What's the Risk of Osteoporosis with Celiac Disease?
For those who are well versed in celiac disease, we know that it's not only the most common lifelong illness in the U.S. and Europe, but it's also an autoimmune disease.
What many people don't know is the following:
- Where there’s one autoimmune disease others tend to develop,
- Autoimmune diseases are the third leading cause of death in this country,
- Osteoporosis is one of over 100 different autoimmune diseases
Did you ever break a bone? If you did, you likely assumed that based on the trauma you suffered, anyone would have suffered the same fate… the broken bone. But we now realize that those with celiac disease are much more likely to suffer a fracture than their non-celiac counterparts. Plus, surprisingly, men may be at a particularly higher risk then we thought.
Can "Brittle Bones" Heal Themselves on a Gluten Free Diet?
The above research comes to us from Argentina in a published study entitled “Risk of Fracture in Celiac Disease” dated July 7, 2011 in the World Journal of Gastroenterology..
It has been hotly contended that those suffering from celiac-induced osteoporosis or osteopenia (early osteoporosis) could see reversal of their bone density problems when placed on a gluten-free diet. Professionally I’ve definitely seen such a change in my patients, along with the reversal or improvement of other autoimmune diseases. But this study verified the beautiful ability of the human body to heal itself once the stressor (in the case of celiac disease – gluten) has been removed.
In a group of 256 people, all celiacs who had been diagnosed for over 5 years, information was gathered about prior fractures and to which bone they occurred. This data was compared to a control group of 530 individuals who had gastrointestinal problems as well, but none that were known to affect bone density. Similarly, any individuals diagnosed with any disease condition that could affect bone health in a negative fashion were excluded. Lastly, those who were taking any supplements or drugs that could affect bone health in a positive way were also removed from consideration.
Those celiacs who participated in the study strictly adhered to their gluten-free diet and the minimum amount of time they had been gluten-free was 5 years.
The findings of the study were as follows:
Celiacs, prior to diagnosis, who demonstrated ‘classical celiac’ (vs the silent or atypical form) had a higher incidence of fracture in their extremities (not the spine) before diagnosis than after maintaining their gluten-free diet. This was statistically most significant in men.
The exciting news was that after maintaining a gluten-free diet for 5 years, the risk of fracture dropped to that of the control group. The gluten-free diet, when maintained, corrected any increased risk of fracture.
The take-home message is clear: Cheating on your gluten-free diet is always a bad idea. In addition to affecting so many facets of health, bone density can now be added to the list.
I hope you found this informative. If you health is not to the level you wish it to be or you suspect that gluten could be affecting you, consider contacting us for a free health analysis - call 408-733-0400. As a destination clinic, we treat patients from across the country and internationally. We are here to help!