What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is known as one of the most prevalent degenerative bone disorders. Normally, bones are solid and can hardly be broken. However, in osteoporosis, bones undergo several degenerative processes where the material that gives bones their solid and compact nature is being consumed and no longer present inside the bones. This leaves the bones fragile and highly liable to fractures.
As this condition progresses, bones become thinner, and even a minor fall or trauma can cause a serious fracture or injury. This condition typically occurs in middle-aged females; however, men can also be affected.
This condition occurs due to disturbances in the minerals that give the bones their solidity. To date, the lack of some hormones, particularly estrogen, is known as the main cause of osteoporosis and the associated mineral disturbance. This is why women are more likely to develop osteoporosis, particularly after menopause, compared to men.
In a recent research study, it was reported that approximately 50% of women and around 20% of men, who are older than 50 years of age, will have a fracture due to osteoporosis during their lifetime. The bones that are more liable to fracture include the hip, wrists, and spine. These fractures will negatively impact the affected person’s mobility, health status, and quality of life.
What are the Symptoms of Osteoporosis ?
The symptoms of osteoporosis differ among affected individuals based on the bones that are affected and whether or not a fracture occurred. Usually, the very first sign of osteoporosis is bone fracture; however, there are many other symptoms, including:
- Chronic low back pain
- Changes in posture
- Loss of height
- Affected grip strength
- Deformity in the shape of small bones
Although it is widely known that the cause of osteoporosis is a hormonal disturbance, there are many risk factors that can accelerate the degree of bone degeneration and subsequent fractures. If an individual with osteoporosis does not have any of its risk factors, then he is less liable to fractures.
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The risk factors for osteoporosis include the following:
- Positive family history
- Previous bony fractures
- Old age (> 50 years of age)
- Early menopause (< 40 years of age)
- Deficiency of vitamin D or calcium
- Poor lifestyle with lack of exercise
- High alcohol intake
- Steroid medications or injections
- Various medical conditions of the thyroid gland, liver, or kidney
Treatment Options for Osteoporosis
The treatment of osteoporosis depends on the condition of the affected individual and his/her risk of bone fracture. If a patient is diagnosed with osteoporosis and doesn’t have a bone fracture, then the recommended management is through lifestyle modifications. These modifications are of great value in preventing future fractures.
These lifestyle modifications include:
- A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- Stoppage of smoking
- Reduction of alcohol intake
- Minimizing caffeine intake
- Doing regular exercises
- Adequate intake of both vitamin D and calcium supplementations
Other treatment options for osteoporosis include:
- Selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs)
- Hormonal replacement therapy
- Testosterone injections
These medications are the most commonly used drugs for the management of osteoporosis in the majority of patients. However, these drugs are associated with serious side effects, including joint and muscle pain, fatigue, leg cramps, increased risk of vascular thrombosis or stroke, high blood cholesterol levels, heart attacks, and breast cancer.
Therefore, researchers have been investigating much safer options for the management of osteoporosis, and cannabidiol (CBD) has shown great therapeutic potential in this case.
The Endocannabinoid System and Osteoporosis
Cannabinoids exist naturally in our bodies in the form of endocannabinoids. These compounds react with target cannabinoid receptors, forming a system known as the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). Cannabinoid receptors include two types: cannabinoid receptors type 1 (CB1) and type 2 (CB2). CB1 receptors are predominant in our brains, neurons, and the central nervous system, while CB2 receptors are predominant in our immune system and cells. This endocannabinoid system is known to modulate various physiological processes, including sleep, pain, and inflammation. It is also involved in many diseases, including osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is characterized by the reduction in bone mineral density (BMD), which is the mineral component of the bone that gives it its solidity. Inside our bones, there are two types of cells: osteoblasts and osteoclasts. Osteoblasts are involved with the building of the bone, while osteoclasts are involved with the breakdown of bone structure.
A number of genetic research studies have highlighted new mechanisms for the occurrence of osteoporosis. In a recent study, it was noted that mice with absent (deleted) cannabinoid receptors type 1 and 2 are associated with altered bone mass. It was then hypothesized that the pharmacological modification of these receptors could regulate the activity of osteoclasts and subsequently BMD. This hypothesis was then tested on a group of postmenopausal women and a group of healthy women. The researchers finally reported that there was a significant association between the expression level of CB2 receptors and the development of osteoporosis. With the availability of drugs that target CB2 receptors, we could be looking at a cure for this disease.
Can CBD Prevent or Cure Osteoporosis?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is the 2nd most abundant compound in marijuana after delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It does not have the psychoactive properties of THC, so it does not get you ‘high’. It is widely involved in regulating a wide variety of processes inside our bodies. Furthermore, it has been shown to indirectly regulate bone metabolism through its action on the endocannabinoid system.
Through the ECS, cannabidiol can help in the management of osteoporosis by reducing bone loss while promoting bone regeneration. Unfortunately, with the current level of evidence, CBD cannot be considered a cure for osteoporosis. Despite the fact that the effectiveness of CBD in treating osteoporosis has not been yet confirmed in clinical trials, it has a very powerful supportive role when it is taken in conjunction with other drugs, supplements, and exercises.
Here is a list of the beneficial effects of CBD in osteoporosis:
It may increase bone mineral density (BMD)
Research has shown that CBD can help promote the growth and power of bones through the increase in the activity of bone osteoblast cells.
Current research indicates that osteoclasts, which are involved with the breakdown of bones, are activated through the activation of a receptor named GPR55 receptor. Surprisingly, CBD can specifically block the activation of this receptor, which results in the reduction of osteoclastic activity, with subsequent bone preservation.
It can reduce pain (analgesia) and alleviate inflammation (anti-inflammation)
The analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties of CBD have been confirmed in many animal and human studies. It has been shown effective in treating patients with headaches, mental health disorders, arthritis, sleep disorders, low back pain, and chronic pain associated with other medical conditions
It plays a role in regulating hormonal levels
It relieves pain following bony fractures
A Take-Home Note:
Osteoporosis is a serious condition, especially in women after menopause. The risk of bone fractures can have a significant impact on the affected individual’s mental and physical health.
Although CBD is not a cure for osteoporosis, there is a significant body of evidence that suggests that CBD can be an effective treatment option for osteoporosis, particularly when it is used with other medications or exercises. CBD can help alleviate the associated pain and inflammation while increasing the bone mineral density. Thus, it could prevent future fractures.
CBD is a safe drug and can be effective in osteoporosis, but it is recommended not to start this drug without consulting your physician first.
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