Gluten intolerance and celiac disease can also lead to osteoporosis. A common finding in gluten intolerance and celiac disease is malabsorption, which means that as a result of chronic inflammation, the small intestine cannot properly absorb digested nutrients. When malabsorption is present, the person is at risk for losing bone mass and developing osteoporosis. Decreased bone mass is one of the most common side effects of celiac disease.
In malabsorption the ability of the small intestine to absorb amino acids (the builging blocks of protein), calcium, and vitamin D is greatly compromised. Each of these ingredients is essential for building strong bones, and over time the lack of raw materials causes a decrease in bone mass. This decrease is termed osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis can even occur in children who have gluten intolerance and celiac disease. There is good news, though. With a gluten-free diet, osteoporosis in children usually resolves completely. In adults too, loss of bone mass and osteoporosis are alleviated by following a gluten-free diet. Eliminating all sources of gluten reduces the chronic inflammation in the person’s small intestine, and nutrients begin to be absorbed normally. Normal bone mass begins to be restored. Symptoms and risk of fracture reduce and resolve.