Episode 369 | May 7, 2024

Unbreakable: Maximizing Bone Power Through Nutrition and Movement with Anne Lemons


A Personal Note From Orion

Welcome to another inspiring episode of the Stellar Life podcast! This week, we are joined by Anne Lemons, a renowned physical therapist and functional medicine expert, to explore the intertwining worlds of nutrition, gut health, and personal well-being.

Anne Lemons is a vibrant advocate for women’s health and wellness, emphasizing the essential yet often overlooked aspects of daily self-care. Beyond the occasional spa day, Anne believes true self-care starts with fundamental practices such as a nourishing breakfast. She teaches that the well-being of a family pivots on the health of the woman within it, advocating for a positive upward spiral in domestic life. Guiding women towards empowerment through strength and resilience, especially as they approach menopause, Anne’s focus is on preventing the decline of physical health over time. Her mission is clear: empower women to feel strong and secure in their health journeys, fostering an environment where they and their families can thrive.

In this episode, Anne shares her personal health journey, emphasizing how overcoming her struggles with nutrient absorption, muscle mass loss, and osteoporosis propelled her into the realm of functional medicine. Get ready to learn strategies that not only focus on treating symptoms but also on paving the way for a healthier, empowered life. So, without further ado, let’s dive into the show!

In This Episode

  • [05:57] – Anne Lemons shares her 15-year struggle with chronic fatigue, pain, and digestive issues despite eating a whole foods diet.
  • [10:44] – Anne highlights the importance of stomach acid in killing things that come into the body and breaking down food and how a lack of acid can lead to malabsorption of nutrients and digestive issues.
  • [18:44] – Anne recommends finding a specialist who is knowledgeable about SIBO and its treatment.
  • [24:13] – Orion and Anne discuss bowel habits and dietary concerns, especially for children.
  • [32:36] – Anne explains how inflammation affects the body.
  • [39:29] – Anne recommends getting a DEXA scan to assess bone density and be proactive about treatment.
  • [43:09] – Anne elaborates on how crucial a physical therapist’s assessment and targeted exercise is for addressing pain and limitations, which personal trainers may not provide.
  • [49:20] – Anne expounds on the risks of flexion postures in yoga and provides tips for adapting yoga postures to avoid putting excessive pressure on the spine.

Jump to Links and Resources

About Today’s Show

Hi, Anne. Welcome to the Stellar Life podcast. Thank you so much for being here. I am so happy that you’re here today.

Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Yes. Before we begin, can you share one of your most treasured childhood memories with us?

One of my most treasured childhood memories is going to the Cape with my family—going to the beach and spending time together in the sand. It always grounds me and at least gets my nervous system back to a place of balance. We spent a lot of time at the beach.

I love it. I gave a hypnosis session before this interview. It was a long one, almost three hours. It takes a lot out of me when you focus for so long on the person having the most pure intentional connection you possibly can have. 

At the end of it, I felt drained and almost tired, so I went out to the backyard. We live on a lake, and I put my feet on the ground and hugged the tree. I was just connecting and releasing anything that didn’t belong to me or that I didn’t need, and then I received all the good energies from God and nature. 

Nature can bring our bodies to a place where we can enter that self-healing mode.

Sometimes, we see swans in our lake. I saw three of them, and then I only saw one. I asked for a sign, “I want to see if I can connect with that swan and if it will come.” I’m waiting for that. I’ll keep an eye out.

It’s amazing how nature can bring our bodies to a place where we can enter that self-healing mode. That’s really what my practice is all about: helping people enter that self-healing mode. We can definitely do that with nature.

Yes. I want to dive into your story and your purpose today. Maybe you can share some of it with us.

I would love to. I’ve been in the health space for almost 40 years and started as a physical therapist, which was wonderful. Then, out of necessity, I expanded my repertoire into functional medicine. About 15 years ago, I was struggling physically and emotionally. I was in a bad place. I was exhausted all the time. I would wake up in the morning exhausted. I wasn’t sure how I was going to get through the day.

I had chronic pain throughout my whole body. I was not sleeping, and I had severe digestive issues and bloating, where I looked like I was six months pregnant all the time. I was eating really well; it was very whole-food based. I was doing everything I thought was correct, but I wasn’t feeling well. I thought, “If I feel this way in my forties, what will I feel like when I’m 60?” I went and had the usual conventional medicine testing done. On paper, I looked absolutely normal. No testing showed anything that was out of balance or out of range.

