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In Focus

I have yet another medical issue to add to my growing list thanks to Crohn’s Disease.

A few months ago, I had a regular check-up with my GI for my Crohn’s Disease. Everything on that front seems to be going well. Most of the time I feel fine and haven’t had any gut pain. She wanted me to get a Dexa Scan to check my bones.

A few weeks ago, I got this scan done. It was probably one of the easiest things ever. All I had to do was lay on a bed and they took x-ray images. I didn’t even have to change out of my clothes and put on one of those wonderful hospital gowns. The scan took only a few short minutes.

They focused the scan on my lower back and hips.

Recently, I received the results.

“The T-score in the L1-L4 vertebral bodies is -1.2 which is consistent with osteopenia.”

I’ve heard of osteoporosis but not this. Basically, it means I have weak bones but not quite to osteoporosis levels. Well, that’s comforting.

The recommendation was “adults under age 50 need 1000 mg of calcium and 400-800 units of vitamin D daily.”

Here’s the kicker...I’ve been taking both at slightly higher than those recommended levels for the past few years. Naturally, I asked if I should increase the dose, and was told to talk to my primary doctor.

Apparently, your bones are at their densest in your 30s. And you could potentially develop osteopenia after age 50. So, I just turned 36...

According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, “As many as 30% to 60% of people with Crohn’s Disease or ulcerative colitis have lower-than-average bone density. In some individuals, it takes the form of osteoporosis (a condition that literally means “porous bones”). In others, the bone abnormality is osteopenia (low bone density) or osteomalacia (softening of the bones). These conditions occur more frequently in people with Crohn’s Disease than in those with ulcerative colitis. They also are more common in women than in men. Low bone density can affect inflammatory bowel disease patients at any age.”

Well, ain’t that just wonderful!?! Crohn’s once again finds a way to mess with my system.

Looking at this information, along with vitamin deficiency, inflammation plays a big role in this as well as the use of steroids. Well, this is just peachy. The infusion medication I’m on, infliximab is considered a “steroid sparing” drug that shouldn’t do this, BUT, every time I get this medication I am also given a steroid shot to prevent side effects. What? Let that sink in.

I have been taking calcium and vitamin D supplements because of the steroids to hopefully prevent these issues. I also drink a ton of milk, even if it’s lactose-free. Crohn’s made me lactose intolerant, which includes cheese and other foods high in calcium. I don’t even drink soda—at least not for the last five years. I drink Body Armor which is high in vitamins.

Just another medical fun fact that comes with Crohn’s is malabsorption, especially during a flare. When the intestines are inflamed they don’t absorb the nutrients properly. Steroids also cause nutrients to not be properly absorbed.

I have received this type of medication every eight weeks for the past five years now. Not to mention when the bone spurs in my upper back flare, the only treatment is muscle relaxers, and, you guessed it, steroids are the answer!

So, now I’m in a vicious cycle where the steroids are destroying my back but I still need them for my Crohn’s treatments and occasionally for my back.

I must say I haven’t fully flared since the flare that got me diagnosed—and I’m still technically in remission.

So how can I win, and keep this from turning into full-blown osteoporosis? I guess it’s time for another doctor’s appointment. Sigh.

Welcome to the wonderful life of having Crohn’s disease!


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