Osteoporosis and Gluten Sensitivity

December 3, 2009

Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis can cause osteoporosis, so can gluten sensitivity. In a 2005 study, researchers evaluated 266 individuals with osteoporosis, along with 574 without the condition, to identify the prevalence of coeliac disease. They discovered that close to 5 % of people with osteoporosis had a positive blood test for coeliac disease, which is significantly higher then in the individuals without osteoporosis who only had 1% that tested positive for coeliac disease. These finding are clear enough that the researchers recommended blood tests for gluten anti-bodies in all patients with osteoporosis.

As amazingly high as this statistic is, we need to keep in mind that blood testing for coeliac disease misses a significant number of individuals who are gluten sensitive; it is these individuals that may already be on the way to losing bone density.

Osteopemia and osteoporosis can often be reversed, but the condition must be treated correctly. This does not always happen due to misdiagnosis, as the following case suggests.

Willow, a post menopausal woman had her first bon scan in 1991 because osteoporosis ran in her family and because she was thin and small boned. She was not surprised when she was diagnosed with osteoporosis. In an attempt to stop and reverse the disorder her rheumatologist tried the medications available at that time Fosamax and Actonel, both of which failed to help Willow.

Several years passed and the disease progressed. In 2003 Willows osteoporosis specialist prescribed a new medication. Despite her diligence in taking this course of treatment, it also failed to stop the degeneration of her bones. It was by either luck or instinct that Willow demanded to be tested for coeliac disease. Her husband had been diagnosed with coeliac disease in 1982, so she had kept up to date on coeliac disease research. Although she had not suffered from any symptoms of coeliac disease, she did not have diarrhoea, weight loss, anaemia or other symptoms, she asked her doctor to run a tissue transglutaminase blood test (a test for gluten sensitivity). The doctor and laboratory were unfamiliar with the blood test, but they learned how to do it. To everyone’s surprise, except possibly Willow’s, the tests came back positive. She went on a gluten free diet, gained over 6kg and has continued to see an improvement in her bone density. A gluten free diet came to her rescue.

Willow’s experience is not an anomaly. As far back as 1996, research has shown that going on a gluten free diet would reverse bone density loss, even in patients who showed no symptoms of malabsorption, normally the primary reason why osteoporosis occurs in people with coeliac disease ( In cases of malabsorption, the body does not absorb minerals and other nutrients necessary for bone growth. Porosity then results). In that study of 63 patients, every patient improved when they followed a gluten free diet.

These improvements are not short term only. Authors of a 5 year follow up study of coeliac disease patients who adhered to a gluten free diet said, “According to our results, bone disease in coeliac patients is cured in most patients during 5 years on a gluten free diet. The improvement in BMD (bone mineral density) mostly occurred already within the first year after the establishment of a gluten free diet”.

The lesson to be learned: if you have been diagnosed with osteopemia or osteoporosis and you haven’t seen improvement with all you have tried, go gluten free. The diet may save you from pain and suffering.

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Related posts:

  1. Conditions Associated with Gluten Sensitivity – Autism
  2. Conditions Associated with Gluten Sensitivity – Neurological Diseases Part 2

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Nutritional Treatments | Gluten Free Health - Celiac Disease information
March 21, 2010 at 10:41 pm

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