But I knew something else was going on, and I wanted to get deeper into it. That’s when I found functional medicine because they’re asking a different question. They’re not asking the question, “What are your symptoms?” Which is then traditionally matched with a diagnosis, and then that’s normally matched with a medication. They’re asking why. “Why do you have those symptoms? Why are they showing up now?” They’re digging deeper into root causes, and at that point, I was able to get some functional testing done. They found I had one of the worst parasites that there is. I had a severe overgrowth of bacteria in my small intestine. This is called SIBO.

You may have heard that word before: small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. I had a bunch of other issues as well that weren’t picked up with conventional medicine testing. The reason I’m telling you this is because those gut issues were some of the root causes of my most recent diagnosis of osteoporosis. If our gut is leaky, it’s creating this low-grade inflammation we’re unaware of. This inflammation drives osteoporosis. Inflammation is the root cause of osteoporosis. There are other causes as well, but it’s a big one. I have all this inflammation going on in my gut because I was not feeling well for quite some time. Because of the leaky gut, I wasn’t absorbing the nutrients and minerals that I needed for building stronger bones, and I wasn’t absorbing my protein. These are all important components of building strong bones and good muscle mass and strength. 

That was my introduction to, “Wow, I need to really figure this osteoporosis thing out because I’m losing bone.” One of the first things I noticed in my fifties was that I couldn’t lift a suitcase in the overhead bin—something that I could do very easily before. All of a sudden, I noticed I was losing muscle mass. Gut health was a critical part of how I came into this space of functional medicine and helping women and people improve their gut health because it’s the root cause of many things, including osteoporosis.

How do you deal with a leaky gut? How do you deal with parasites? How do you deal with SIBO? Those three things seem hard to fix, especially parasites, because they’re everywhere. Even if you go to a restaurant, you don’t know how clean they are, or you go to public restrooms or eat sushi. Sushi has so many potential parasites, even in tiny pieces.

If you’re eating sushi, you should have enough acid in the stomach that it’s killing whatever parasites may be coming in.

Let’s break this down. I’ll tell you the root causes behind this, how I treated it, and how we want to think about digestion so that we prevent these things from happening. With the parasite, what happens with our digestive system is we are supposed to have a really robust amount of acid in our stomach to kill things that shouldn’t be in the body. If you’re eating sushi, you should have enough acid in the stomach that it’s killing whatever parasites may be coming in.

I personally don’t eat raw sushi anymore after my parasite experience. But if you have enough good acid in your stomach, you should be able to kill things that are coming in and break things down enough. That’s one aspect of it. 

The problem that I see today is that so many people are on proton pump inhibitors for reflux and heartburn. They’re actually lowering their acid. Now, they don’t have that defense mechanism anymore. They don’t have enough acid to not only kill things that are coming into the body but also to break food down.

We’re not breaking down our protein very well if we don’t have enough acid; we’re unable to absorb B12 or iron very well. There’s a whole downstream problem when we don’t have enough stomach acid. Part of the problem when it comes to parasites is just taking a look at what is happening digestively that you couldn’t figure out; you couldn’t kill this in the first place. It’s one of the parasites you don’t want to mess around with. I took an antibiotic to get rid of that particular one, and I am now able to get rid of it, which is totally different from the overgrowth of bacteria in the gut. SIBO, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, has to do with bacteria translocated from the large intestine into the small intestine.

Your small intestine shouldn’t have a lot of bacteria. That’s where most of the absorption takes place. But if we’ve got a parasite or bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine where we’re supposed to be absorbing, we’re not going to be absorbing things. Our intestinal lining is only one cell thick, believe it or not. When you have these irritants like parasites or bacteria, it could even be stress; it causes a leaky gut. It could be taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications. These are things that create a leaky gut. Then, your outside world starts to come into contact with your inside world. Your immune system is sitting on the other side of that wall.

We’re not breaking down our protein very well if we don’t have enough acid; we’re unable to absorb B12 or iron very well, too.

When you take an anti-inflammatory, can it cause a leaky gut, like ginger and turmeric?

No, that’s different. When I’m talking about over-the-counter medications like Aleve or Advil, those sorts of things are not natural compounds. Those types of medications can cause more of the leaky guts. There are a lot of things that can cause a leaky gut. For me, it was those two things, and I wasn’t absorbing. With SIBO, that takes a different approach. You can do either an antibiotic and there’s a certain antibiotic that is phenomenal for SIBO.

That doesn’t affect us systemically. It’s not killing off all the good gut bacteria. It stays focused in the small intestine. It’s not focused on the large intestine, where we have our beautiful microbiome. It’s more focused on the small intestine, which was able to help me along. I took some herbs with that, and then it’s a very slow recovery. It took me a long time because my foods were very high in fiber, and for people with SIBO, fiber makes it worse.

