Celiac disease affects an estimated two million Americans and develops when your immune system reacts to gluten and damages the lining of your small intestine. As an intestinal disorder, it makes sense that celiac disease causes a plethora of GI symptoms, including diarrhea, gas, and bloating. Unfortunately, the complications of celiac disease don’t stop in the gut. Celiac disease can also cause anemia, fatigue, and osteoporosis.
If you have celiac disease, you may benefit from a bone scan here at Excel Diagnostics & Nuclear Oncology Center in Houston, Texas.
In this article, Dr. Ebrahim Delpassand explains the link between celiac disease and osteoporosis 一 and what a bone scan can tell you.
The surprising complication of celiac disease: osteoporosis
Celiac disease damages the villi 一 small hairlike projections in your small intestine 一 and unfortunately, your small intestine is where most of your digestion takes place. The villi absorb nutrients from your food as it passes through your small intestines. But if the lining of your small intestine (and the villi) is damaged, your body won’t get the nutrients from your food, and that includes calcium and vitamin D 一 two nutrients that are essential for healthy bones. This also explains why people with celiac disease struggle with weight loss, malnutrition, and anemia.
According to American Bone health, adults aged 19-50 need 1,000 mg of calcium and 15 mcg of vitamin D for healthy bones. Damaged villi won’t be able to absorb enough calcium and vitamin D from your food to help you reach those recommended intakes.
In other words, even if you’re eating plenty of calcium and vitamin D, your body can’t absorb it. This increases your risk of osteoporosis and potential bone fractures.
Enter: a bone density scan
A bone density scan is a type of diagnostic scan that provides valuable information about your bones, including the mineral content in your bones and if you’re at risk for breaking a bone. Here at Excel Diagnostics & Nuclear Oncology Center, we use a DEXA bone scan to assess the health of your bones. DEXA, which is short for dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, uses low levels of X-ray radiation to measure your bone density.
Preparing for a DEXA scan if you have celiac disease
Preparing for a bone scan is relatively simple as you simply lie on a table while a mechanical arm takes the images from above you. Before your appointment, let your Excel Diagnostics & Nuclear Oncology Center provider know:
- If you’re pregnant
- If you might be pregnant
- If you’ve recently had a barium exam
- If you’ve recently received a contrast injection (such as for a CT scan)
Additionally, share a list of your current medications, including supplements. You may be asked to temporarily pause calcium supplements before your bone scan.
What your bone scan results mean
A bone scan won’t tell you definitely if you will sustain fractures caused by osteoporosis, but your scans can help shape osteoporosis treatment plans and whether or not you’d benefit from medication.
Depending on the results of your bone scan, potential osteoporosis treatments include:
- Weight-bearing exercise
- Medication, including pills, infusions, and injections
In addition to treating osteoporosis, it’s important to manage celiac disease too. This includes following a nutrient-dense diet, diligently adhering to a gluten-free diet and avoiding “cheat days,” and educating yourself on the hidden sources of gluten. Gluten can hide in modeling clay, cosmetics (including lipstick), skin and hair products, and toothpaste.
Don’t wait until osteoporosis leads to a fracture before you take action. Schedule your bone scan at our Houston, Texas, office today. You can use our online form or simply give us a call at 713-781-6200.