Osteoporosis occurs in over 25% of all patients with Celiac Disease at diagnosis.
As stated by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “osteoporosis is a complication of untreated celiac disease.” Therefore, if you do not adhere to a gluten free diet or if your celiac disease went undiagnosed for a period of time, you may want to talk to your physician about your bone health. In fact, according to the NIH, even celiac disease patients who consume enough calcium may be deficient in this mineral.
Villous atrophy, the destruction of the villi, the small fingerlike projections in the small intestine, is a common clinical sign of celiac disease. And, because the villi are responsible for nutrient absorption from food, nutrient deficiencies are more common in those with celiac disease. Though elimination of gluten from the diet will help and can sometimes result in normal absorption of nutrients within a few months, it may take up to 2 years to restore nutrient absorption in some adults. And, those with excessive destruction of the villi may experience impaired healing of their small intestine and therefore require intravenous supplements to meet their nutrient needs (your physician will access your case).
Why do you need calcium?
In addition to its imperative role in bone density, calcium is also important for several other functions in the body including muscle function, nerve transmission, hormone secretion and more. And unfortunately, you may not notice a sub optimal calcium intake or low blood levels in the short term because your body pulls it from it’s storage site in your bone tissue (making bone porous if this process continues over time) to maintain critical functions within your body. However, symptoms of low blood calcium levels can include numbness and tingling in the fingers, muscle cramps, convulsions, lethargy, poor appetite, and abnormal heart rhythms.
Calcium is vital but it doesn’t work alone. In fact, vitamin D helps our body absorb calcium. In addition, vitamin D is essential for bone growth and remodeling (the body’s process for taking out old bone and replacing it with new bone). Signs and symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include bone pain, muscle pain, low bone mineral density and misshapen bones.
Calcium is found in dairy products, fortified foods and some green leafy vegetables (though you need very large quantities of these to meet your daily calcium needs). And though most multivitamins contain calcium, this mineral is very large and bulky and therefore, no single multivitamin contains enough calcium to meet your daily needs. Plus, our body only absorbs about 500 mg of calcium at one time and therefore, if you supplement, don’t take more than this amount at once (divide your doses up during the day if necessary). Vitamin D is found in few foods including fortified milk, some fortified yogurts, some fish (you have to eat the bones) and our bodies can make it upon exposure to sunlight (though sunscreen and darker skin inhibit this process).
In addition to getting adequate calcium and vitamin D and supplementing when necessary, be sure to follow up with your physician regularly and engage in regular weight bearing exercise to build and maintain bone density.
If you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity and follow a gluten-free diet, talk to your physician about your bone health, calcium and vitamin D. Many Americans are not consuming adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D daily and those with celiac disease may also have a decreased absorption of these nutrients. In fact, some research suggests that approximately 10-30% of patients have osteoporosis and 40% have osteopenia (lower than normal bone mineral density) at the time of their diagnosis with celiac disease.
A liquid calcium and vitamin D supplement is a great solution for those with malabsorption caused from Celiac. It more easily and completely than nutrients from pills or tablets. Look for one that is certified gluten free such as Wellesse Liquid Supplements at www.wellesse.com.