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People with celiac disease have increased bone fracture risk and other bone problems

Posted Jan 09 2012 12:00am

For anyone with bone density problems, bone fractures, osteoporosis, osteopenia, osteomalacia, bone pain or any other bone-related problems, consider getting tested for celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. This is a common symptom that often gets overlooked.  Two recent studies confirm the negative effects of celiac disease on bone health.

A case study of a 29-year old man with no gastrointestinal complaints came in with back pain. It was discovered that he had a compression fracture in his spine, and he reported that he had several bone fractures as a child. Tests revealed low bone density, but that vitamin D levels were normal, despite villous atrophy (damage to his intestines, often preventing the ability to absorb nutrients).

The authors of the report stated that ”Celiac disease is often a cause of low bone density and patients with celiac disease have an increased fracture risk, a hazard ratio of 1.43 or 43% increased risk when compared to age-matched healthy populations.” They concluded, “We emphasize considering celiac disease in all patients with idiopathic [arising spontaneously or from an obscure or unknown cause] low bone density even if vitamin D and PTH [parathyroid hormone] levels are normal.”

Another study submitted by doctors in Amsterdam profiled a 29-year old woman bound to a wheelchair who had progressive bone pain, short stature, difficulty walking, scoliosis, softening of the bones, low bone mineral density and poor dental condition. Testing showed that she had villous atrophy, antibodies against gluten, and extremely low vitamin D and low calcium, and was deficient in several other vitamins. She had already been diagnosed with celiac disease at age 17, but apparently wasn’t following the gluten-free diet or was at least getting some amount of gluten exposure. The doctors treated her for 14 days with intravenous calcium and vitamin D, and “the symptoms of the patient rapidly improved; the bone pain decreased, muscle strength and physical performance improved markedly, and she was able to walk unassisted.” Incredible! After 5 1/2 months they found that her bone mineral density had indeed improved.

Have you had bone problems as a result of celiac disease or gluten intolerance? Are you looking for answers to your bone-related health issues? Leave a comment so that your experience can help others or others can help you!

Related reading: Gluten and bone health

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