Flash back to just three and a half years ago. I was forty-six. My hips had been bothering me, often feeling achy, especially at night, sometimes making it hard
to sleep. My Primary Care Physician (PCP) ordered a bone density test, which I thought was totally unnecessary, figuring it was just muscle aches from dancing
or tight tendons that I needed to stretch. Wrong. While the test results for the spine (-0.9) were still in the “normal” range, the results for the hip (-2.6)
had put me squarely in the osteopenia range, in fact, bordering on osteoporosis. I have to say, I was shocked.  My PCP read me the riot act. I was only forty-six. I had the bones of a sixty-year-old. What would they be like when I was sixty? I could break a hip. I needed to get on medication immediately. I listened as she instilled fear in me, but inside, everything resisted. “I don’t want to be on drugs,” I kept thinking, but she continued to press, causing me to doubt. I left the office with a handful of prescriptions and a few pamphlets on the usual medications: Fosamax, Actonel, and even the newly touted Boniva.  But I did not go straight to the pharmacy. I did not fill the prescriptions. I went straight home and called my nutritionist, Dr. Al Costanza. I’d already been his patient for several years for other problems, like digestive disturbances, which standard medicine hadn’t been able to help me with. His approach had given me much better results without all the medications. We set up an appointment. When I told him of the test results, he said “oh,” and then unlike my PCP, launched into an account of the underlying causes of osteoporosis.  Dr. Al explained that while there are some commonly known risk factors for osteoporosis  (smoking, genetics, lack of calcium, etc.), it is actually a systemic disease that is associated with inflammation in the body. That is, osteoporosis is not just about the bones or getting enough calcium. It’s a sign that the body as a whole is inflamed, which means that the acid/alkaline balance is probably out of whack. If the body is too acidic, the body will steal calcium (alkaline-forming) from the bones to restore the balance because it is vital to the health and functioning of all the cells in the body. The bones are not static—there is a continual process of breakdown and buildup—but if the body is too acidic, the bones will break down faster than they can build up, leading to bone loss.  Dr.  Al informed me of other important and less well-known factors, such as stress, which causes increased cortisol (a stress hormone) production, which also leads to inflammation and osteoporosis, and other diseases. And he emphasized the importance of exercise and strength training, which is also essential to bone formation. Contrary to my PCP, he informed me of the side effects of drugs like Fosamax, such as nausea, abdominal cramping, severe constipation, pain of the muscles, joints and bones, G.I. ulceration and that they work by slowing the breakdown of bone, but they don’t help much with rebuilding bone. (That is, they work contrary to the natural process, leaving one with more “old” bone.) Furthermore, the drugs do not address the underlying causes of bone loss, which will continue, meaning that the drugs are fighting against the tide.  After some tests, a lengthy questionnaire, and an in-depth look at my diet and lifestyle, Dr. Al had a number of recommendations:
1. A high-quality, easily digested form of calcium, and a high dose of vitamin D, essential for the absorption of calcium.
