Get to know your thyroid… it matters to your bones.
Our Parathyroid and Thyroid glands are important for bone health. They work as a team to help regulate the balance of calcium in your body. The balance I am referring to is the balance of calcium in your bones, the calcium in your blood and the calcium you excrete.
If your PTH is overactive (hyperparathyroidism) your body will experience a greater increase of bone breakdown. This can lead to states of osteopenia as well as osteoporosis. Make sure your health care practitioner tests your PTH levels if you are experiencing bone loss.
Your thyroid gland is also important in your bone health. Your thyroid gland produces the hormone calcitonin. This hormone acts to counterbalance your PTH signals that breaks down bone. Calcitonin stimulates the kidneys to increase absorption of calcium from the blood and stimulate the bones. If you have a slow sluggish thyroid (hypothyroidism) this can effect the quality of your bone. A low functioning thyroid can have these symptoms: dry brittle nails and hair, hair loss, dry skin, elevated cholesterol, brain fog, fatigue, inability to lose weight, weight gain, muscle and joint pain. Exercise can help stimulate your thyroid. So make sure you are moving your body. An over active thyroid (hyperthyroidism) is less common than its counterpart hypothyroidism but is also linked to bone loss. Some symptoms of an over active thyroid are insomnia, weight loss, increased appetite, heart palpitations and diarrhea.
Both the PTH and the thyroid need to work together to maintain balance in the calcium blood levels. Both stress and inflammation can affect these glands. Stress causes your body to lose magnesium. Low levels of magnesium and chronic inflammation can both trigger PTH activity resulting in bone being broken down.
Our bodies are amazing machines but our lifestyle choices can at times overwhelm the systems in our bodies causing imbalances. Get to know your thyroid and parathyroid in your body as they play a crucial role in your bone health and work with your health care practitioner to check them.
Yoga is a great tool for exercise to stimulate the thyroid and is also helpful in reducing stress and inflammation to help maintain balance in your body.
I have two upcoming workshops, one in November and one in January. Check the “workshop section” on my website.
Live better in your body!
Nutrition matters to your bone health.
Exercise is not the only thing that is important for bone health. Our bodies are equipped with amazing systems that are designed to maintain homiostatius in the body.
For example, when calcium levels in the blood get low it sets off reactions elsewhere in the body. If your calcium blood levels get low, the parathyroid signals the osteoclasts to release calcium from the bones and the kidney is signaled to reclaim more calcium before it is excreted out of the body.
But calcium is not the whole picture to bone health.
Our bodies gather the nutrients it needs when making new bone. 18 essential elements are responsible for bone health. They include the minerals; Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Zinc, Manganese, Copper, Boron, Silica and Flouride. In addition are the vitamins; D, C, A, B6, B12, K as well as Folic acid, essential fatty acids and protein.
All of these play a part in the health of your bone. Just as the levels of your calcium are important so are these other elements, for instance without Vit. D your body can not absorb Calcium. Vitamin K is important in bone formation and also has a roll in fracture healing. MK4 and MK7 are 2 forms of K. Both help to clear calcium from arteries and joints and deposit calcium in bone matrix. If you have been on a long time use of antibiotics for gut health reasons this can sometimes result in a Vit. K deficiency. Good sources of K can been found in dark green leafy vegetables. If you are on a blood thinner speak to your doctor first.
I bet your next question is…
Well how much should I have of each of the essential elements?
I am not a nutritionist nor your doctor so it would NOT be prudent of me to try and give you an amount. All of our bodies and diets are different. Awareness needs to begin somewhere and my intention is to help you start a conversation with your practitioner regarding these important elements that support your bones. We can do Warrior 1 all day long but if we are deficient in the minerals or vitamins we need we may not see our density change and it could get worse.
Once you have determined with your doctor what amounts of each are beneficial for your situation, I encourage you to look for those in your food sources. With just a bit of awareness we can at least meet our bodies half way and ingest foods that will be sustaining and nourishing as we try to get the maximum from food. Did you know Mung beans are high in Vitamin K, C, B, phosphorous, and iron? They are also are beneficial for gut bacteria. Mung beans have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and they are a staple in the Indian diet. I include them in my diet as well.
