This NativePath content is medically reviewed or fact-checked to ensure factually accurate information.
With strict editorial sourcing guidelines, we only link to academic research institutions, reputable media sites, and, when research is available, medically peer-reviewed studies. Note that the numbers in parentheses (1, 2, etc.) are clickable links to these studies.
The information in our articles is NOT intended to replace that of a qualified healthcare professional and is not intended as medical advice.
June 2, 2022
Top 6 Bone Density Medications, and Why Collagen Could Be a Better Option
Osteoporosis is a silent troublemaker.
It can wreak havoc on your bones—going undetected for months or years without a single symptom.
If you do have the condition, your doctor may prescribe you medication to help strengthen your bones. But osteoporosis medications can come with tough side effects. Luckily, there’s a natural, risk-free treatment you can opt for instead.
The Connection between Age and Bone Density
During the course of your life, your bones continually go through a process called bone turnover, a process in which your body breaks down old bone cells and replaces them with new bone cells. In your younger years, new cells replenish at a rate that keeps your bones healthy and strong.
Throughout menopause and into your older years, your body starts to break down old bone cells quicker than before, and it can’t always create new bone cells fast enough to replace what you’ve lost. This leads to a loss in bone density, and for many people, that bone density continues to decline until it’s full-fledged osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a condition that’s characterized by brittle and weak bones. Once you experience your first osteoporosis-related fracture, you’re on a slippery slope, with an increased risk of even more fractures (3).
When fractures occur, your normal daily activities aren’t so easy anymore. Carrying grocery bags, doing laundry, and picking up your grandkids off the ground becomes nearly impossible to do on your own.
This is why it’s essential to keep your bone density in check—so that you can continue to be the vibrant, independent person you really are.
How to Increase Your Bone Density
Whether or not you take medication, you’ll want to adopt a few healthy habits to naturally improve your bone density…
So can cutting back on alcohol and eating a diet rich in nutrients like magnesium, protein, vitamin D, phosphorus, potassium, fluoride, and more (6).
Whether you have osteoporosis already or are just high-risk, your doctor’s next suggestion may be to try bone density medication.
Top Medications for Bone Density
There are several different types of bone density medications on the market—and they all work in different ways. While these medications may in fact increase your bone density, they come with the risk of frustrating—and sometimes serious—side effects.
1. Bisphosphonates (like Fosamax, Bonica, Actonel, Atelvia, and Reclast)
Bisphosphonates are a drug class that work by slowing the breakdown of the bone.
There are several different ways to take bisphosphonates...
- Pills: Pill bisphosphonates consist of alendronate (like Fosamax), ibandronate (like Boniva), or risedronate (like Actonel or Atelvia). Depending on which pill you’re prescribed, you could be taking them every day, every week, or every month.
- Injections Once Every Three Months: This form is called ibandronate (like Boniva).
- An Infusion Once Per Year: Zoledronic acid (like Reclast) is given as an intravenous infusion.
Bisphosphonate pills aren’t great for anyone who is prone to a sensitive stomach or heartburn. After taking them, you’re discouraged from ingesting anything else, laying down, or even bending over for 30-60 minutes to avoid the medicine coming back up. IV bisphosphonates can cause a mild flu-like experience after your first infusion.
The most well-known potential risks of bisphosphonate are those to your thigh bone and your jaw. The medication can cause a fracture in the middle of the bone that begins slowly and worsens over time. Another concern is the risk for what’s called osteonecrosis, or “bone death,” in the jaw (7, 8).
This happens when your jawbone struggles or fails to heal after dental work. While these side effects are rare, they’re certainly concerning. They’re more likely to occur in patients who are taking bisphosphonates to treat cancer in the bones, or in women who have been taking high doses of bisphosphonates long term.
Because these risks increase with long-term use, doctors usually suggest women take them for no longer than five years, and some even suggest intermittent breaks from the drugs to lower their risk.
