosis. The solution, health experts say, doesn’t lie in getting more calcium, but excreting less of it. When you face stress, you lose calcium through urine. Dr Bhonsle adds, “More cortisol leads to a dip in calcium absorption and a spike in its excretion.”
Acidic foods can also hamper your body’s absorption of calcium. We’re always told that sugary or fizzy foods are bad for our digestive systems, as well as for our teeth. Stress is the fizzy substance for our bones, no matter how nutritious or benefiting our diets are. Erratic timing with diet and junk foods, which, let’s face it, aren’t good for you anyway, as well as multitasking on phones or working, can hinder digestion as you bustle about doing too much at once.
“Stress causes acidity which impedes optimal digestion of food. This acidity also hampers mineral metabolism which is vital for bone health. In fact, without proper absorption of these minerals, even a very nutritious diet is of no use to your bones,” Dr. Bhonsle says.
It almost goes without saying that stress can cause depression. Studies have found that those suffering from depression also had a lower bone density, which meant that bones were thinner and prone to breakages. The condition causes a sympathetic reaction in the nervous system to boost a chemical that stops osteoblasts, which means that your body can’t properly renew the cellular structure of your bones. It’s okay to find help – when it comes to depression, you aren’t alone. It’s all right to ask for guidance.
If this all sounds like a horror story, then the fact of the matter is that it doesn’t have to be. You are only human and stress will affect you at some time or another – but you’re also allowed to sit back and relax every once in a while. The risks of osteoporosis (when the bones become brittle) don’t have to be yours – grab a healthy diet full of vitamin D and calcium and reduce the risks whenever possible.
Have a go – you deserve it.