All the good fiber that’s supposed to feed your good gut bacteria is feeding the bad bacteria because it’s in the wrong place. I had to back off fiber for a while and gradually increase it. That’s the key sign for people who have SIBO—if they have bloating, a combination of either diarrhea or constipation, or both, and if they react poorly to fiber.

What was the diet? Was it like the carnivore diet?

No, it was more of a combination. It was more of a low-FODMAP diet, but it was individualized. I never give a set diet for a diagnosis. It’s avoiding the high-FODMAP Foods, which, believe it or not, are like onions, garlic, and legumes. People with SIBO tend to do poorly with those things.

There are kind of lists that you go by. You start more low-FODMAP until you can bring that bacteria volume down and start healing the gut lining. A lot of it has to do with lifestyle. We’ve got to dial in on managing stress because that causes leaky gut as well, and making sure that we’re getting good sleep—all the lifestyle pieces, the exercise, and then addressing it with diet. It was a long recovery.

How do you know that you recovered? Did you do another test?

Initially, you can do a test to ensure that the bacteria count is coming down, but after, if you’re feeling good, there’s no need to repeat the test. If the bloating is down and your bowels are normalizing, there’s no need to repeat the test.

Is there any test you recommend?

Yes. There’s a specific test for SIBO: a breath test. It’s very different. It’s not a stool test you do to find a parasite for bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine. You would do a breath test, and with this test, you are drinking some type of substrate. It’s usually a sugar drink, and then you’re breathing into a tube every 15 or 20 minutes or so over two to three hours. 

SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) has to do with bacteria translocated from the large intestine into the small intestine.

What happens is that bacteria eat the sugar and essentially burp out gas. You exhale the gas into the tube, and then all those tubes are sent to the laboratory, or some people do it in their GI doctor’s office. They measure the gas to see if there has been a change in gas levels with treatment. If so, it’s down to normal. There’s no need to continue treatment. If not, then we need to either continue treatment or change treatment. It’s a long road, and it’s a high relapse.

It’s so hard to avoid. Do you recommend going to see a traditional holopathic doctor or a functional doctor?

It depends. Your functional medicine doctor will most likely be more versed in SIBO, but generally, we want to see an SIBO specialist. That could be a naturopathic doctor, a functional medicine doctor, or a functional nutrition practitioner. You’re really looking for someone who specializes in SIBO. That said, you may need someone on board who can prescribe. It gets a little tricky.

What’s not tricky?

It’s tricky because I’m in the northeast, and it’s very difficult to find GI docs here using some of the newer treatments for SIBO. I found it very challenging to find a GI that’s doing that. Some naturopathic doctors are fantastic, or you could work with a functional medicine doctor. Usually, you will see if they’re specialized in SIBO. You would definitely want them to be specialized in SIBO to do it because it’s a long journey, and you have to be familiar with some of the newer medications as well as the herbals because some people do better with medication. Some people do better with herbals, and it’s nice to have both availability, which is what I’ve found in my practice.

I wish there was a magical pill that solved all of them because it’s very common to have leaky gut and SIBO. And what was the third one?

And parasites.

Yes, it’s very common for people to have. Most people walk around with parasites, and they don’t even know it. I think most people have SIBO, and a huge amount of the population has a leaky gut, and then it shows as brain fog and chronic fatigue.

Do one thing at a time; it’s not so hard once you start to build healthy habits.

Exactly.

What are the other symptoms?

A leaky gut can cause local symptoms, such as stomach pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, or systemic symptoms. As you said, it can cause brain fog and cognition issues, as well as skin issues like acne, psoriasis, and rosacea.

It could be joint pain. It could be anything happening with any of the glands, like your thyroid gland. It could be any symptom in the body or related to what’s going on in the gut. 

From a functional medicine standpoint, we always start with the gut for everything. I like to picture it like a coffee filter. We put the grounds in that coffee filter. That’s everything you take into the body. All you want is the nice coffee coming through. You don’t want mycotoxins from mold or parasites coming through. We want to keep that gut wall strong. When it breaks down, and things go to the other side, the body doesn’t recognize those things, and it sets off a systemic response. It sets off the immune system. That creates inflammation in any area of the body. 

It’s amazing to me when I see people with acne who’ve tried all the topical things. Then we start working on their gut and their liver, and it all clears up because acne is an internal problem. Your outer skin reflects the inside of your gut. Whatever’s happening there is just showing up on the outer skin.

For people with SIBO, eating high in fiber foods makes it worse.

