Expert points to connection between celiac disease and osteoporosis

A dental hygienist from Colorado recently wrote an article stressing the need for dietary assessments among individuals with celiac disease, since the condition can contribute to the onset of osteoporosis.

Suzanne Hubbard, a dental health technician, said that she herself developed the symptoms of celiac disease almost a decade ago, when periodic bouts of diarrhea and body sores sent her to her general physicians.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition that causes an intolerance to gliadin, which is a gluten protein commonly found in many grains. An estimated one in 133 Americans suffers from the condition, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse.



Hubbard wrote in RDH, a magazine for dental health professionals, that she was initially diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, which shares many of its symptoms with celiac disease. However, after noticing an increase in canker sores, she visited a gastroenterologist and discovered she had an allergy to glutens.



Celiac disease causes damage to the intestines, and Hubbard wrote that individuals with the condition typically have to adopt a restricted diet to compensate. This action can increase the risk of osteoporosis, she added.

Celiac disease can contribute to bone loss in several ways. Those who have not yet been diagnosed with the allergy may experience malnutrition, since their digestive tract experiences inflammation caused by gluten exposure. Likewise, restricting one's diet after the diagnosis can keep individuals from eating foods fortified with vitamin D, a nutrient essential for bone health.

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases adds that occasionally, celiac disease damages a person's intestines so severely that they have permanent difficulty in absorbing nutrients. This can predispose them to osteoporosis.

A 2009 New England Journal of Medicine study also found that celiac disease appears to encourage the body's immune system to break down bone minerals.

Hubbard concluded that an awareness of the link between the celiac disease and osteoporosis may help physicians treat the two health issues or even diagnose one by detecting the presence of the other.
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