Understanding the Link between Osteoporosis and Celiac Disease

     Medical researchers have noted for quite some time that osteoporosis and celiac disease commonly appear together. If you have either condition, it’s important to understand this link and to know what symptoms to look for. Being informed on this subject can have priceless health benefits.

     Osteoporosis is a disease that causes the bones to be less dense than they should be, making them more fragile and more likely to break.  Many people with osteoporosis don’t realize they have the condition until they break a bone. Sometimes the fractures are major breaks, or there can be dozens or hundreds of tiny fractures. Loss of height with aging and a severely rounded upper back called the dowager’s hump are usually the result of many small osteoporotic fractures that have weakened the spine.

     It is fortunate that osteoporosis is preventable. The reason why people with celiac disease are at high risk for osteoporosis has to do with the first two of these risk factors—insufficient intake of calcium and vitamin D. When people with celiac disease eat foods that contain gluten, the villi that line the small intestine become damaged. Malabsorption—improper uptake of nutrients by the body—results, particularly of the nutrients calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin K, all of which are essential for healthy bones.

     The American Gastroenterological Association recommends that all patients with celiac disease undergo bone density tests, often called bone density scans, bone mineral density (BMD) tests, or bone densitometry, to determine whether they have osteoporosis. These tests are quick, easy, and painless. Your doctor will need to give you a prescription for a bone density test.

      If you’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis or celiac disease, consult your doctor about getting tested for the associated condition!

Tina Turbin

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