2. Teriparatide (like Forteo) and Abaloparatide (like Tymlos)
These two drugs work similarly, by building up your bones. They are synthetic versions of a hormone that increases density.
Teriparatide and Abaloparatide are often prescribed to women who have vertebral fractures and very low bone density. Unfortunately, when you take these drugs, you’ll need to give yourself an injection every day.
3. Calcitonin (like Miacalcin and Fortical)
Calcitonin is the oldest osteoporosis medication option, dating back to the ‘80s.
This hormone binds to the cells that normally break down bones, which helps prevent you from losing more bone density. While it’s been found to reduce spinal fractures, calcitonin isn’t known to be very effective for other types of fractures, so it’s not a very robust defense against osteoporosis.
Calcitonin also comes along with potential side effects like joint pain, stomach pain, muscle cramps, shaking hands, weight changes, and trouble sleeping.
4. Denosumab (like Prolia)
Denosumab is a monoclonal antibody that prevents the cells that break down your bones from forming. It’s taken as an injection twice a year. Unfortunately, denosumab comes with a major commitment: If you stop taking it, you’re likely to experience a swift drop in bone density and an abrupt risk of fractures (9).
5. Romosozumab (like Evenity)
Romosozumab is also a monoclonal antibody, and is usually given to women who have already suffered a fragility fracture (a fracture caused by a fall from standing height or lower).
It works by blocking a protein in your body that inhibits bone formation, freeing your system to build bone more easily. Romosozumab is given as an injection every month, but it loses its effectiveness after just one year. It also increases your risk for a heart attack or stroke (10).
6. Raloxifene (like Evista)
This medication is a selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM). It’s often used to prevent or treat breast cancer, but it can also help treat osteoporosis. It does this by acting as estrogen in the body, which decreases how quickly your bone mass turns over (11).
It especially helps reduce fracture risk for people with osteoporosis in their spine. However, it comes with potential side effects, including an increased risk of dangerous blood clots in the leg like deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolism (PE). In one study, raloxifene was associated with a 62% increase in the risk of experiencing either DVT or PE (12).
A Natural, Safer Alternative: Collagen Powder
If the risks and downsides of these medications aren’t for you, collagen is a healthy, natural, virtually risk-free option.
Collagen is the “glue” that holds your body together, keeping skin soft, joints healthy, nails strong, and bones healthy. It is central to maintaining bone density throughout your life, but as you age, your natural collagen production decreases (13).
By the time you’re 60, your collagen production decreases by more than half, so adding a supplement to your routine can help make up for the reserves you’ve lost and get back to building your bone density (14).
The cherry on top?
Collagen has nearly zero side effects and is easy to take. You can boost your bone health by mixing collagen daily into your coffee, tea, smoothie, soup, or anything else you choose. It’s simple, effective, and doesn’t involve needles or risks.
That said, not all collagen is created equal…
It’s important to make sure that you’re supplementing with collagen Types 1 and Type 3. There are 16 different types of collagen in the body, but Types 1 and 3 make up 90% of it (15). They’re essential to healthy functions in our skin, muscles, and most importantly, our bones. In fact, most Type 1 collagen is created by bone cells (16)! So if you’re taking collagen for bone health, Types 1 and 3 are essential.
The Bottom Line
As you age, your risk for osteoporosis increases—but that doesn’t mean you don’t have options.
Get a headstart on better bone health by supplementing with collagen. NativePath Collagen contains collagen Types 1 and 3, which are key to increasing bone density. Mix it into your daily routine for a healthier, safer, all-natural method for lowering your osteoporosis risk.
Wondering how much collagen you need to take to experience results? Read this article next: This Is How Much Collagen You Need Each Day to See and Feel Results
As a writer, editor, and wellness seeker, Claire has written for Self, Health, Prevention, CNN, Mic, Livestrong, and Greatist, just to name a few. When she's not writing, she specializes in traveling, getting lost in health-related research rabbit holes, and finding new ways to spoil her cat.
This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.