Did you know that Paget’s disease is the second most common metabolic bone disorder after osteoroporosis? It’s estimated that around 70 percent of patients who have Paget’s disease have no symptoms. Sometimes Paget’s disease of bone is confused with arthritis. These are two totally different bone diseases, but they can have similar symptoms and they can occur at the same time. (1, 2)
While the best time to build bones to their optimum strength is during childhood, there are steps you can take to strengthen your bones now and keep them strong as you age. Diet, lifestyle, and exercise are three of the most vital factors when it comes to keeping bones strong.
Like degenerative joint disease, there is no known “cure” for Paget’s disease of bone, but there are many natural ways you can help to manage symptoms and feel as good as you possibly can!
What Is Paget’s Disease?
Named for the English surgeon and pathologist of the 1800s, Sir James Paget, Paget’s disease of bone disrupts the replacement of old bone tissue with new bone tissue leading to fragile and misshapen bones.
Another Paget’s disease definition: “A chronic bone disorder that typically results in enlarged, deformed bones due to excessive breakdown and formation of bone tissue that can cause bones to weaken and may result in bone pain, arthritis, deformities or fractures.” (3)
When you have Paget’s disease of bone it causes your body to create new bone way too quickly resulting in bones that are softer and more brittle than normal, healthy bone. This is what leads to the bone deformities, pain and fractures that often accompany the disease.
You may have heard of Paget’s disease of breast, but it is a totally different, unrelated disease (it’s also referred to as Paget disease of the nipple and mammary Paget disease). This is a rare type of cancer that can occur in both men and women, but more often in women. (4)
Signs and Symptoms
The majority of people suffering from Paget’s disease of bone actually have no symptoms. When Paget’s disease symptoms do occur, the most common complaint is bone pain, which can occur in one or more regions of the body, or the pain can be more widespread.
In general, symptoms of Paget’s disease of bone can include: (5)
- Enlarged bones
- Broken bones
- Damaged cartilage in joints
Depending on which area of the body is affected, signs and symptoms of Paget’s disease of bone can include: (6)
- Skull: An overgrowth of bone in the skull can cause hearing loss or headaches.
- Spine: If the spine is affected, nerve roots can become compressed, which can cause pain, tingling and numbness in an arm or leg.
- Pelvis: If Paget’s disease of bone is in the pelvis, then it can cause hip pain.
- Leg: As the leg bones weaken, they may bend leading to bowleggedness. Enlarged and misshapen bones in the legs can create extra stress on nearby joints, which can then cause osteoarthritis in the hip or knee.
There’s also been some research that possibly links skin health to the state of our bones. According to a study conducted at the Yale School of Medicine, the severity and distribution of skin wrinkles as well as overall skin quality may be indicative of bone mineral density in early menopausal women. (7)
Causes and Risk Factors
So what are Paget’s disease causes? According to the NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center, scientists don’t know exactly what causes Paget’s disease. For some sufferers, they believe that a “slow-acting” virus may cause the disease. Paget’s disease of bone does seem to have a hereditary component, meaning that it tends to run in families. To date, two genes have been linked to a predisposition to develop Paget’s disease. (8)
Factors that can increase your risk of Paget’s disease of bone include: (9)
- Age: People over the age of 40 are most likely to develop the disease.
- Sex: Men are slightly more commonly affected than women.
- National origin: Paget’s disease of bone is more common in England, Scotland, Central Europe and Greece. It’s uncommon in Scandinavia and Asia.
- Family history: If you have a close relative who has Paget’s disease of bone, you’re more likely to develop the condition.
To diagnose Paget’s disease of bone, a doctor will likely perform a physical examination and review your symptoms. It’s likely that blood tests and X-rays also will be conducted to confirm the diagnosis.
One blood test result that can point towards Paget’s disease of bone is a raised level of an enzyme called alkaline phosphatase. However, Paget’s disease isn’t the only disease that causes this enzyme to be elevated so a doctor will also likely order an isotope bone scan. This form of Paget’s disease radiology testing is typically considered the best way to know where the affected bone is, how much bone is affected and how active the disease is at the time of the scan. (10)
There is no cure for Paget’s disease of bone, so treatment is meant to control progression and manage any complications that may occur. Conventional Paget’s disease treatment usually includes medicines called bisphosphonates or injectable calcitonin. Other common recommendations include painkillers such as paracetamol and/or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). (11)
If joints became damaged, fractured or deformed due to Paget’s disease, then surgery may be necessary.
Natural Ways to Manage Symptoms
Unfortunately, there is no cure for this bone disease, but there are many natural ways to boost your bone health and improve quality of life.
