by Nicole LeBlanc, Dt.P. (Translation by Mark Johnson)
Osteoporosis is a frequent complication of celiac disease, linked to the malabsorption of calcium. This nutrient is absorbed in the first portion of the small intestine, which is also the main area of intestinal damage in someone with untreated celiac disease.
Osteoporosis is a condition that affects the skeleton and is characterized by low bone density and the deterioration of bone tissue, rendering the bones more fragile. This problem can lead to pain as well as deformities in the spine.
Indeed, osteoporosis is a major public health problem in Canada, and the prevalence is only increasing with the ageing population. Looking at gender, women are four times more likely than men to have osteoporosis – the decline in estrogen production results in a 2-5% loss of bone density per year over the course of the first few years post-menopause. Osteoporosis is also more common in people with a new celiac diagnosis than among the general population – and with celiacs, men have the same percentage of risk as women do.
People are at greater risk if they present with the following factors:
- Family history of osteoporosis (e.g. fractures in the hip, wrist or vertebrae)
- Being a woman and over 50 years of age
- Weakened bone structure and a weight at the lower end of the healthy range – BMI between 18.5 and 25)
- Early menopause (before the age of 45)
- Lack of physical activity
- Low intake of dietary calcium
- Excessive caffeine consumption (more than four cups per day)
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Using certain medical drugs, including cortisone, for more than three months
- Diseases that interfere with the absorption of nutrients (e.g. Crohn’s disease, celiac disease)