Do you think we need to check young kids as well for parasites and leaky guts? How young do they get it? I’m sure they get it, too, because they’re exposed to everything we are exposed to.

Interestingly, you asked that question because when I started practicing initially, we tested everybody for stool tests and all the functional tests, but what I found is it’s not necessary. Take a look at the symptoms. Take a look at behavior. For kids, I’m looking at what’s happening behavior-wise. That may be an indication that there’s a leaky gut, whereas, for adults, it may be more like anxiety and depression. That’s a sign of a leaky gut. But for kids, it might be more that they are acting up and their behavior changes. That could be an indication to start looking at the gut and then always looking at the timeline.

“Tell me about your travel experience.” Even though we don’t need to travel outside the US to get a parasite, we know that. “But tell me, what are you eating?” I’m looking at a timeline to make more of a determination. “What do the bowel habits look like? Are they normal?” And by normal, you’d be surprised what people tell you. They’ll say, “I’ve got normal bowel movements,” and they’ll say, “I go once a week.” I’m like, “Once a week?” People don’t understand that it’s just normal to them. So, we take a look at that.

What is normal, though? Is it twice a day normal or once a day?

It’s different for everyone, but at least once a day, some people will have a bowel movement after they eat, every time they eat. But at least once a day, we want to get rid of that stool. We don’t want things backing up and possibly creating a scenario where we’ve overgrown bacteria in the small intestine. I want to look at bowel habits and for kids to see what they are doing. If kids are constipated, I often find they’re just not drinking enough water, their diet is not whole food enough, they’re not getting enough fiber, or there’s stress involved. We have to take a look at a lot of things.

I am really struggling with my young one because he likes foods that are not very healthy. I will cook a nice, healthy thing, and he will just like, “It’s yucky. It’s not yummy.” I’m just like, “No, I’ve been working for hours on this.” I made sourdough bread for the first time. I also want to ask you about gluten and whether sourdough bread is good or not. But I made it for the first time, and it was amazing. I went through the whole process.

From a functional medicine standpoint, we always start with the gut for everything.

My friend taught me, and it was beautiful. It was like I discovered something new and exciting, and I gave him a piece of that sourdough bread, but I put it on like raw butter that you get from a specific farm. Maybe he didn’t like the butter because he took a bite of that sourdough bread and said, “Mmm, yucky.” I’m like, “No, you’re not serious. This is the best bread I’ve ever tasted in my life.” I changed the butter and ate it, but it’s hard to make a little one eat the way you want them to. Any suggestions?

All you can do is offer and set your example. Kids like to be involved if you get them involved.

He baked the bread with me. Well, not really. He was there, and he mixed the dough for a split second, and I told him that because he makes the dough, every time he touches something I cook, I tell him, “Now it’s going to be extra tasty because you felt it.”

You’re doing all the right things. As long as you can bring in a shake in the morning where you can bring some things into a smoothie that gives him a little bit more protein, fat, and fiber, that might, and have him help pick out the ingredients, too. But you can sneak in so much nutrition in a smoothie and make it taste really great. Whether he likes chocolate or peanut butter, I always have the formula of getting the protein, a healthy fat, and some fiber in there. You could throw in a little chia seeds that give him fiber. You can throw in a little ground flax, and he won’t taste it, but have him help you make that. That’s a good way to start sneaking in nutrition at the beginning of the day, which may help set his mood and activity for the rest of the day.

Thank you. That’s a wonderful tip. I will. I’ll do it tomorrow. I wanted to talk to you about gluten. What do you think about gluten? How bad is it? Would sourdough bread be a little better because it pre-digests the gluten for a very long time?

When I went through my training, gluten was very demonized. We do know through research that gluten causes leaky gut in everybody. Anytime you open up those gates of the gut lining, you leave yourself more vulnerable to inflammation, based on the work from Alessio Fasano. He’s one of the leading experts in the leaky gut. He said we don’t know how long those gates are open. For some people, the gates or that opening may be very fast, and it’ll close again, and for other people, it may stay open. The longer that happens, the more vulnerable we are to triggering the immune system and inflammation. If we’re going to do gluten, I think fermenting it in, like, sourdough is a much better way to do it.

If our gut is leaky, it's creating a low-grade inflammation we're unaware of. Gut inflammation is the root cause of osteoporosis. Click To Tweet

But ideally, we want to track. I mean, that’s how I work with all of my patients, to say, let’s take this out for a month and let’s track your symptoms, and then let’s bring it back in on its own so we have a clearer picture, because when we’ve got so much inflammation going on, it’s really hard to tell until you take it completely out. Then you see how it works for you and your bio-individuality. Now, that said, I don’t do gluten because of the potential for a leaky gut for myself. I have done some food sensitivity testing that says I am very sensitive to gluten. I know because I feel it in my body. It affects my digestion, causes back pain, and causes more facial swelling or inflammation. I know for me, it’s not a good food. When we continue to eat foods that cause something, we know we’re creating inflammation in the body.

