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  • The Osteoporosis—Gluten Intolerance Connection

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

      Journal of Gluten Sensitivity Autumn 2009 Issue. NOTE: This article is from a back issue of our popular subscription-only paper newsletter. Some content may be outdated.

    Caption: Osteoporosis. Image: CC BY 2.0--Donut Crash

    Celiac.com 01/02/2020 - Osteoporosis is the 11th leading cause of death. 1 in 2 women and 1 in 4 men is affected.  

    We sometimes think of our bones like the walls in a room - they hold things up but we consider them rather inert.  On the contrary, our bones are very much alive, constantly remodeling themselves by getting rid of old bone cells and rebuilding with new bone cells.  Further, healthy bones are needed for immune function since all our red and white blood cells are made in the marrow of our bones.

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    There are some drugs available to “treat” osteoporosis but they are laden with side effects.  Some are even cancerous.

    In Nutrition Reviews 2007, a study report titled “Osteoporosis and Inflammation” revealed that inflammation triggers the shift from healthy bones to

    So let’s look at how osteoporosis is related to digestive function.  A recent article in Cell 2008 entitled “When the Gut Talks to Bone” revealed that certain genes (Wnt genes) trigger signaling factors required for the development of bones and nerve structures within the body. What was most interesting was the revelation that these genes are activated by serotonin.  Where is the vast majority of serotonin made?  In the gut!

    We have previously seen correlations between the brain and the gut, such as in chronic IBS which is strongly correlated to stress. But gut serotonin actually “talks” to our bone, thereby creating a strong connection between gut health and bone Health. This is quite new in the research. It substantiates something I’ve seen in my patients for years.

    The more inflammation is present, the more the gut makes serotonin which in turn leads to bone breakdown – osteoporosis.

    What does all this mean?  It means that lowering inflammation in the body is critical in the prevention of osteoporosis (not to mention heart disease and cancer but we’ll leave those connections for another article.)

    How do we lower inflammation?  One of the biggest inflammation inducing culprits is gluten. It not only creates local inflammation in the gut but it creates systemic inflammation through its affects on the immune system in sensitive individuals. And remember, current research considers 40% of the population to be gluten sensitive.

    In the New England Journal of Medicine 2007 it stated that celiac disease inflamed the gut, thereby creating bone loss.  

    The good news in all of this is that reducing inflammation is something we have control over. We can find out if we’re among the 40% of the population that is gluten intolerant. We can change our diets.  We can use supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids to reduce inflammation and help heal the lining of our intestines. These tools are within our reach.  Further, remember that gluten reduces absorption of certain key vitamins and minerals such as calcium and Vitamin D, which are critical to bone health. Have your Vitamin D level evaluated and supplement as needed.

    Osteoporosis is a very debilitating disease. Now we know it doesn’t have to be.

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    I am a 56 year old female with celiac disease gut, and skin. I basically diagnosed myself! My doctor had been treating me for eczema, and the diarrhea and bloating had been liked to having my gallbladder removed. I had all the classis symptoms, and then some that went undiagnosed for years. I have been gluten free since August 2017. They also discovered in September 2017, I was very low on vitamin B12, along with several other vitamins and nutrients. I have lost 100lbs, and discovered so many underlining health issues since then. Some that have completely been resolved just by removing the gluten, and some im still working on. I took lots of medications that I no longer need. High blood pressure, 2 anti depression pills, a pill for anxiety, acid reflex meds, and a water pill. I  had been unstable for year, couldnt dance or exercise without loosing my balance. After falling three times in less than a year. I finally broke my right arm, just above the wrist. Once I was refered to PT, they discovered I was a fall risk. My muscles in my hips and most of my body, had been depleted. They linked it to the celiac disease. I lost my left kidney 6 years ago, due to a kidney stone, 7ml getting trapped in the ureter tube. I had been dealing with them for 5 years or so. Now their linking kidney stone to ceiliac disease. I have been diagnosed with the early onset of osteoporosis. They put me on meds for it but I refuse to take them due to the side effects, one being renal failure. I am exercising, eating right, and praying I can live a long healthy life. 

    Edited by TLK
    Needed to add some missing information.

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    Better to discover this late than never! It took about 10 years for me to get a diagnosis (luckily I was in my 20's), and another 2-3 years to fully recover. It's unfortunate how long the average still is until diagnosis...I believe it is still in the 7-10 year range, even after the tremendous amount of research that's been done, and overall increase in awareness of the disease. Part of the reason is our mostly broken health care system, which has no incentive to screen for it more broadly to reduce health care costs. 

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    Shocking! The medical community displays anger toward people on a gluten-free diet. They call it "high carb" and blame it for diabetic disease.  My diet is one of fresh meat and vegetables. Starch's are limited. No processed foods are tolerated due to the "oils" or "preservatives" or "thickeners" added.  We have learned in earlier articles that the gliadin protein in modern wheat is the likely culprit for type I diabetes.  The hospital nutritionist was unaware of gluten "cross-reactors".  What began as four: yeast, egg, dairy, coffee has now grown to a listing of 25.  It varies person-to-person.  

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  • About Me

    Dr. Vikki Petersen, a Chiropractor and Certified Clinical Nutritionist is co-founder and co-director, of the renowned HealthNow Medical Center in Sunnyvale, California. Acclaimed author of a new book, "The Gluten Effect" - celebrated by leading experts as an epic leap forward in gluten sensitivity diagnosis and treatment. Dr. Vikki is acknowledged as a pioneer in advances to identify and treat gluten sensitivity. The HealthNOW Medical Center uses a multi-disciplined approach to addressing complex health problems. It combines the best of internal medicine, clinical nutrition, chiropractic and physical therapy to identify the root cause of a patient's health condition and provide patient-specific wellness solutions. Her Web site is:

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