Strontium: A Better Way to Build Bones

Dear Pharmacist,

My wife has osteoporosis in his back pretty badly. I read your article a few years ago, about strontium being a good mineral for bone health. Do you still recommend today?
–C.C., Sacramento

Answer: Everything I said 4 years ago, in my first column holds. Strontium has been clinically proven to support bone health. I wish more physicians would suggest over-the-counter strontium supplements before prescribing bone-building “bisphosphonate” drugs like Actonel, Boniva and Fosamax or even other effective medications such as Evista or Forteo. It’s not that the drugs are bad, I just prefer natural options before the ‘big guns.’

To be clear, neither Evista or Forteo are bisphosphonate drugs, they work via a different mechanism of action to preserve bone integrity. But back to the topic at hand, an inexpensive supplement called strontium which is a mineral found in bones. Most people have never even heard of this mineral, but it could help you.

A 2004 study in New England Journal of Medicine concluded that strontium reduces risk of non-vertebral fractures by 41 percent over three years, and increases bone mineral density by 14.4 percent. Impressive when you compare that to standard treatments! You’re probably wondering WHY no one has mentioned this to you. Conventional practitioners educate themselves at seminars that are not based in “Functional Medicine” like my educational track, so they are not aware of strontium’s potential benefits.

Strontium offers a one-two punch with its dual mechanism of action. It prevents bone breakdown, while stimulating new bone growth! Medications work one side of that equation. It may support joint health and prevent tooth decay, in sharp contrast to certain medications which destroy the teeth/jaw. I wonder if it could help with cancer-related bone pain too?

Research published in the Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology said “The agent can now be considered as a first-line option to treat women at risk of osteoporosis fractures, whatever their age and the severity of the disease.”

Strontium is a natural component of bone, about 100 micrograms in every gram of bone, so supplementing enhances more of what you have (or had in the case of osteoporosis). Strontium’s brothers include calcium and magnesium, they are all chemically similar. In Europe, there are drug versions called “Stronat” and “Protelos” because they patented a unique salt called strontium ranelate. This drug version is used in clinical trials. In the US, non-drug versions of “strontium citrate” or “strontium gluconate” are sold at the health food stores, compounding pharmacies or holistic physician’s offices. If you’re an online shopper, high-quality brands to consider include:
Life Extension’s “Strontium Caps
OrthoMolecular’s “Strontium Support
Nutricology’s chewable “Strontium Osteo Complex
Doctor’s Best “Strontium Bone Maker

You must have enough calcium in your body for strontium to work well.

Most people do, but if you don’t, and you need both calcium and strontium, space them apart. For example, take strontium first thing in the morning (empty stomach), then at lunch, take calcium (preferably with vitamin D). When it comes to bone health, vitamin K2, natural progesterone hormone, silica, iodine, zinc, chromium and magnesium are important players, and of course weight-bearing exercise.

Some experts now feel that whole grains, which contain phytates, prevent absorption of minerals essential to bone health. Finally, gluten, caffeine and carbonated beverages are all associated with crumbling bones. Please leave me a comment below, I have opened up our forum so we can chat with each other now. Please feel free to help one another.