Unless you’ve been in hiding, you probably already know that getting calcium in your diet on a regular basis is vital for strong bones. (Parents, remember this is especially true as your children are growing.) But what you may not know is that conventional milk and dairy are not necessarily your best choice for a healthy source of calcium. When it comes to dairy products, it’s best to choose ones that are fermented or raw. I also choose goat’s milk over cow’s milk any day.
There are also plenty of non-dairy foods that provide significant doses of calcium. These are some of the healthy foods that many people don’t even realize contain calcium. These are some great calcium-rich options to consume on a daily basis:
- Bok choy
- Raw cheese
- Kidney beans
- Green leafy vegetables
Most conventional doctors don’t recommend a specific diet to prevent or treat Paget’s. However, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academy of Sciences does recommend 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day for adults between the ages of 19 and 50. For women over the age of 50 and men over the age of 70, the recommendation increases to 1,200 milligrams of a calcium daily. The IOM also recommends 600 International Units (IU) of vitamin D up to the age of 70 and 800 IU after 70 to assist the body’s absorption of calcium. (8)
2. Vitamin D
We now know that vitamin D plays a vital role in many aspects of our health. Along with calcium, vitamin D is vital to bone health. Vitamin D actually helps the body to absorb the calcium we take in. A scientific study published in 2013 reveals that patients with Paget’s disease appear to be more likely to have a vitamin D deficiency than people of the same age who don’t have Paget’s disease. (12) Research from decades ago in 1985 yielded similar results — that patients with Paget’s disease, especially those with more extensive or severe cases, tended to have lower circulating levels of vitamin D. (13)
The best source of vitamin D is the sun, which enables the body to make chemical changes resulting in the production of vitamin D. It’s essential that you’re getting some safe sun exposure on a regular basis to ensure your vitamin D levels are at adequate levels.
Although the sun is the best source, it’s also important to supplement with a high quality vitamin D product. It is recommended that an adult take about 1,000 to 2,000 IU of vitamin D per day. However, some people require as much as 3,000 to 4,000 IU per day, particularly if you have little exposure to sunlight on a regular basis. Talk to your doctor about your ideal daily intake.
Another essential nutrient to support your bones and skin is magnesium. Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral found in the body with fifty percent of that magnesium found in the bones. Magnesium isn’t just good for bones either; it provides a host of other helpful functions in the body. (14)
Rich sources of magnesium include the following:
- Green leafy vegetables
- Brazil nuts
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Sweet potatoes
4. Vitamin K2
Often called the “forgotten vitamin,” vitamin K2 is essential for many important body functions and supports body health in numerous ways. Studies show that vitamin K2 stimulates osteocalcin production as well as inhibiting osteoclasts. (15, 16) Osteocalcin helps the body to build bone and osteoclasts retard the bone building process in the body.
The best sources for vitamin K2 are the following:
- Green leafy vegetables
- Fermented dairy such as amasai and kefir
- Raw cheese
5. Regular Exercise
Another vital way to keep your bones strong is to engage in regular exercise. Weight training can be a good way to build healthier bones. That doesn’t mean that you have to become a body builder to maintain strong bones. What it does mean is that you should make it a point to regularly lift even small amounts of weight and use your body weight as resistance to engage in weight training to strengthen your bones.
Both conventional and natural treatment recommendations for Paget’s disease of bone include exercise. According to the NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center, “Exercise is important because it helps preserve skeletal health, prevent weight gain, and maintain joint mobility.” (8)
Precautions and Complications
See your doctor if you’re experiencing pain in your bones and joints, bone deformities, and/or tingling and weakness.
If you have Paget’s disease of bone, check with your doctor before starting any new exercise routines to ensure it won’t cause stress on your bones. Also, check with your doctor before starting to take any new medications or supplements.
Possible complications of Paget’s disease of bone include bone fractures and deformities, osteoarthritis, bone cancer and heart failure. (17)
- Maintaining bone health and strength as you age is essential to staying vibrant, healthy, and independent.
- Paget’s disease of bone has no cure, but there are natural ways to improve quality of life.
- You can take steps now to incorporate vital nutrients and lifestyle habits into your life (and the lives of your loved ones) so you can live with vitality well into the future.
- In addition to eating a well-rounded, healthy diet incorporating the foods listed in this article, you can also opt for a supplement to ensure you’re getting enough of the right, essential nutrients for bone health.
5 Natural Ways to Boost Bone Health and Control Paget’s Disease of Bone Symptoms
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin K2