Celiac Disease and Bone Health: March 24, 2012

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where the body has trouble absorbing nutrients from food, in particular ones with wheat or gluten.

“When the small bowel becomes exposed to the wheat products, it becomes inflamed. The chronic inflammation causes the small bowel to thicken. There are small little villi in the small bowel that are absorbing material. As the bowel starts to thicken, these villi get smaller and smaller, and a person gets a malabsorbtive disorder,” says Dr. Michael Bays, a gastroenterologist on the medical staff of Lee Memorial Health System.

The malabsorption causes anemia in many people with celiac disease. Now studies show they’re four times more likely than the general population to develop osteoporosis, making proper diet even more important.

“It’s not just concentrating on certain products. You have to make your diet balanced,” says Marjorie Chutkan, a registered dietician with Lee Memorial Health System.

Celiac patients can take supplements to reduce their risk but should be diligent in food selection.

“What foods are you choosing, how often do you eats it, what is it made up of? Is it balanced where we’re getting a variety of different nutrients? Those are the questions that you need to ask,” says Chutkan.

Many people with celiac disease are undiagnosed. Experts believe it affects as many as one in 200 people with only one in 8,000 having severe disease. That leaves the majority falling through the cracks.

“They just get cramping and bloating and they thing they have irritable bowel,” says Dr. Bays.

People with recurring digestive issues may want to screen for celiac disease.

“Nowadays it’s a blood test that is about 95% sensitive,” says Dr. Bays.

A simple test may provide the information you need to boost your bone health.