September thirteenth is Celiac Disease Awareness Day. Celiac disease is a serious condition that affects about 1 in every 100 people worldwide. There are many symptoms associated with celiac disease, including joint pain and bone loss. It’s important to recognize when joint and bone problems are related to celiac disease because treatment is different from other causes.

Here in our chiropractic office, we see many patients who have IBS-type symptoms in addition to back or joint pain. Not everyone with this combination of symptoms has celiac disease. For some patients, compression of nerves in the back or neck may be causing digestive symptoms. Others may have some other food sensitivity that is causing systemic inflammation. 

Here’s what you need to know about celiac disease and its painful symptoms

Celiac Disease is Real, and It Isn’t New

The recent proliferation of gluten-free items on grocery store shelves has led to many misconceptions about celiac disease as a “new” or “made-up” illness. Neither of these things is true. A medical description of celiac disease was described by Dr. Samuel Gee in 1887. He theorized that the symptoms could be corrected with diet but wasn’t certain which foods were responsible. 

Celiac disease is caused by an improper immune response to the gluten found in wheat, barley, and rye. Medical tests can determine if a person has celiac disease. If not diagnosed, celiac disease can cause systemic problems, including anemia, other autoimmune disorders, GI cancer, and nervous system disorders. The earlier celiac disease is diagnosed, the less of a risk a person has for developing these secondary problems. In order to avoid complications, a strict, lifelong, gluten-free diet must be adhered to. Even traces of gluten may cause inflammation and symptoms in celiac disease patients. 

Celiac Disease Damages Joints

 Our intestines carry waste, including unused hormones, toxins and pathogens out of the body. Healthy intestines have cells that are bound closely together so that these substances can’t leak out into the blood stream. The inflammation caused by the body’s immune response to gluten damages the intestines and loosens these bonds between cells. “Leaky gut” is a common term used to describe this condition. Gut permeability causes inflammation in other parts of the body as the immune system tries to respond to leaking particles from the intestines.

According to a study published in the medical journal Rheumatology in 2018, joint pain in celiac patients is caused by particles that have permeated through the intestine and into the bloodstream. These particles are carried into the joints, where the immune system recognizes them as invaders and attacks. This leads to inflammation, pain, and eventually damage. 

The primary treatment for celiac-induced joint pain is a strict gluten-free diet. After this has been implemented, other treatments like chiropractic care can help relieve pain caused by damage to the joint. 

Celiac Disease Can Thin Bones

Normally osteoporosis is associated with post-menopausal women. In the case of celiac patients, men over the age of 45 are also at high risk for osteoporosis. A study published in the  United European Gastroenterology Journal found that up to 75% of people with untreated celiac disease will develop osteoporosis or osteopenia (bone loss). The keyword there is “untreated.” Individuals who are diagnosed early and strictly follow a gluten-free diet can avoid the inflammation and nutrient deficiencies that lead to osteoporosis. 

If you have been newly diagnosed with celiac disease, ask your provider to check your bone density. Early detection and treatment of bone loss can help avoid breaks and falls. 

It Affects Soft Tissue Too

Or, more accurately, the enthesis, a structure that attaches tendons, ligaments, and muscles to bone. Inflammation of the enthesis is thought to be caused in the same way as celiac-related joint pain. A thorough examination is necessary to determine if the enthesis or other structures are causing the pain. 

Celiac patients are at a higher risk for tendon rupture than the general population. Interestingly, people with non-celiac-related IBS symptoms are also at an increased risk for tendon rupture. Researchers think this is because some people with IBS also have permeable bowls that lead to distant inflammation. It’s important to get tested for celiac disease and other food sensitivities rather than self-diagnosing. Following a gluten-free diet will not benefit you if your bowel problems and inflammation are due to an egg or lactose intolerance. 

How to Deal with Celiac Disease Related Musculoskeletal Pain

The first thing we advise patients who suspect they may have gluten issues to do is to get tested. If the test is negative, but you feel better on a gluten-free diet, there is no harm in that as long as it is nutritionally well-rounded. Patients with digestive problems and pain should also consider getting tested for other food sensitivities. Following a diet that avoids your triggers should lead to a decrease in inflammation and joint pain. For those with celiac disease, a lifelong gluten-free diet can prevent osteoporosis, joint damage, and a number of other serious conditions. 

If tests indicate that celiac disease and food sensitivities are likely not the cause of joint pain and digestive problems, then the skeletal system itself may be to blame. Many patients with neck and back problems have compressed nerves. If the nerves affecting the digestive system are compromised by subluxations in the spine, correcting these subluxations can relieve digestive problems and musculoskeletal pain. 

Chiropractic care and treatments like cold laser therapy and massage can also bring pain relief to those suffering from damage caused by celiac disease that went untreated for many years. 

Pain Relief for Celiac Patients in Kentucky

At All Star Chiropractic, we practice holistic care that takes the whole person into account. We offer nutritional counseling that can be especially helpful for patients newly diagnosed with celiac disease and other food sensitivities. Our chiropractors are trained in gentle adjustment methods appropriate for patients with bone loss and inflammatory problems. Our team of providers will create a treatment plan that caters to your unique needs. Schedule a consultation today to get on the path to feeling better.