I’m not an all-or-nothing person. I think if you can break down the gluten through the fermentation process with the sourdough, it’s a much better way to have it.

And thee much longer and more complicated way to get it. That’s very time-consuming and frustrating because, growing up, I ate everything. I ate all the baking goods. We ate bread three times a day. Gluten was never a thing. I could eat anything. Now that I’m older—I’m still 27—I am sensitive. I do have gluten sensitivity, and it’s hard. My dance with gluten is it’s two steps forward and one step backward.

Exactly. For me now, I don’t crave. The thing that I missed the most was pizza and more. I’m eating now because I try to make every meal as nutrient-dense as possible so I don’t miss it so much. It’s not part of my vocabulary anymore because I try to load up with enough protein, fat, and fiber to avoid missing something in a meal. One of the things I think that women are missing as they get older is protein. We certainly need protein for bone and muscle.

One thing that women often lack as they age is protein. We certainly need protein for bone and muscle.

Getting enough protein every day is important. I work primarily with women; when I listen to what they eat, they’re like, “Will I eat an egg in the morning or have a cup of yogurt?” It’s just not enough. What happens when you hit that menopausal period is estrogen just gets completely depleted. Estrogen goes out of the building, and you’re going to notice a loss in muscle mass and strength. That’s what I was telling you earlier when I suddenly noticed I couldn’t lift my overhead luggage. That has a lot to do with the hormonal imbalance piece. When we’re talking about bone health, we want to be looking at the gut because that’s important for inflammation and absorption, but we also want to be looking at building muscle by eating enough protein and doing the right types of exercise.

What does inflammation do to the body?

It drives certain things to break down and ages us much faster. It ages us a lot faster, and it creates pain for a lot of people, too. When we’re talking about any kind of chronic disease and looking at its root cause, inflammation is always present. Whatever we do, we want a low-inflammatory diet and a low-inflammatory lifestyle. We talked about diet, but our lifestyle involves getting enough sleep and managing stress. When not doing those things, we’re driving inflammation up again—the driver of many chronic diseases.

Yes, I think I have inflammation and many of the things we discussed, and I kind of want to ignore it. I also noticed that a lot of moms, especially new-ish moms, tend to neglect themselves. They eat last or don’t eat at all. Everybody comes first. Then there is the mother’s guilt if you leave him with a sitter or the nanny.

It’s complicated—even though I preach to care for yourself and remember to put yourself first. My husband tells me that I don’t at all. And he’s like, “Half a day goes by, and you forget to eat. You take care of everybody else.”

Yeah. It’s interesting because of self-care, a lot of women think, “Oh, that means I just need to schedule a massage or get my nails done.” But I tell women that your self-care is eating a good breakfast every morning. If you’re in a good place, everyone in your family is in a good place, too. It’s that upward spiral where you set the stage. If you’re in a good place, everyone else can be in a good place, too.

While practices like yoga are beneficial, they alone are not enough to build and maintain strong, dense bones. Incorporate targeted strength training and focus diligently on proper posture. Click To Tweet

It’s making eating, hydration, and exercise a priority because we don’t want to arrive at menopause with weak bones and muscles. We want to be strong, feel empowered, and be able to do the things that we’ve always wanted to do. But having small children, we weren’t able to. It’s really getting the message out now to be working on our muscles and be aware of what we can do to build stronger bones.

I have a confession to make. It’s almost 4 PM now, and I did not eat breakfast. I ate one fast yogurt that I found to be full of sugar and unhealthy—it wasn’t even organic. How do you put your mindset where, like, “Okay, I’m going to have breakfast, I’m gonna take care of myself?” Because I have broken that agreement with myself more than a few times.

It’s not easy. As a mother and doing the whole morning routine, I remember how poorly I felt if I didn’t prioritize at least that first meal of the day. For me, it was a blood sugar issue. I would feel cranky, exhausted, and unable to give anything to my family, let alone my patients. That became a priority because I had to associate it with how badly I felt if I didn’t.

I think that’s the piece where you have to feel bad enough and know that there’s an association with that to get up in the morning and have your shake things ready the night before. You’re just throwing it in the blender, and then you can take it and go. As a bonus, you can give it to your child as well. You can both start the day. 

Optimize your digestion. That’s just going to help you in every part of your health.

