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Gluten and bone health

I have good bones. In fact, I have never broken a single one (knock knock knock on wood). Somehow my untreated celiac disease decided to take out its anger on other parts of me, but left my bones strong and healthy. Some people’s bones, however, are weakened by the effects of gluten, making them more susceptible to fracture.

Untreated celiac disease can greatly affect the bone health in children and adults. A new report from the Laboratory of Pediatric Endocrinology and BoNetwork in Milan, Italy says that bone mass measurements are greatly reduced in children with untreated celiac disease compared to other children. Lower bone mass can lead to bones breaking more easily. Osteoporosis in adults has been linked to celiac disease, believed to be caused by either the inability to absorb necessary nutrients (calcium) for optimal bone health, or by chronic inflammation present in the body due to celiac disease.

Anyone with poor bone health should look at gluten as a cause, even if they don’t have the gastrointestinal symptoms of celiac disease. One study published in early 2008 suggested that screening of osteoporosis patients for celiac disease is advisable, since it may be the only sign of undiagnosed celiac disease.

Luckily, removing gluten from the child’s diet can restore bone mass to normal levels. The bone density of adults can also be improved with a gluten-free diet, but they may not regain bone mass to normal levels. Anyone diagnosed with celiac disease should talk to their doctor about having a bone mineral density test and about nutritional supplements to help restore bone mass.

Related reading:
About celiac disease
Symptoms of celiac disease

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