Combating Osteopenia & Osteoporosis

August 5, 2014

A while back, adventure called my friend Kevin out to the tropical beaches of Phuket, Thailand. He had decided he wanted to train as a Muay Thai fighter, so he immersed himself in a world-class training camp nestled amongst the coconut palms and banana trees.

On his first day at training camp, Kevin quickly learned that the rumors were true. He watched his coaches whip their legs towards these palm and banana trees, striking their shins over and over and over with relentless force. Now it was his turn. He took a deep breath, fired himself up mentally, and slammed his shin into the tree. His eyes watered a bit, but he knew over time, not only would it not hurt anymore, but he would develop a weapon that would be worth the sacrifice.

Kevin and his coaches were engaging in an age-old practice of hardening their shin bones.  Just like a bodybuilder’s muscles grow stronger as a result of healing micro-tears in the muscle fibers from exercise, by constantly slamming their shins into these trees, their bones were adapting. Wolff’s Law is a theory that explains how bones become denser from micro-fractures. When a bone breaks, your body fills in the break with calcium. Muay Thai fighters cause micro-fractures in their bones that calcify and become denser and stronger over time.

Most people think that bones are dead structures that decay with age-- like wood siding on an aging house. Yet as Kevin learned the hard way in Thailand, bone is actually a living, constantly changing part of you. Just like muscle, bones can grow stronger or weaker, harden or soften.

About Osteopenia & Osteoporosis

Bone is living, growing tissue that is made out of:

  1. Calcium-phosphate mineral complexes: adds strength and hardens the framework
  2. Bone cells:  that replace weakened sections of bone
  3. Collagen: the main structural protein that’s known as the glue that holds the body together.


Healthy bones are necessary to maintain the body's structure, to be able to move your bodies, protect other organs, produce white and red blood cells, and to store minerals. Osteoporosis (and Osteopenia, pre-osteoporosis) is a disease that causes the bones to be extremely porous and can result in fractures.  Osteoporosis can also lead to curvature of the spine from vertebral collapse.  Maintaining strong, healthy bones is critical to your body's overall health.

Scott Camazine/Phototake, Alan Boyde/Visuals Unlimited,

Scott Camazine/Phototake, Alan Boyde/Visuals Unlimited,

World Health Organization (WHO) Definition of Osteoporosis Based on BMD

NormalWithin 1 SD of the mean level of young-adult reference populationT-score at -1.0 and above
Low Bone Mass (Osteopenia)Between 1.0 and 2.5 SD below that of the mean level for a young-adult reference populationT-score between -1.0 and -2.5
Osteoporosis2.5 SD or more below that of the mean level for a young-adult reference populationT-score at or below -2.5
Severe or Established Osteoporosis2.5 SD or more below that of the mean level for a young-adult reference populationT-score at or more -2.5 with one or more fractures
Note: Although these definitions are necessary to establish the presence of osteoporosis, they should not be used as the sole determinant of treatment.
Low bone mass. This means bone mass or bone mineral density is lower than normal, but not yet low enough to be considered osteoporosis. Pourous bone. A disease of the bones that happens when you lose too much bone, make too little bone or both. As a result, bones become weak and may break easily.

"Osteoporosis is often called a silent disease because bone loss occurs without symptoms. People may not know that they have osteoporosis until their bones become so weak that a sudden strain, bump, or fall causes a hip to fracture or a vertebra to collapse."--The National Institutes of Health Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases

Combating Osteopenia & Osteoporosis

Consciousness is key to successfully combating osteopenia and osteoporosis. When you develop a game plan focused around nutritional quality, weight bearing exercise, and proper supplementation, you can not only stop but reverse osteopenia.

Nutritional Quality is at the basis of combating osteoporosis/osteopenia as a WLS patient. Once you’ve made the decision to have surgery, your stomach can only handle a minute amount of food at a time. Therefore every nutrient counts! Avoid filler foods and empty calories from bread, pasta, and candy and focus on vitamin and mineral rich veggies and fruits and high protein foods that will help rebuild and repair both muscle and bone. Quality protein such as fish, lean beef, and whey protein combined with spinach, kale, broccoli, sweet potatoes and blueberries, will provide you minerals like Calcium, Magnesium, and Potassium and vitamins like Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and Vitamin K. When it comes to drinking, focus on alkalizing liquids like lemon water and limit if not avoid completely acidic drinks like alcohol, coffee, and energy drinks.

Weight Bearing Exercise is essential for WLS patients trying to combat Osteoporosis/Osteopenia. Your body adapts to any stress you put upon it. While you don’t need to be like Kevin and start kicking Banana trees in Thailand, you should start some weight bearing exercise right away. While many people say start with baby steps, I disagree. First, consult a physician and see what you are physically capable and allowed to do. If given full clearance, follow my motto, "Baby steps are for babies! Hit the ground running and don’t ever look back!” If you believe in yourself and know that you’re worth it, you’ll be shocked at what you can achieve. I’ve seen it countless times and know that if you’re reading this article, you believe in the power of the mind and that you can achieve the healthy body you’ve always wanted and deserve if you put your mind to it.

Proper Supplementation is the final piece of the puzzle. This is especially true in WLS patients. Due to poor quality soil, commercial farming, and no longer eating organic fruit fresh off the land, the mineral quantities in fruits and veggies are a fraction of what they used to be in the early 1900s. As a WLS patient, you’re no longer able to eat fruits and veggies in high quantities. Therefore, you must supplement vitamins and minerals throughout the day.

Osteopenia and osteoporosis may be commonplace amongst WLS patients, but you can be the exception to the rule. Fight against this phenomenon by eating nutrient rich foods, partaking in weight bearing exercise, and supplementing with high quality vitamins and minerals throughout the day. It sure beats the alternative of repeatedly kicking a banana tree to rebuild strong bones!


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Bone Health and Osteoporosis: A Report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General, 2004. 

WHO Technical Report Series. Prevention and Management of Osteoporosis, Geneva, World Health Organization, 2003.



Kyle Brown BA, CCN founder of FIT 365® shakes, owner of Strive 4 Fitness, and creator of Real Celebrity Fitness. Voted San Diego’s Best Personal Trainer 2010 and 2011 by The San Diego Union Tribune, National finalist in 2013 for Personal Fitness Professional magazine’s Trainer Of The Year and is the Nutrition advisor for the Cardiovascular Disease Foundation.

Read more articles by Kyle Brown!