Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, collectively known as inflammatory bowel disease, both have significant effects on a person’s health and quality of life. If you are living with either of these conditions you are likely following a special diet and taking a series of medications to help relieve many of the symptoms that these diseases can cause.

One medication that many people with IBD take is steroids, such as prednisone or dexamethasone, to help control their symptoms. While this type of medication certainly helps to improve the symptoms of IBD, if they are taken over a long period of time, usually for more than 3 months, they can weaken your bones or even cause osteoporosis.[1]

Depending on the type of disease you have and the severity of it, you make also have severe inflammation of the small intestine. This can lead to malnutrition because the small intestine is responsible for absorbing the nutrients that you consume every time you eat.[2]  So when the lining is inflamed or damaged, it cannot properly absorb the nutrients that you are putting into your body. This can cause you to have low levels of calcium, which over time, can weaken your bones.[1]

So what can you do to improve the health of your bones and prevent yourself from getting osteoporosis?

Taking all of your prescribed medications as your doctor recommends can help reduce the inflammation of your intestines and improve your body’s ability to absorb nutrients. To keep your bones strong calcium and vitamin D play an important role. Current guidelines recommend at least 1,000 mg of calcium per day if you are under the age of 50 and 1,200 mg if you are a woman over the age of 50.[3]  Men over the age of 70 are recommended take 1,200 mg of calcium per day.[3] Adequate vitamin D is also important for bone health and starting doses are between 600 and 800 IU (International Units) of vitamin D per day with an upper daily limit of 4,000 IU.[3]  While much of this can come from your diet, you may consider taking a supplement if you don’t eat or drink a lot of dairy products, live in a northern climate with little sunlight, or use sunscreen when you are outdoors.

You should also get plenty of weight bearing exercise, avoid smoking, and avoid drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.

Talking with your doctor about having a bone density test to see if you already have osteopenia or osteoporosis may also be a good idea.

If you have weakened or brittle bones you are at high risk of breaking one of your bones. So it is very important that you are proactive about your bone health!

 

Dr. Carrie Noriega is a Ddrops Guest Blogger. She is a board certified obstetrician/gynecologist, medical writer, and mom who is passionate about women’s health and empowering women to take charge of their own health. She enjoys writing about complex scientific information in an easy to understand manner in order to help people live healthier, happier lives.

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[1] National Institute of Health. What People With Inflammatory Bowel Disease Need to Know About Osteoporosis https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/osteoporosis/conditions-behaviors/inflammatory-bowel. Accessed January 2, 2018.

[2] Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. What are Crohn’s & Colitis. http://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/what-are-crohns-and-colitis/. Accessed January 2, 2018.

[3] Institute of Medicine. Dietary reference intakes for calcium and vitamin D. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2011, p. 1015. https://www.nap.edu/resource/13050/Vitamin-D-and-Calcium-2010-Report-Brief.pdf. Accessed January 2, 2018.