This brings us to my last point today which is gut health. You could have eaten or taken supplements for your bones but if your gut health is not supporting your body you may not be absorbing adequate amounts of what you are ingesting. If you have bloating, gas or a change in your stools bring this up with your healthcare practitioner.
This may seem overwhelming and I agree it can be in the beginning. You may just want to go back to your “easy” but if you are trying to improve the quality of your health and well being, nutrition is an important factor in your vitality and longevity. Support your body off the yoga mat with a diet geared toward your bone health and you will be more successful in reaching change in the density of your bones.
Hope to see you on your mat.
Bones build slowly.
When I first enrolled in Loren Fishman’s “Yoga vs. Osteoporosis” study and learned that there were 12 poses to practice every day my first reaction was that shouldn’t be a problem. I came to learn it takes commitment to not let other things get in the way of your practice. We were required to log in and report on our practice every day; the pose we did and the level which we practiced. Dr. Fishman made it clear the hope was that you would practice EVERY day. Yes, there were days that I didn’t get to my practice but I came to think of the 12 poses as my “pill” or “dose of medicine”. For me having that mindset helped me step onto my mat even when I felt too tired. When you practice the same poses every day it is much easier to notice the subtle shifts in your practice.
Bones build slowly. In our world of “fix it easy and fix it fast” this can be frustrating. But if you do the “work” I believe you will feel this profound shift. Practicing yoga for bone strength is a great way to have a reason to stay dedicated to your practice: keep your muscles long and strong, tune your balance, help keep your posture tall and become more familiar with yourself. ALL of which are important for bone loss. And, along the way, you may also experience greater bone density. The benefits come with a consistent and frequent practice. Practicing once a week is good but practicing 6-7 days a week you will experience the benefits that much faster.
It can be overwhelming to think you have to roll out your mat at home and try and remember the 12 poses. Instead try incorporating 2-3 poses every day. Once those get to be routine then add a few more. The original set of 12 poses is a full and complete practice so when you commit them to memory you can practice on your own knowing that you will get a full practice.
Just starting a home practice…
Try committing to tree pose, triangle pose and one of the seated twists every day along with savasana. This could be your 10 minute practice.
Bone strength classes provide that sense of community, an opportunity to experience alignment instruction and encouragement to hold the pose a bit longer. I teach Bone Strength classes two times a week.
Tuesday at 12:30-1:45; Be the Change Yoga in Irvine
Wednesday at 1:30-2:40; YogaWorks in Mission Viejo
Hope to see you on your mat!
Next month I will be shedding light onto the complexities of the bone building process.
Many of us are eager to build bone when we learn we have bone loss. Do you fall into this category? I do, and I understand a desire for a quick and easy fix.
Bones are different. Bones are living tissue and have the ability to regenerate but it is a slow process. Have you ever broken a bone? It takes anywhere from 6-12 weeks to heal and building back bone density is no exception either. While medications may be helpful for some they still do not provide some crucial things that yoga provides. Here are three benefits in addition to building density that practicing yoga can offer.
1. Balance is important especially for someone with bone loss. Falling is the number one cause for fracture. While many osteoporosis drugs appear to increase your bone density they don’t do anything for your balance. Studies show that a person who is taking over 4 medications has a greater risk of falling due to side effects. Yoga will help to improve your balance. Yoga helps to maintain or increase range of motion, strengthen your legs and muscles and keep flexibility in the ankles.
2. Yoga can help regulate your stress levels. When we stay in a heightened alert or stressful environment our body releases a stress hormone called cortisol. While this is an important hormone having too much of it for a prolonged period creates an acidic environment. This acidic environment is bad for the health of your bones. Yoga has been shown to help reduce stress through movement, breathing practices and meditation.
3. Better posture. Many of us develop poor postural habits from time spent on computers, cell phones and driving our cars. This can cause forward head posture that puts a tremendous amount of pressure on your spine. Your posture is linked to heart health, breathing, depression and balance. Good posture is important for reducing the wear and tear on your joints and is crucial if you have bone loss in your spine.