Habits are not easy to change, but we must give ourselves grace to try our best. You’re not going to get it 100% right, but on the days that you do right, you have to celebrate it. When you have breakfast for yourself, you need to physically celebrate—jump up and down, give yourself a high five, pat yourself on the back, and look in the mirror and tell yourself, “I’m a rock star.” There’s a whole neurological piece that happens when you do that. It will help you to reinforce the behavior, so celebrate it.

I’m going to get gold stickers and just gold stickers.

Yeah, and share it with your child. “We did well today. We had our shake today. Yay. We’re going to feel amazing today,” and you may be surprised.

He might say, “Yeah, mom. I felt more energy at school. I wasn’t so tired.” Many times, kids and women reach for more carby things because they haven’t started the day properly with enough protein.

Wow, there’s so much to do, but it’s so good, too. I know some of those things. Who doesn’t? But we tend to forget. The way you say it makes it sound like fun and not hard work. Sometimes, you talk to people who do nutrition or give you nutrition guidance, and everything sounds so heavy. You’re like, “It sounds great. No, I can’t do it. Sounds good for other people.”

Yeah. Just one thing. Don’t try to accomplish everything. Like, “I’m gonna make it a really easy goal. I’m gonna do it three times this week. Monday, Wednesday, Friday,” and then commit to it.

Your self-care is eating a good breakfast every morning.

When you do it, celebrate it. That’s how we change behavior. It’s not true that it takes 21 days to make a new habit. It takes longer than that. So, keep at it. Don’t beat yourself up.

If you miss a day, just keep at it. You’ll get there, and then it won’t feel good. If you don’t do it, you will notice a difference. If I don’t eat well, that’s not good. I don’t feel and think right, and my day doesn’t go as well.

Right. I feel like I have bone marrow loss. Bone density.

Stream bone density.

Yes. I used to be so strong. It’s hard to deal with this new identity, and I’m working on changing that. Besides exercise, having more protein, and cleaning your gut, I mean, those are all a lot of things that someone needs to do. What else do we need to know about bone density, how to not notice when we lose it, and how to treat it?

Great question. There are a couple of things. We can get a DEXA scan done. This is a bone scan.

They’re drilling into your bone, don’t they?

No. It’s an x-ray. It’s painless. It’s just a specific type of x-ray. They look at the bone density, and every woman should have it just to know where they’re at. Unfortunately, insurance doesn’t typically pay for it until you’re 65 in most areas, which is completely wrong unless you have a history of it in your family, as I have. My mother has osteoporosis, so I had a DEXA scan done early. 

But here’s the thing: get it done. Know what your numbers are so you can be proactive about it. You don’t want to wait until you’re 65 to find out your bones are not doing well. The only option for you is medication, and some of these medications have tough side effects. That’s number one.

Actually, I used to be a personal trainer a long time ago, and I remember reading studies showing that even women in their 70s and 80s, when they started exercising, like lifting heavy weights, increased their bone density.

Habits are not easy to change, but we must give ourselves grace to try our best.

I’m so glad you brought that up. This is where we empower women, and this is my mission. You asked that earlier. My mission is to close the education gap around bone health for patients and physicians because many physicians know medication is the option. But there’s so much more we can do. What we found in terms of exercise, and this is one of the more recent studies. It’s called the LIFTMOR trial. What they did is they took about 100 post-menopausal women with osteoporosis and put them through.

They did only about four or five exercises with them, but heavy resistance and impact training was where you leave the ground and come down on both feet. Together, these two components found a significant difference in bone density in the lower back and the hip. It’s more in the lower back than the hip, but women were able to build bone. All these people in the trial were under very close supervision by a physical therapist or an exercise specialist. They weren’t just out there willy-nilly; they were doing it twice a week. There were only five exercises, and it was a significant difference. I’ve seen it time and time again when you do progressive resistive exercise, and this was my problem.

I was only doing pilates and yoga, which I’m sorry to say, but studies show that it’s not enough to build bone. I then had to start doing more heavy-weight and progressive resistive exercises. If you are doing two-pound weights and three-pound weights, you have to start increasing them. I always tell people to see a physical therapist or a personal trainer who’s well-versed in osteoporosis to help advance them.

I would add to that. I suggest seeing a physical therapist first because many trainers don’t have the depth. Even if they’re like, “I’ve been training for ten years,” most of them don’t have the depth of knowing exactly how to treat compared to physical therapists. I know they have a deeper knowledge of how to deal with those things.

