Why I Don’t Get Bone Scans
I want to tell you why I don’t get bone scans. So about 30 years ago, suddenly, there was an epidemic of osteopenia and osteoporosis. Why, suddenly, did you become aware that supposedly everyone’s bones have thinned, and you’ve got thinning bones if your DEXA scan isn’t high enough?
Well, there’s FIVE reasons why I don’t personally get the DEXA bone scan, and why I don’t think it’s a good indicator of your bone health, and why I think it upsells you into taking drugs that may actually be harmful—and, what I do to retain my own bone mass without worrying about these scans or taking the pills they prescribe.
First of all, the bone scan was invented and launched in 1994. That’s only 30 years ago. And of course in the beginning it was the 8th wonder of the world, because we had no reason to question it.
Now, though, we’ve had 30 years to observe what happens to people who take the Fosamax or other bisphosphonate drugs they will prescribe you for osteoporosis or osteopenia, and I’ll get into whether they work, and what adverse events they have, in a minute. But both of these diagnoses, osteopenia and osteoporosis, are just made-up words corresponding to arbitrary measurements based on the DEXA bone scan scores.
So the first issue I have with this is that we don’t even know what exactly is being measured, with the bone scans, but the second issue I have with it is that their baseline to compare you to is that they scan 30 to 35-year old women, and then they compare YOUR bones, to theirs.
So my third point is that all they’re measuring with the DEXA scan is that there’s more of something in the bone; all we know for sure is that some bones absorb the x-ray better than others. It could be that a higher DEXA scan actually corresponds to more BRITTLE bones, rather than the more dense bones that you’re assuming a higher DEXA score indicates.
Nobody has proven that a higher DEXA scan means you have stronger, or more durable bones—and I’ll get to it in a second, they also haven’t whatsoever proven that taking calcium pills improves bone density OR is even absorbed by the bones at all. In fact, the bones are made of a dozen minerals and trace minerals, not actually calcium.
It's a THEORY that taking calcium pills will strengthen bones, and the evidence really doesn’t prove that taking calcium supplements help anybody with anything.
But I’ve gone sideways, let’s come back to whether the bone scans are even actually measuring bone density: one study showed that 64% of people who had bone fractures actually were in the highest category of DEXA bone scans. If your bone is more dense and healthy and therefore less likely to break, then why does evidence show that most bone fractures happen in people with the highest DEXA scans?
My 4th big reason to question the bone scanning procedure, and therefore do not get them myself, is that if they tell you that supposedly your bones are less dense than they should be, then they will tell you to take bisphosphonate drugs.
These drugs may support stronger bones for a few years, but now that they’ve been on the market for a few decades, even though there are no osteoporosis doctors, there’s no specialty of medicine related to bone health--and it doesn’t seem like anybody is really tracking this whole bone density story--but dentists accidentally discovered that an adverse event that happens from the bisphosphonate drugs is necrosis of the jaw bone.
In other words, the bone of the jaw dying and rotting. That’s one of the risks of taking these drugs that are supposed to address osteoporosis! Why would a drug that is supposed to SUPPORT healthy bone lead to NECROSIS of the bone—or the bones of the jaw dying and decaying? Other more common adverse events of this class of drugs are joint and bone pain, as well as nausea, acid reflux, and eye pain, of all things.
So if dentists accidentally discovered that people taking bisphosphonate drugs (like Fosamax and Boniva) sometimes see their jaw bones die--I kind of doubt that it’s JUST the jaw bone that is dying and rotting in people taking osteoporosis drugs--is anybody even tracking what happens to people who take these drugs, as millions of people are prescribed these drugs, and trust their doctor that the drug will somehow build or support bone?
Call me cynical, but it seems to me that the bone scans are the marketing tool to get people into the billion-dollar osteoporosis drug industry.
And my 5th reason why I don’t get the DEXA bone scans is that they are x-rays, and involve radiation. It’s not that the single exposure to one x-ray is going to kill you—it’s that there’s cumulative damage to the body from radiation from x-rays like the one from the bone scan. And radiation actually causes bone damage and cancer.
So many things related to what western medicine tells us about healthy bones doesn’t pan out to be true. Our mothers believed that we needed to eat dairy products, because they’re high in calcium, and supposedly calcium builds strong bones—and actually none of that is true. It took decades of false marketing that milk was good for your bones, before people figured out that the countries eating the most dairy were also the ones with the most osteoporosis, actually.
And we were told to take Vitamin D for strong bones, and then recently a review of 3,940 studies on bone fractures showed that taking Vitamin D has NO connection to a lower risk of bone fractures. Let me say that a different way: researchers reviewing nearly 4,000 studies concluded that taking Vitamin D does NOT decrease your risk of bone fractures.
Anyway, to review, the reasons I don’t get bone scans and have no confidence in the scanning technology OR the drugs for osteoporosis – are that the bone scans themselves are on shaky ground scientifically; the drugs they prescribe for osteoporosis actually have some really negative adverse events including bone dying and rotting; and there’s radiation involved in getting the scans, which is destructive to healthy bones and your bone marrow, where new healthy bone cells are growing for you all the time, and the skeleton replaces itself about every 7 years.
I think what’s clear from research is that for strong bones, we need weight bearing exercise and movement; we need leafy greens and a healthy whole-food diet; and we aren’t well served by taking the steroidal drug known as Vitamin D, the ground-up rocks known as calcium supplements, we aren’t strengthening our bones with dairy products, and I don’t have any confidence in the bisphosphonate drugs.
So what DOES strengthen bones? I take the only whole-food mineral supplement that came right from where plants are supposed to get it, fulvic and humic acids right out of organic ancient plant deposits. If we have thinning bones, or if our teeth are decaying, it may be in large part because our soil doesn’t have the trace minerals and minerals in it that soil USED to have before we started strip-farming.
I take Ultimate Minerals twice a day for 15 years, when I wake up and right before I go to bed, and I haven’t had a cavity that entire time, for 15 years now. Before I started taking Ultimate Minerals, I had cavities every single year when I went to the dentist. I’ve researched supplements for over 20 years now, and the fact that I promote only two of them is because I’m so picky, and I want to know EXACTLY what’s in that supplement, because most supplements are really pharmaceutical products. Ultimate Minerals is right from the source plants are supposed to get their nutrients from—from a source I totally trust. I hope you love it like I do. Thanks for supporting my research.
Robyn Openshaw, MSW, is the bestselling author of The Green Smoothies Diet, 12 Steps to Whole Foods, and 2017’s #1 Amazon Bestseller and USA Today Bestseller, Vibe. Learn more about how to make the journey painless, from the nutrient-scarce Standard American Diet, to a whole-foods diet, in her free video masterclass 12 Steps to Whole Foods.
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