Evidence based studies show that yoga is beneficial for some people in increasing their bone density. But keep in mind your practice is much more than a bone density score. Your yoga practice is helping to improve your balance, decrease your stress and improve your posture; all important when living with bone loss. Lastly, consistency in your practice matters for those slow growing bones. More on this next month…
Live strong and at ease in your body!
Yoga for Posture Improvement: Hyperkyphosis Carries Similar Risks as Osteoporosis, Research Finds
Eva Norlyk Smith, Ph.D., C-IAYT
If you’re over 40, or spend a lot of time hunched over your cell phone or computer, chances are that your posture is starting to look increasingly like the person in the image above.
We all know that poor posture isn’t flattering. However, in reality, posture affects our health and well-being in numerous ways. And one particular posture problem, has significant impact on our longterm health and wellbeing, and medical science is just starting to catch on to this fact.
Here is the one of the posture problems you rarely hear about, but which is well worth paying attention to:
We are talking about forward head posture and it’s more advanced relative, hyperkyphosis. You may have heard of the new concept of ‘text neck’– which is essentially forward head posture, where our head is forward of the center. In its more advanced stages, forward head posture may develop into hyperkyphosis.
And, hyperkyphosis, as we shall see, is the precursor of pretty much any age-related condition you don’twant to have.
New Research Finds that Hyperkyphosis Presents Same Health Risks as Osteoporosis
What is hyperkyphosis and why should you care? In the last few decades, researchers have become increasingly interested in the health effects of a hyperkyphotic posture in older people. And, what they are discovering is pretty remarkable.
You’ve heard about osteoporosis and how important it is to prevent osteoporosis-related loss of bone mass to avoid fractures as you get older. But here’s what you probably haven’t heard: A slumped forward posture—if allowed to mature into the full-fledged hyperkyphosis of old age—puts you at risk for the exact same issues as osteoporosis.
Yes, you heard that right – hyperkyphosis is a risk factor for the same problems as osteoporosis, including greater risk for vertebral fractures, greater risk of falls and fall-related fractures. And, not only that—it is a contributing factor to a host of other health issues as well.
People with hyperkyphosis are more likely to have difficulty performing simple daily tasks like bathing and washing themselves. They are also more likely to fall and hurt themselves. And all of this, unfortunately, paves the road to the nursing home.
Hyperkyphosis has also been found to be a risk factor for fractures of the hip, leg, wrist, shoulder, and arm. The risk is greater the more hunched the back is. This risk is independent of bone mass density, which suggests that hyperkyphosisis a separate risk factor for suffering fractures, on par with osteoporosis.
It doesn’t stop there, however. When a person is constantly stooped forward, it puts tremendous pressure on the chest and lung cavity. This in turns restricts breathing capacity or creates shortness of breath. The breath is the source of vital, life-giving oxygen to all the cells of the body. In the elderly, shortness of breath leads to a host of health issues, including increased anxiety and depression, reduced happiness, and, again, reduced ability to undertake normal daily functions.
Some researchers claim that shortness of breath is a main factor of general health deterioration in elderly. Apart from making a person feel miserable, shortness of breath also undermines the body’s vital functions. The elderly who suffer from moderate to severe shortness of breath are more likely to die from cardiovascular or lung disease.
With all of this going on, it’s not a surprise that people with hyperkyphosis die earlier than their peers. Studies have shown that older men and women with a forward-hunched posture have higher death rates; in one study they had a 44 percent greater rate of mortality.
So why haven’t you heard about this before? Until recently, hyperkyphosis has been flying under the medical radar, because it was assumed that it was caused by osteoporosis. Doctors believed that it resulted from tiny fractures of the vertebrae, which in turn caused the spine to collapse forward into a dowager’s hump.
However, recent research shows that hyperkyphosis often develops without vertebral fractures. In fact, about two-thirds of older people with hyperkyphosis don’t have any fractures of the spine.