Exactly. That’s my preference in order. Do the PT first because they can help if you’ve got pain, they can identify where that pain is coming from and then give you exercises to get out of pain. If you’re in pain, you won’t be able to exercise. They can take a look at whatever else is out of balance where you may have limitations or you may have strength loss. They can help target those specific areas where most personal trainers are not doing the assessment part. You need the PT there to do the assessment.

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They don’t have the right assessment. Most of them don’t. I think 3% of all personal trainers have the depth of knowledge to help people. They’ll take a person through an exercise routine, and yes, it will help, but not so specific to help them get to the root cause of what’s going on. You must have somebody knowledgeable and know a lot about anatomy and the body and how to heal it to help you. As a previous personal trainer, I know a lot about the industry. Yeah, physical therapy first because that can really help.

That’s such a great point. A personal trainer can come into play after working with their PT to understand what they need and be aware of their limitations. Then, a personal trainer can take over and bring them through a gradual program. I always like to, every six months or so, have them go back to PT and just be reassessed to see how they’re doing and if they need to add anything else to their program. These are all phenomenal ways that we can build more muscle and bone. The biggest message is if we’re only doing yoga or we’re only doing pilates, and there are certain things we don’t want to be doing within those two disciplines. We still have to bring in strength training, and we have to work on posture as well. Posture is another issue if we are in a forward head and forward shoulder position, we put weight too much weight on the front of the spine, where we’re vulnerable or more susceptible to compression fractures.

That’s a fracture in the vertebrae when the bones get weak, and we put too much stress on them, such as forward-bending postures, bending forward from the waist, and sitting with a slouched posture. This is a huge piece of osteoporosis. Treatment addresses posture and body mechanics.

I’m thinking about my body. I nursed my child for three years. I had a horrible posture. That’s probably one of the reasons why I’m struggling with what I’m struggling with. And that said, I got inspired by this interview to take better care of myself. I think maybe I should go to see a physical therapist. It’s all so connected because even gluten can cause psychotic breakouts in people. It’s huge. 

When you celebrate small wins in optimizing your bone health, a whole neurological process occurs, helping reinforce the behavior.

Even the piece about gluten parasites can cause your mindset to be horrible and brain fog, and so does SIBO. Then, if you look at exercise, bone loss can create all this inflammation and affect your mindset, but if you strengthen yourself and exercise. I remember an old research where they put people on Prozac for three months, and the other group went on just exercise for three months. At the end of those three months, the people who exercised had better mood and cognitive functions than those who took the medication or something like that. There are natural solutions, like eliminating gluten and figuring it out for yourself, just listening to all the symptoms that you shared and taking care of yourself. As you said, take it easy and not put too much pressure on yourself if you’re a mom like me. There is already pressure just being a mom, and life happens, and things happen, and then you stress, and then you try to take care of yourself, but then you’re stressed about all the things you have to do to take care of yourself. You’re stressed about your stress. It’s about taking a breath and just pick and choose because you can do everything at once. But if you take care of yourself just a little bit more every day, you’ll feel much better.

It’s not so hard once you start building these habits, but you can’t try to do 10 new things at once. It’s one thing at a time. If you just focus on getting your breakfast in, more often than not, you’re bringing down inflammation, you’re balancing your blood sugar, you’re feeding your muscles, you’re feeding your bones, and you’re going to have more motivation to exercise. Everything is an upward spiral with even small changes, even lifting weight, even a little bit of weight that produces small changes that add up. Just sitting up straight, just getting ears over shoulders, over hips, getting spine in line, that eases up so much pressure on the spine, that aligns you, that opens up all the meridians and the energy channels and allows you to breathe better and just enter the world better. These little things don’t have to be monumental things we try to do.

Before we started our conversation, you mentioned something about yoga postures that some women should never do.

Whatever we do, we want a low-inflammatory diet and a low-inflammatory lifestlyle.

Yes. This is so bio-individual because there are people out there who have been doing yoga forever, and they may be perfectly fine doing these postures, but in general, there’s so much more risk of fracture with flexion postures. They also did a study on this, following women up from one to one year. They put them either doing all flexion exercises, meaning bending forward exercises, or extension exercises, meaning things on their stomach where they bend backward. They found that over that period, six years or so, 16% of the women did fracture doing extension work, but 89% fractured their spines doing flexion exercises. Flexion means the rounding forward poses. When bending over and touching your toes, a child’s pose must be adapted. You can do a child’s pose by tenting up on your fingertips and rocking back on the hips but not bending forward.

