Physical repositioning, time, rest and recovery are the only surefire ways to heal a broken bone, but there are things you can do every day to optimize your bone health and support the healing process.
For example, certain nutrients can help bolster bone strength and set up the body to be at its healthiest while healing, notes Pamela Peeke, MD, MPH, integrative and preventive medicine physician and member of Solaray's Science Advisory Team.
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It's always best to get your nutrients from whole foods, but a supplement might be helpful if it's difficult for you to eat a nutrient-rich diet.
The bones in our bodies are made up of very definable substances — mainly, amino acids from protein, collagen and minerals, explains Mark Iwanicki, ND, LAc, naturopathic doctor and licensed acupuncturist. "Supplementing the body with these key ingredients can give the body's natural healing abilities the raw materials it needs to heal the quickest and most effectively," he says.
In short: While no supplement has the potential to heal a broken or fractured bone, some may help bolster bone health overall, which may lend itself to the healing process.
With that in mind, here are the best supplements for bone healing.
Always see a doctor for a broken bone, and discuss any supplements with your doctor before you start taking them.
Perhaps the best-known supplement to help with bone health is calcium. As the main mineral found in our bones, calcium has a lot to offer someone who's recovering from any bone issues.
"Calcium is needed to protect bone structure and strength," says Pamela Peeke, MD, MPH, integrative and preventive medicine physician and member of Solaray's Science Advisory Team.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day for adults ages 18 to 50, with a 200-milligram increase per day for women over 51 and men over 70.
"Most calcium supplements deliver 1,000 milligrams in multiple capsules or tablets, however, your body has a limited capacity to absorb calcium at once, so medical providers recommend dividing that dose into two or three times daily so your supplement will serve you better," Dr. Peeke says.
Try One of These Calcium Supplements
2. Vitamin D3
The right-hand supplement to calcium is vitamin D. In fact, without it, our bodies cannot properly absorb calcium from the foods we eat, Iwanicki explains.
He recommends taking the active form, D3, and always pairing it with vitamin K2 (more on that below), which helps move calcium that can accumulate in the blood and move it into bone.
"A healthy dose of vitamin D3 to supplement is around 1,000 to 5,000 IUs per day, usually dosed at around 100 mcg per 5,000 IU of D3," he notes.
Try These Vitamin D3 Supplements
Magnesium is an essential mineral to take while supplementing vitamin D3, according to Iwanicki.
"Magnesium helps activate vitamin D, which is crucial in several bone-building enzymes," he says.
You can find magnesium in leafy greens, avocados, fruits like mangoes and guava, legumes and dark chocolate, per the NIH.
"In supplement form, magnesium is always paired with a carrier to help with absorption in the body," Iwanicki explains. "All the carriers will increase your magnesium levels. However, these side groups can have additional targeted benefits in the body."
He recommends magnesium citrate, as it's one of the most bioavailable forms. "Typical supplemental doses range from 300 to 1,000 milligrams per day," he adds.
Try These Magnesium Supplements
Zinc has gotten a lot of attention, especially in recent years, for its immune-bolstering abilities, but it's also a great bone-supporter as well.
"Zinc, which makes up some of the mineral layers in bone, promotes the formation of bone-building cells and stops the excessive activity of cells that break down bone," says Iwanicki.
You can find zinc in seafood, such as crab and lobster, and seeds such as pumpkin, per the NIH.
"Supplemental doses range from 5 to 60 milligrams per day depending on age, gender and what you are using it for," says Iwanicki.
Try These Zinc Supplements
5. Vitamin K2
A lesser-known vitamin, K2 is important in maintaining bone health.
"K2 is critical for making important proteins that are involved in blood clotting and metabolism and helps activate those proteins that are involved with bone formation and mineralization, which is what makes the bones strong," Dr. Peeke says.
You can also supplement to get the appropriate amounts of K2 daily.
"It is recommended that you get 100 to 300 micrograms daily for an adult dosage, which can be from food and/or supplementation," Dr. Peeke says. "The easiest way to take this in supplement form is in a supplement with calcium or with your vitamin D, but regardless of how you do it, take it with a fat, since vitamin K is fat-soluble."
Try These Vitamin K2 Supplements
While only a trace mineral, meaning your body only uses small amounts of it, boron has a very powerful effect on bone health, according to Iwanicki.
"Boron helps influence the important bone-building effects of other minerals — as well as calcium, magnesium and phosphorus — and it acts in synergy with vitamin D," he says. "Boron is high in avocados, apples, peaches and legumes, and typical supplemental doses range from 1 to 2 milligrams per day."
Try These Boron Supplements
"Collagen peptides are high in the amino acids glycine, proline and lysine, all of which are essential for bone building, as well as for muscles, tendons and ligaments," explains Iwanicki. "After calcium, collagen makes up one of the highest ingredients — percentage-wise — of bone structure."
The trouble with collagen is that it can only be found in animal sources, but you can source the individual amino acids in plant sources.
"If you're supplementing from animal sources, make sure to use collagen peptides that have been sourced from organic, grass-fed animals," says Iwanicki. "Typical doses range from 20 to 60 grams per day."
Try These Collagen Supplements
- Ancestral Supplements Grass Fed Bone and Marrow: Amazon ($52)
- Vital Vitamins Multi Collagen Complex: Amazon ($23.45)
- Grass-Fed Bone Broth Capsules With Collagen: Amazon ($32.99)
What to Know Before Buying a Supplement for Bone Healing
Here are some things you should know and look out for when shopping for a supplement to aid with bone healing.
1. Reach for Whole Foods First
Before you spend money on a supplement, consider getting your bone health-supporting nutrients from whole foods rather than pills. A healthy, well-balanced diet will supply the vitamins and minerals your body needs during the healing process.
If you need some support in creating a balanced diet, work with your doctor or a registered dietitian.
2. Read the Labels
With all supplements, an important thing is to read the labels and know how the supplements are sourced, notes Adylia-Rhenee Gutierrez, certified integrative nutritionist and founder of Yhorlife.
"The best is when the ingredients are organic and/or wild, which means not genetically modified ingredients (GMO)," she says. "Also, organic is best, as this details that it's sourced in the healthiest environment."
3. Know Your Numbers
It's important to make sure you're not getting too much of a certain nutrient. A good way to check is at your yearly physical. Your doctor or a specialized health practitioner can help you discover what exactly you need and what you need to supplement with.
4. Opt for High-Quality Supplements
Not all supplements are created equal. In fact, some may contain more fillers than actual nutrients.
Keep in mind that the FDA does not approve supplements before they go on the market, so there's no guarantee you're getting what the label claims. To make sure you're taking a safe, effective supplement, look for one that's been third-party tested by USP, NSF (or NSF for Sport) or Consumer Lab.
- functional nutritional therapy practitioner Tansy Rodgers, F.N.T.P.
- Mark Iwanicki, ND, LAc, Naturopathic doctor and licensed acupuncturist
- Pamela Peeke, MD, MPH, integrative and preventive medicine physician and member of Solaray’s Science Advisory Team
- NIH: Magneisum
- NIH: Zinc
- U.S. Department of Agriculture
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.