Vitamin D Levels and Calcium Absorption
Calcium, Vitamin D and the Parathyroid Gland
When it comes to osteoporosis, at least in the case of those with celiac disease, the calcium and vitamin D levels are critical. If the vitamin D level is too low, then the body can't absorb calcium. If the body can't absorb calcium, then the level of calcium in the blood will get dangerously low.
Your nervous system and your heart and other muscles need a certain level of calcium in the blood in order to work properly. This can become a do or die type of situation. Improper levels can lead to irregular heartbeats and brain signals misfiring.
If your blood calcium level falls too low, your body will respond to protect your heart and brain and keep you alive. It will start up the mechanism that so often contributes to osteoporosis in people with celiac disease. It will tell the parathyroid glands to start pulling the calcium from your bones and teeth and get that calcium into the blood stream pronto!
The parathyroids are small, pea sized glands located behind the thyroid gland in the throat. There are 4 parathyroid glands. These glands serve only one function in the body. To monitor and control the level of calcium in the blood stream. It really is that important.
When the blood level of calcium falls below what it should be then the parathyroids will produce PTH, parathyroid hormone.
Calcium, Vitamin D and Hyperparathyroidism
Occasionally it will happen that someone develops a tumor on one or more of their parathyroid glands. This will cause a condition called primary hyperparathyroidism, where the parathyroid gland with the tumor remains on continuously, producing PTH.
So the parathyroid hormone is elevated in the body even though the blood calcium level is high. The PTH hormone will continue to pull the calcium from the bones and teeth and you end up with hypercalcemia and osteoporosis.
Hypercalcemia can cause kidney stones because of the excess calcium from your bones and teeth. The excess calcium has to be filtered out by the kidneys and is lost in the urine. It will also cause your body to absorb less vitamin D as the body will not want more calcium to strain the kidneys and other organs. So in this case the vitamin D should NOT be supplemented.
This is why it is very important to be sure which condition you have before implementing any supplements. The lab tests are necessary to determine your status.
The cure for primary hyperparathyroidism involves removal of the tumor. Although nearly always benign, the parathyroid gland with the tumor must be removed to allow the parathyroid hormone to be shut off. The remaining 3 glands will be more than adequate.
Celiac Disease and Parathyroids
This is NOT what usually happens in celiac disease. The parathyroids are responding correctly when the blood level of calcium falls too low and producing PTH in order to bring the calcium level back to normal. This is what the parathyroid glands are supposed to do.
If you have low blood calcium because your body cannot absorb calcium due to a vitamin D deficiency, the parathyroids will not stop producing PTH because they are responding to an ongoing problem. This is sometimes called secondary hyperparathyroidism.
When your blood calcium falls too low, your parathyroids will leach the calcium from your bones and teeth to keep your blood calcium level in the normal range. They have to, to keep your heart and nervous system functioning properly. However, parathyroids were never meant to be "on" continuously.
Over time, as this situation persists, the bone density gets lower and lower. The eventual result is osteoporosis. The good news is that if this is the cause of your osteoporosis, it may be reversible!
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