It’s really only in the last ten years or so that medical researchers have started to label hyperkyphosis as an independent medical condition. And while there’s a growing number of studies coming out on hyperkyphosis and its effects, it’s still not a condition we read about very much in the everyday media. Unlike osteoporosis, it’s not something that your doctor will check out for you when you go to your regular physical.
However, there’s every bit as much reason to prevent hyperkyphosis as there is to prevent osteoporosis, because it has many of the same negative consequences on our long-term health.
You may be young or middle aged with no signs of osteoporosis or hyperkyphosis. So why should you worry about this issue at this point in your life? So why should you care?
Well, you should care because the body takes its shape over years. The foundation of hyperkyphosis and other posture problems is laid decades before it becomes a visible problem. So the time to focus on preventing hyperkyphosis is not when you’re 70 or 80 years old and have developed some degree of the condition.
It’s never too late to change your posture, but the older you get, the more you have to swim upstream. So the best time to improve your posture and prevent hyperkyphosis from developing is when you’re in your forties, fifties, and sixties. Hyperkyphosis isn’t an either or. It’s a subclinical condition long before it turns into a Dowager’s Hump.
Hyperkyphosis vs. Osteoporosis—Different Conditions, Similar Effects
The reason that we haven’t heard more about the health issues linked to hyperkyphosis is that has traditionally been thought to something that developed as a result of vertebral fractures caused by osteoporosis.
If you take a look at this picture, you’ll see the wedge fractures of the spine marked in red. Those are the kinds of fractures that people with osteoporosis are at risk for getting. You can imagine if one or two of the vertebrae collapsed forward like that with several wedge fractures, that it will cause the thoracic spine to cave in on itself and create a more collapsed, hyperkyphotic structure. So, treatment efforts generally have focused on preventing osteoporosis to avoid vertebral fractures and prevent the Dowager’s Hump of hyperkyphosis.
That really changed in 2004. In 2004, a groundbreaking study came out, which was the first to show that increased kyphosis does not necessarily result from vertebral fractures. In other words, hyperkyphosis of the spine is not identical with osteoporotic fractures.
Another study, which looked at almost six hundred women between the ages of 47 to 92 over four years found that\ hyperkyphotic posture itself may be an important risk factor for fractures independent of low bone mass density or fracture history.
The increased risk of people in this study was 70% increased risk of future fracture (of any type) independent of age or prior fracture. The greater the hyperkyphosis, the greater the risk.
Why are people with hyperkyphosis at increased risk for fractures? Well, one reason is that they are more likely to lose their balance and fall. First of all, you can’t see very well and orient yourself to the environment very well if you’re constantly hunched over.
Also, the range of motion of the spine is severely reduced in people with hyperkyphosis. So if they fall, it’s harder to catch themselves, and they just kind of tumble over.
The other health consequence of hyperkyphosis is decreased mobility. People have more difficulty bathing and washing themselves. They have lower scores on what’s called the Timed Up and Go Test, which measures how quickly people get up from a chair, walk ten steps, go back, and sit down. This test is a very reliable predictor for general mobility in older people.
Wendy Katzman, a P.T. at UC SF, who is a leading researcher in this area, notes that this kind of decreased mobility is associated with advancing age, muscle weakness, low bone density, and a history of vertebral fractures. However, distinct from previous studies, she found that hyperkyphosis is a significant contributor to mobility impairment, independent of underlying low bone density and vertebral fractures that often are assumed to be causative factors of ill health. So again, hyperkyphosis has many of the same health consequences that we work so hard to prevent in people with osteoporosis, but no one is paying attention to this condition.
One of the issues of osteoporosis is that 25% of people who have a hip fracture end up in a nursing home within a couple of years. They lose mobility, and they become unable to take care of themselves. Here again, Wendy Katzman points out you have the same issue with hyperkyphosis and it really should be attended to in the same way as we are concerned about osteoporosis.
Why Is No One Paying Attention to the Health Risks Linked to Hyperkyphosis?
