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Beyond Stress: Exploring Cortisol's Role in Bone Strength

Did you know that osteoporosis and low bone mass affect approximately 54 million Americans over the age of 50 (men and women combined)? That's a staggering majority of the population in that age group, which is why problems associated with low bone mass are now said to be a “major public health threat.” It is also why finding natural osteoporosis options is so important.

Today, I want to explain the often-overlooked relationship between cortisol and its impact on our bone health.

Our bodies are incredibly complex and interconnected, which we sometimes forget and while it might not be immediately apparent, cortisol—commonly known as the stress hormone—affects more than just our mental well-being. It plays a critical role in both building new bone and breaking down existing bone tissue. As we navigate aging, understanding how cortisol levels influence bone health becomes increasingly important and a heightened awareness of the need to support bone density and strength. By understanding the mechanisms through which cortisol impacts bone health, we can empower ourselves and those around us to adopt strategies to help mitigate stressors and support the integrity of our skeletal system, which given the statistics above, we must begin doing today! 

Cortisol plays a complex role in bone health. In moderate levels, cortisol is essential for various bodily functions, including metabolism regulation, immune response, and the maintenance of blood pressure. However, chronically elevated levels of cortisol can have detrimental effects on bone health.

5 Ways Cortisol Affects Bone Health:

Bone Formation Inhibition: 

Chronic exposure to high levels of cortisol can inhibit the activity of osteoblasts, the cells responsible for building new bone tissue. This inhibition leads to decreased bone formation and can contribute to bone loss and increased fracture risk.

Increased Bone Resorption:

Cortisol stimulates the activity of osteoclasts, cells responsible for breaking down bone tissue in a process known as bone resorption. Excessive bone resorption can lead to decreased bone density and strength, increasing the risk of fractures.

Calcium Regulation: 

Cortisol influences the regulation of calcium levels in the body. It promotes the release of calcium from bones into the bloodstream, which can lead to bone demineralization if not balanced by adequate calcium intake as well as other minerals that help with bone formation.

Inflammation and Immune Response: 

Cortisol has anti-inflammatory properties and is involved in regulating the immune response. But, chronic inflammation and immune system dysregulation can contribute to bone loss and impaired bone healing.

Impact of Stress: 

Cortisol levels can rise significantly in response to stress. Chronic stress can therefore indirectly impact bone health through sustained elevation of cortisol levels. As long as your body remains in a state of chronic stress—with elevated cortisol levels—bone formation is disrupted. Without the opportunity for adequate rest and repair, the body simply cannot keep up with the bone-building process.

Bone loss is a silent condition—it has no symptoms and occurs slowly over many years. But, this silent condition has serious repercussions, namely fractures. If you want to take care of your bones— and your health—start by reducing your stress.

While cortisol is essential for various physiological functions, chronically elevated levels can have negative effects on bone health by inhibiting bone formation, increasing bone resorption, and altering calcium metabolism. 

There is no denying, managing stress is not only very important for the health of our bodies, but also for our bones, finding ways to reduce stress will be different for everyone, as well as digging into the hidden stressors that many have, such as gut infections, blood sugar issues, being overweight, high blood pressure, anemia(s), nutritional deficiencies, toxin exposure, etc. What we can do is find ways to reduce our bodies release of cortisol, but also incorporate natural ways to support bone formation through diet, exercise and other lifestyle modifications, which I will address in another post. Stay tuned.

If you know someone who could benefit from this information, please pass along. I always say, Knowledge Is Power!

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