While there are few things more joyous than bringing a healthy new life into the world, there conversely may be nothing more devastating than continuing infertility problems or losing a child through miscarriage. Underweight infants or those suffering from poor health are a source of stress to the family while similarly, new mothers suffering from poor health subsequent to giving birth, are also a large strain on the family unit.
One key factor in reproductive and fertility issues is gluten intolerance. It’s rather well known in the literature but until it becomes standard to evaluate for celiac and gluten sensitivity in those suffering from infertility, delayed menstruation, poor outcomes of pregnancy, and the like, then it definitely bears repeating that these problems have a strong gluten association.
An article in the World Journal of Gastroenterology entitled “Reproductive Changes Associated with Celiac Disease”. It’s excellent and brings up some very key issues that should be known by all medical practitioners, not simply obstetricians and fertility experts.
Men’s Fertility is Affected as well
Men are not excluded from this scenario. Twenty percent of married celiacs having infertile marriages and semen analysis reveals abnormalities in sperm shape as well as motility in affected men. But there’s good news in the fact that removal of gluten from the diet improved sperm morphology. Similarly, hormonal imbalances found in male celiacs also normalized on a gluten-free diet.
Fertility Problems could be the first indication of Gluten Intolerance
Many gluten intolerant women afflicted with fertility problems did not present with the “classic” digestive complaints associated with celiac disease but were more apt to suffer with fatigue and anemia. Often they had no digestive complaints whatsoever. The authors show that fertility problems could very well indicate early autoimmune changes, a serious hallmark of gluten intolerance.
Hundreds of women from Finland, Italy and Israel suffering from infertility were found to be afflicted with celiac disease at a rate of 2.7%, 3.03% and 2.65% respectively. The testing methods utilized were strictly those for celiac disease including EMA, tTG and a positive small bowel biopsy. I would wager that if they had included testing such as deamidated gliadin and anti-gliadin antibodies, they would have identified those women suffering from gluten sensitivity as well.
Imagine if every young woman with a delayed onset of her menstrual cycle or amenorrhea (no menstrual cycle) was tested for gluten intolerance. How much healthier and happier (remember that balanced hormones help to dictate balanced mood) could such women be? Imagine if women suffering from miscarriages could improve their outcome of a full term healthy baby by removing gluten from their diet. Now that is a recipe for happiness!
A Gluten Free Diet Actually Reverses Infertility
While it is quite well established that celiacs suffer from infertility, an increased incidence of stillbirths, and perinatal (around the time of birth) deaths, the good news is that once they receive a diagnosis of celiac disease and begin a gluten-free diet, some markers of infertility (e.g. miscarriage rates) may be corrected.
The rate of cesarean delivery increased amongst celiac parents, according to a recent German study. Should all birth centers screen their mothers for celiac disease and gluten sensitivity? Pregnant women certainly get screened for other diseases that are far less common. Considering the outcome of pregnancy with a diagnosed celiac vs. an undiagnosed one, it may very well prove to be an excellent change in protocol.
Pregnancy Itself Can ‘Turn on’ Celiac Disease
Pregnancy can be a factor that “turns on” celiac disease in previously non-celiac women. There are those that believe the dramatic change in the probiotic population of a woman’s intestines during pregnancy is enough to cause the induction of gluten intolerant genes, thereby leading to active celiac disease.
Others note that the first pregnancy may not be a problem and it’s not until the stress of a subsequent pregnancy that celiac is initiated. We see this clinically amongst our patients and have programs that are designed to normalize not only the digestive tract but the endocrine system (hormonal balance), so as to prevent subsequent pregnancies from creating undue stress on the mother’s body.
Please share this information with your friends and family. Imagine the joy of overcoming infertility or a tendency to miscarry simply by eliminating gluten from your diet. As a clinical nutritionist well versed in gluten intolerance, I am always delighted when such a happy event occurs. It is certainly well worth discovering if you or someone you care about falls into this category of gluten intolerance.
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To your good health,