We spend a lot of money in our society on tests for low bone mass density and drugs to increase bone mass. But of course, the real risk of osteoporosis is not low bone mass. It is really fractures.
As recent studies show, hyperkyphosis is a separate risk factor for fracturess. However, so far, it has pretty much has been falling under the doctors’ radar. No one checks you for risk of developing hyperkyphosis when you go for your physical. But if older people with hyperkyphosis really are at a 70% greater risk for fractures, this really is a health issue that should not be ignored.
There is growing awareness in society of the health issues linked to forward head posture and hyperkyphosis. However, the medical establishment has little to offer for the condition, both by way of prevention and treatmnet. So not surprisingly, there is growing interest in alternative approaches to improving posture, including yoga. Pilot studies have documented the benefits of yoga for hyperkyphosis, and this is an area of research that we can expect growing interest in in the future.
The benefits of yoga are vast however, if you don’t practice they will elude you. Have you ever wanted a daily practice but just couldn’t get to the studio every day due to time constraints or cost? One of the best motivating factors I found was entering into a medical study.
In 2014 I joined a medical research study. At the time I was just thinking “how nobel it seemed to help advance medicine” but as it turned out it was so much more than that. I found my dedication to my practice heightened. Of course there were days here and there that I missed but having to record and keep track of my practice motivated me to practice. I knew someone was going to look at my “score card”. The study I entered was Dr. Loren Fishman’s study on yoga and bone strength. He had people participating all over the world and the study spanned a 10 year period. We did the same 12 poses each day to see if there were changes in our bone density.
Bone density is measured with a Dexa scan, a very simple procedure usually done after you turn 50 and every two years afterwards. The two year span on the test is not because there is a lot of radiation exposure, on the contrary, but because bone are slow to change. This study has since closed and it did show positive data on yoga increasing bone density. Dr. Loren Fishman has started a new study as of the fall of 2016. This new study will be measuring a little more closely the amount of time each pose is held as well as the intensity level of each pose.
Would you like a nice well rounded and accessible yoga practice and motivation to practice on your own? Join the study. As we age we all will loose some bone mass, some of us more than others. Take part in your continuing health. Start a practice that can help keep your bones dense, can help with your strength and balance and can reduce stress. In 2017 I am offering workshops at several studios to introduce you to the 12 poses as well as explain the “whys” behind them. I also cover in the workshop safe range of motion for someone with bone loss. Yoga has exploded in America over the last several years. I believe it is accessible to everyone but not all poses are good for everyone. We must learn to practice with the bodies and conditions we have in this very moment and because of this I cover safe yoga for someone with bone loss. I am also doing follow-up classes after the workshops. If you are enrolled in the study you will need to practice with a certified Loren Fishman person 2x/month. This will help ensure the accuracy in the data for the study.
Maybe this is just what your yoga practice needs…or maybe it is just what your bones need? Come help support a healthy aging process and lets do some yoga together. Contact Dr. Fishman at http://www.sciatica.org or myself for more information.
Wellness enthusiasts have long known the healing benefits of yoga. However, the popularity of this ancient practice is now growing among today’s mainstream, especially doctors. Today, there is a rise in doctor-prescribed yoga therapy, even among Western-trained doctors.
So what is yoga therapy? Why is it a growing trend? Will yoga therapy help patients feel better? Here is some insight.
What is Yoga Therapy?
Yoga therapy involves a variety of practices that can help ease a natural process or improve a health condition. Some of the therapeutic tools that are used are breathing exercises, physical postures, guided imagery and meditation. Diet is also considered part of yoga therapy.
While regular yoga, depending on the type, can be fast-paced and physically demanding, yoga therapy serves as a safe, gentler alternative. It is led by yoga teachers who are specially trained to work with patients suffering from various health conditions. Just as each patient is different, the styles and formats of yoga therapy also differ greatly. They can vary from small therapeutic classes and one-on-one sessions to chair yoga in nursing homes and hospitals.
