Related Topics: Features, Hormones, Osteoporosis

An Essential Hormone For Bone Health

Dr David Jockers outlines the problems that can occur when cortisol levels are high and offers 13 key ways to improve bone health.

Dr David Jockers

Cortisol is a glucocorticoid steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands.  It is released in response to stress and low levels of blood glucocorticoids.  It primarily functions to increase blood sugar through a process called gluconeogenesis.  Elevated levels of cortisol and other glucocorticoids cause calcium depletion of bone tissue.

Bone tissue is in a constant state of construction and remodeling.  There are several critical cells that help form and mold healthy bone tissue.  Osteoblasts are the bone builders while osteoclasts help to break down decaying areas and mold healthier bone tissue.  The rate at which bone is broken down and rebuilt determines the individuals bone density.

Bone tissue is a mineralized connective tissue.  It is made of the same tissue, collagen, as the tendons and ligaments that surround and support it.  The mineralization comes in the form of calcium, magnesium, and phosphate ions that combine chemically into a crystalline mineral within the collagenous matrix.  This combination of hard mineral and flexible collagen makes bone harder and stronger than cartilage.

The collagen is composed of a group of amino acids that includes glycine and proline.  Collagen is the major form of connective tissue in the body.  It forms tendons, ligaments, cartilage, discs, and bone among other things.  Healthy collagen is essential for healthy joint function.  Healthy joints are important but are not a vital organ and are therefore not prioritized highly in the body.

In times of high stress the body will break down amino acids to form glucose through the process of gluconeogenesis.  Cortisol is the major stress hormone that catalyzes this process.  Collagen is one of the target areas for spare amino acids.  Chronically elevated stress levels increases collagen breakdown.

Cortisol primarily acts on the outer layer of the bone called the periosteum.    Research has shown that elevated cortisol inhibits osteoblast formation and cell proliferation.  This dramatically decreases bone building and lowers bone density.  A 1984 study found that a decrease in the amino acid proline being incorporated into the central bone may be the consequence of this osteoblast inhibition.

As long as the body remains under elevated stress levels, without adequate rest and repair, bone mineralization and collagenous formation will be reduced.  Supplementation with vitamin D3, calcium, magnesium, etc. will not render this due to the catabolic state of high stress.

13 Keys to Decreasing Cortisol and Increasing Bone Health:

1)    Reduce chronic stress by avoiding food allergens and balancing blood sugar by avoiding heavy carbohydrate consumption.

2)    Follow an anti-inflammatory diet consisting of phytonutrient rich fruits and vegetables.  Consume plenty of healthy fats from coconut, avocado, olive oil, and good nuts and seeds.  Use grass-fed or free-range meats and eggs and wild-caught fish and purified fish oil supplements.

3)    Reducing toxicity and boosting detoxification pathways through intermittent fasting, infrared sauna, glutathione precursors, liver detoxifying herbs and probiotics.

4)    Getting regular chiropractic adjustments and doing spine and posture based exercises to reduce biomechanical and neurological stress while boosting proprioceptive intelligence and enhancing neurological function.

5)    Sleeping 8 strong hours each night and falling asleep by 11pm.

6)    Regular high-intensity exercise without overtraining.

7)    Deep breathing and mental/emotional relaxation methods.

8)    Using adaptogenic herbs such as ashwagandha, rhodiola, ginseng, and astragulus

9)     De-Inflame with clean water and fresh squeezed lemon throughout the day and use antioxidant rich herbs such as turmeric, oregano, cinnamon, and cilantro.

10)           Find a noble purpose and pursue it with all your heart and spirit.  Develop strong relationships that support your life purpose.

11)           Supplement with a whole food multi-vitamin that supplies ample trace minerals and B vitamins.

12)           Optimize vitamin D levels with regular sunshine and emulsified vitamin D3 supplementation.

13)          Ensure adequate progesterone levels to ensure optimal bone building conditions through supplementation where necessary with bio-identical natural progesterone.

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AnnA Rushton | 9:32 am, June 27th, 2014

Harald vitamin K2 is recommended and you will find more information at the link below, but we have no specific information on increased vitamin D risk as most are deficient in this vitamin and together with calcium it is essential for bone production.

Harald Eie | 5:25 am, June 27th, 2014

What is yout opinion on Vitamin K2 and the balance between osteoblastic and osteoclastic activity? Furthermore, do you know if increased D-ratio increases risk of osteoporosis?

maggie eaves | 2:54 pm, November 28th, 2013

post menopausal. Have osteoporosis and severe osteoporosis, read your website, have just ordered natural progesterone, so fed up with medications, and meds interfering with my digestive system.

AnnA Rushton | 12:36 pm, February 22nd, 2013

The standard initial dose of a quarter teaspoon twice daily can be maintained for a further month to gel get good progesterone levels established.

Sara Gaines | 5:24 pm, February 14th, 2013

How much progesterone should I take if
my levels are very low? I am on bio
identical hormones but still have hair loss
and eratic sleep. I also take calcium/magnesium/ vit D 3. Please help!!

Anna Badar | 8:26 am, October 26th, 2012

As a post menopausal woman diagnosed with osteopoenia I have been taking natural progesterone regularly for about 5 years – but have been diagnosed with fibroids – do you think there is a connection? I have recently stopped using natural progesterone because of this.

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