For anyone with osteopenia or osteoporosis, you want to avoid those postures, any of the deep twists, and the revolved triangle, which has too much rotational force on the spine. Things like warrior one, where the body is facing forward with the hips, ideally facing forward, but that back foot is facing out. You need tremendous hip extension or hip flexibility to keep that hip open. Most people have tight hip flexors. If you don’t have an open hip flexor, as you’re trying to bring that body front, you will create more rotational force in the lower back, which may be too much. 

It’s more for yoga and pilates as well. It’s avoiding the rounding over postures. It’s avoiding end ranges of twisting. You can still do twisting, but not forced twisting—no overpressure from teachers. Sometimes, teachers will push on the client; they’ll put overpressure on them. You don’t want any overpressure. Sometimes, even the deeper hip stretches, like pigeon pose, might also be too much on the hip. So again, you can adjust this for the pigeon pose.

You couldn’t bend forward but prop your hip up. That would give you less stress on the hip. There are ways to adapt the postures, but you need to know that we don’t want to be doing them over and over because many of these compression-type fractures happen from a cumulative effect, and it’s not like it’s not a single entity. It’s happening from cumulative trauma.

That is so good to know. I’m so happy you shared that. Thank you so much. All of it was amazing. Before we say goodbye, I would love to have you back on the show and talk more about this and other topics. What are your three top tips for living a stellar life, and where can people find you?

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Okay, great. My top three tips would be (1) to optimize your digestion. That’s going to help you in every part of your health, not only bone, but everything. (2) For women, build muscle. We start to lose it very quickly in our forties and up, so start using those weights and get yourself to a PT or personal trainer to help you increase that in a safe way.

(3) Then, manage your stress. Managing stress will help the gut, every area of your life and bring you to a place of self-healing. Those would be the three biggest things I want to focus on.

Amazing. Where can people find you?

You can find me on my social media, Anne Lemons Wellness. I’m very active on Instagram, where I give a ton of movement tips for women with osteoporosis. My website is also Anne Lemons Wellness. I’m starting a YouTube channel, and I’ve already got quite a few things up there. You can also contact me there.

Beautiful. Thank you so much. This was a great conversation, and I really appreciate you. I’m so glad we met.

I’m so glad I was here. Thank you so much for this opportunity. It was wonderful.

Thank you. And thank you, listeners. Remember to optimize your digestion, build muscle, manage stress, and have a stellar life. This is Orion till next time.

Your Checklist of Actions to Take

{✓}Optimize your digestion by healing your gut. Heal leaky gut by removing inflammatory foods, managing stress, and taking probiotics.

{✓}Try eating enough protein, especially as you get older. Aim for 0.5-0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight.

{✓}Incorporate weight or resistance training to build muscle at least 2-3 times per week. Focus on compound exercises that work for multiple muscle groups.

{✓}Get a DEXA scan (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) to check your bone density. Knowing your numbers can help you be proactive before fractures occur.

{✓}Work with a physical therapist so they can assess limitations, identify causes of pain, and create an individualized plan for you. 

{✓}Focus on posture and body mechanics. Keep ears over shoulders and shoulders over hips for proper alignment, and use mindful movements to reinforce good postural habits.

{✓}Include impact training in your exercise routine, such as jump squats, jumping jacks, step-ups, and light bounding. Weight-bearing exercises with impact help stimulate new bone growth.

{✓}Manage your stress through lifestyle changes. Chronic stress raises inflammation and can contribute to bone loss.

{✓}Celebrate small wins to reinforce new healthy habits. Give yourself a high five, do a happy dance, and tell yourself, “I’m a rockstar!”

{✓}Dive deeper into Anne Lemon’s wealth of knowledge on bone health, movement, and living vibrantly. Follow her on Instagram, and check her website, annelemonswellness.com.

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About Anne Lemons

Anne Lemons is a seasoned physical therapist and practitioner of functional medicine, nutrition, and lifestyle strategies based in Boston, MA. As a passionate advocate for women’s health, Anne empowers her clients to fortify their bones through holistic approaches while addressing the underlying causes of chronic symptoms. Anne is also a certified Buff Bones instructor and brings specialized training in gut health and Heart Math to her holistic practice.

The medical, fitness, psychological, mindset, lifestyle, and nutritional information provided on this website and through any materials, downloads, videos, webinars, podcasts, or emails are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical/fitness/nutritional advice, diagnoses, or treatment. Always seek the help of your physician, psychologist, psychiatrist, therapist, certified trainer, or dietitian with any questions regarding starting any new programs or treatments or stopping any current programs or treatments. This website is for information purposes only, and the creators and editors, including Orion Talmay, accept no liability for any injury or illness arising out of the use of the material contained herein, and make no warranty, express or implied, with respect to the contents of this website and affiliated materials.

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