Yoga therapy takes a more holistic approach to healing, focusing on patients as a whole instead of just on their conditions. The practice simultaneously works on the body, mind, and spirit, strengthening the body’s different systems. These include the heart and cardiovascular system, muscles, the lungs, as well as the body’s nervous system.
Individuals may suffer from multiple conditions at once, so yoga therapy can be a multi-purpose form of healing. Yoga practices can simultaneously improve digestive system function, nurture psychological well-being, and enhance delivery of oxygen to the body’s tissues. Yoga also can assist the body to more effectively remove carcinogens, waste products and toxins.
Why Is It a Growing Trend?
Yoga therapy is still considered to be a new professional field. However, it is now recognized worldwide as a clinically viable treatment. There are established yoga therapy programs at major health care centers and clinics around the United States. It is increasingly being used regularly in health care facilities and hospitals. As more and more physicians see that yoga therapy helps their patients feel better, it is increasingly becoming a component of medical care.
For the last 12 years, the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT), which has over 3,400 individual members from 48 countries, has worked hard to establish yoga as an esteemed and recognized therapy in the West. It has published an annual peer-reviewed medical journal, presented at academic research conferences, and received an NIH grant to create rigorous yoga therapy certification standards. It is now accrediting training programs and beginning to certify therapist graduates.
The IAYT database of yoga-therapy training programs has grown from five in 2003 to more than 130 schools worldwide today. These include 24 arduous multi-year programs that have been recently accredited by IAYT; there are an additional 20 still under review. As of 2015, most IAYT yoga-therapy practitioners work in hospital settings, while others work in outpatient clinics or physical therapy, oncology, or rehabilitation departments as well as in private practice.
Clinical research is partly responsible for the growing acceptance of yoga therapy in the health care sector. A growing body of research documents the proven benefits of yoga when using it to treat a wide range of health conditions, including anxiety, back pain, insomnia and depression. It is also proven to help reduce risk factors for hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Research also shows that yoga therapy has been successful in alleviating the side effects of cancer treatment. Some patients who have practiced yoga while undergoing radiation therapy have reported lower levels of fatigue, stress and a better quality of life.
Is Yoga Therapy Effective?
Yoga therapy has been proven to be a particularly effective way to reduce stress. This is good news for most people in the West, who encounter high levels of stress on a daily basis. Stress has been known to cause or contribute to varying medical problems, ranging from irritable bowel syndrome, migraine headaches and potentially life-threatening conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis.
When combined with other types of health care, whether alternative or conventional, yoga therapy has proven to be particularly effective, especially in healing chronic ailments. For instance, studies show that in addition to reducing the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatments for cancer patients, yoga therapy can also enable faster recovery after bypass surgery. In clinical trials, many patients with high blood pressure, type II diabetes or asthma, who began practicing yoga regularly, were able to lower the lower the dosage of drugs they needed or eliminate some pills entirely. For patients, less medication means fewer side effects, not to mention, greater monetary savings.
The Future of Yoga Therapy
It will still take more time for the practitioners and patients to fully accept yoga therapy as a primary approach to their medical treatment. But even as a supplemental approach, yoga therapy is making great strides. The growing body of scientific research documenting its health benefits is great evidence that yoga therapy is here to stay.
I am pleased to be recognized by IAYT, International Association of Yoga Therapist as being certified…
Interesting post from Yoga for Healthy Aging on how our brain talks to our bones and how the bones talk back to the brain. Is yoga in that loop? You bet, read on to see how.
Posted: 17 Aug 2016 04:15 AM PDT
When we talk about bones and/or joints, we are referring to the body’s skeletal system. The skeletal system is comprises of all the bones and joints in the body provides structural support and serves as a storehouse for calcium and phosphate. Different kinds of cells, proteins, and minerals make up the skeletal system to act as a scaffold by providing support and protection to the softer tissues of the body and also attachment points for muscles to allow movements at the joints. Up until now it was assumed that the skeletal system was an inert calcified structure that only provided structural framework to prevent the body from collapsing. But thanks to some recent groundbreaking work (see The contribution of bone to whole-organism physiology), we now know that there’s more to the bones than just the support structure.