2. Weight-bearing exercises and strength training at the gym.
3. Dietary changes, especially more alkaline-forming foods, vegetables, and spices.
4. Natural anti-inflammatories, e.g., garlic, omega-3 fatty acids, and high-quality fish oil.
5. Specially-designed powdered food supplements, also contain nutrients needed to fight inflammation.
6. Meditation and relaxation.
7. Informative books on the subject of osteoporosis.
In short, he strived to educate me about the disease and recommended a comprehensive program designed to combat the underlying causes of osteoporosis
and help build bone mass naturally.  After about a year and three months, I repeated the bone density test with the results, spine -0.8 and hip -2.5. Ok, not spectacular, but a tad improved and at least not worse. My PCP   was not impressed. She stressed that my bone density was still low and I was only forty-eight. Again I got dire warnings: I could break a hip, etc., etc. Again she was emphatic—I needed to start medication immediately. But she told me she had good news. She knew I didn’t like drugs, but since I’d waited so long, there was a new, natural cure that I might be interested in. She told me it was a natural hormone that only has to be taken for two years. With a big smile, she offered me a pamphlet to take home to read. Well, every other page contained a prominent warning in a box that some of the rats in the study had developed bone cancer! Are you kidding me? She hadn’t even said a word about the cancer risk. I’d rather risk a hip replacement, thank you very much.  But once again, she had instilled fear in me and I admit I was wavering. Maybe I did need to take Fosamax or one of those “safe” drugs. Once again, I called Dr. Al. He was much more enthused about the test results. He said that I had reversed the process at a time in my life—the years prior to and just after menopause—when women tend to undergo the most rapid bone loss. And—bones grow slowly, and I’d done that in  just over a year. But I didn’t need him to tell me that I couldn’t rest on my laurels, that if anything, I needed to step up my efforts. So I tried to increase the amount of resistance in the exercises in my gym workouts and do more high impact exercises like jumping jacks at home. I continued with the supplements, and continued to onitor my acid/alkaline balance (very easy using the test strips provided by Dr. Al) and adjust my diet accordingly. I also included energy work like Reiki and qi gong, which helped reduce stress and increase my energy levels. Another two years passed, and it was time to have another bone density test.  I was nervous. To be honest, I probably hadn’t followed all of Dr. Al’s guidelines to the max and the results of his test weren’t as strong as he’d like to see. Also, my acid/alkaline balance was still not as good as it should be. I certainly could have done more. What if I had lost more bone since I am at “that time of life”?  I called my PCP to get the results. She chatted away as she looked up my records in the computer. “I know you don’t like drugs,” she said. “I’d just be happy if  there hasn’t been any change.”  Finally, after a suspenseful silence (during which I was feeling like a contestant on a reality show waiting to see if I was going to be eliminated), she found the scores and read them off: spine, -0.8; hip -2.0. “Wow,” I thought, but her response was lukewarm. She said something like, “You’ve improved a bit.” Then she added, “You must be doing something. Are you drinking more milk?” I know she sees a lot of patients, but she obviously didn’t remember the regimen of Dr. Al’s that I had told her about somewhere between her rants about medications. (And no, milk has not been part of the regimen; to my understanding—which I won’t go into here and which I’m sure Dr.  Al could elaborate on—consuming a lot of milk and milk products is not the best way to obtain calcium.)
Despite my PCP’s less-than-enthusiastic reaction, I’m thrilled with the results. Ok, I still have a ways to go, and the results for the hip still put me in the
osteopenia range—and I’m only fifty—but I now feel confident that I can continue to improve my bone health Dr. Al’s way, without medications. What’s more, the achiness in the hips is all but gone (improved almost immediately after starting the vitamin D, as Dr. Al predicted). And my knees—which had bothered me for years, so much so that I had to give up all but the most gentle forms of dancing because of the pain, and which had bothered me more often than not even when just walking—have improved tremendously. Now I’m generally pain-free. I’ve even had occasion to do some dancing recently—some of it quite vigorous—and I completely forgot that I had a knee problem. I obviously don’t have the knees of a twenty-year-old and I still have limitations, like I’m not about to go
jogging, but I couldn’t have done those dances when I was forty. And I’m sure my overall state of health is the better for Dr. Al’s program. Well, that’s my
personal story, or part of it anyway. What is your story? Are you suffering from a physical condition or disease that the doctors want to treat with drugs? Are
they telling you there is no alternative? Are the drugs causing side effects (and did your doctor warn you about them?), and then are you needing another
drug to combat the symptoms created by the first drug? Are you feeling less than good? Are you one of those people who is experiencing difficulty with basic
actions like walking and breathing because of poor physical condition? If you answered yes to any of these questions, are you willing to keep an open mind?
Are you interested in exploring alternatives?  Let me be clear—I’m not suggesting anyone not go to their PCP or stop their medications without supervision.
Obviously traditional Western medicine can provide important tests, screenings,  diagnoses and treatment. But I do want to suggest that when your doctor tells
you that drugs are the only cure, you question that and see if there are alternatives. Dr. Al can assist you with that. He can give you answers to many
conditions you’ve probably been told that you just have to live with it. He can guide you to live and eat the way humans are designed to, and it can make a
world of difference in how you feel—at any age.  Is it easy? No. Is it cheap? No. Is it a quick fix or magic pill? No. Is it worth it? Absolutely. A  program like Dr. Al’s leads to increased vitality and improved health. Although this is not a miracle that will prevent or cure any disease, it will help you to be as healthy as you can. The choice is yours. Do you have the determination? Do you want to feel good? (I mean really good.) Are you willing to do the work? Are you willing to change some eating habits and give up some of your favorite foods if necessary? Are you willing to try new approaches and give up some false belief systems about health and aging? If yes, then this approach is for you and, believe me, you will wish you had tried it sooner.
Janet O.