Osteoporosis is a complication associated with untreated coeliac disease. Following a nutritious gluten-free diet greatly reduces the risk developing this condition.
Download a Factsheet on osteoporosis and coeliac disease.
Osteoporosis literally means porous bones. The bones in our skeleton are made of a thick outer shell and an inner ‘mesh’. Osteoporosis occurs when the holes in the mesh inside the bone become bigger, making the bone fragile and liable to break easily.
Coeliac disease and osteoporosis are linked because people with undiagnosed and untreated coeliac disease do not absorb enough calcium because of the damage coeliac disease causes to the small intestine.
Calcium is essential to the development and maintenance of healthy mesh within the bones. It is recommended that newly diagnosed coeliacs have a daily intake of calcium of 1000mg (1200-1500mg/day for post-menopausal women and men over the age of 55 years) to counteract the malabsorption they may have suffered while their coeliac disease was untreated.
Adequate vitamin D is also essential to absorbing calcium to help prevent osteoporosis. Coeliacs should discuss with their dietitian to determine if a calcium supplement is required.
Testing for Osteoporosis
It is recommended that all adults diagnosed with Coeliac disease should have a bone density test (a Dual-energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DXA) scan) regardless of age, gender or menopausal status. Your GP or consultant will give you a referral to a hospital for a DXA scan.
To find out more about osteoporosis visit www.irishosteoporosis.ie. If you have any concerns talk to your medical team.