Endocrine organs secrete hormones directly into the blood stream to be carried to distant target organs. Examples of endocrine organs include the hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid, parathyroid, adrenals, pineal body, and the reproductive organs (ovaries and testes). Recent research studies now point to the skeleton as an endocrine organ that secretes the endocrine hormone osteocalcin. Osteocalcin, which is found at high concentrations in the skeleton, was thought to be primarily involved in bone-building, bone mineralization, and maintaining calcium ion levels. Researchers now believe that osteocalcin acts as a hormone and travels to distant organs including the pancreas to release more insulin, to the adipose tissue to stimulate the release of another hormone adiponectin, which also regulates insulin levels, and the testes for testosterone production. Thus, the bone has now emerged as a genuine endocrine gland (see The “soft” side of the bone: unveiling its endocrine functions).
Additionally, work by Gerard Karsenty, at the department of genetics and development at Columbia University Medical Center, reveals that osteocalcin has wide-ranging effects on liver, muscle, and, guess what, the brain as well (see Maternal and offspring pools of osteocalcin influence brain development and functions). Working with mice that had been engineered to lack osteocalcin, Karsenty noticed that while their skeletons appeared essentially normal, the mice appeared too docile, less rebellious, anxious, depressed, and displayed memory issues, suggesting that the bone via its hormone osteocalcin plays a direct role in memory and moods. When Karsenty infused these mice with osteocalcin, their moods improved and their performance on memory tests became normal. Furthermore, Karsenty also discovered that osteocalcin from pregnant mother mice crossed the placenta barrier and triggered the development and architecture of the mouse fetus’s brain. Simply put, bones communicated with the neurons and shaped the brain even before birth. This entire concept of bone-brain axis was least surprising to me because in Ayurveda, we are taught that the nervous system (brain and spinal cord—Majja Dhatu) arises from the precursor skeletal tissue (Asthi Dhatu). So as a researcher I was happy with the evidence-based research supporting this concept.
So what might the bone-brain communication mean for human health? We know that as we age, our skeletal system degenerates as reflected in the reduction of bone mass. Additionally, aging also brings with it memory and cognitive loss and emotional turbulence. While all these changes were considered to be separate and independent effects of old age, taking into account Karsenty’s tantalizing work, it appears that these age-associated degenerative events in the physical body, emotional imbalance, and memory losses may actually be related and interconnected, and osteocalcin may be one of the molecules cementing these processes.
Now I am sure you must be curious to know if we need to start taking osteocalcin to protect ourselves from age-associated skeletal degeneration or memory and cognitive decline. Remember, these kinds of questions can create false hopes, so before you sprint to the nearest pharmacy for a dose of synthetic osteocalcin, think of another attractive and natural alternative route to boost the bone-brain connection. Research studies show that the best thing to do to strengthen the bone and prevent age-related cognitive decline is exercise. Physical exercise helps partly because it works to maintain and strengthen the bones, which make more osteocalcin that in turn helps preserve memory and mood. And for us yogis, there is some exciting news as well. A recent research study showed that yoga increases bone turnover and triggers increased production of osteocalcin, which may help in the preserving bone mineral density (see Effects of Yoga on Bone Metabolism in Postmenopausal Women). While the authors of this study did not examine cognitive changes in these human subjects, I am guessing that given the ground-breaking studies by Gerard Karsenty, the osteocalcin production from the yoga regimen may help reverse cognitive changes.
Thus, it appears that all the regions of the body are more closely networked and interconnected than most people think, and the brain cannot be delineated or excluded from the body (see Your Brain is More Than That Thing in Your Skull). Additionally, the above-mentioned studies also suggest that the concept of unidirectional information flow from the brain to the periphery is incorrect, and it appears that peripheral organs also talk to the brain, making the information flow bidirectional (brian-body-brain). In addition to the different areas of the body communicating to the brain, we now also have a better understanding of how the bone talks to the brain and fosters its development, and how yoga can strengthen the bone-brain nexus. Let’s just say that an additional path to the brain starts from the bone!