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Can Gluten Cause Fertility Issues?

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a blog by Cindy Bailey of the Fertile Kitchen™, February 20, 2011

Gluten is a type of protein found in rye, barley, all types of wheat (including the more easily digested spelt and kamut), and sometimes oats (due to gluten getting mixed in from the mill where oats are processed). Gluten-free diets are all the rage lately.

For our fertility, do we really need to give up those grains?

Yes, if You Have Celiac Disease

If it turns out you have celiac disease, the answer is absolutely yes! Celiac disease is a digestive disorder in which gluten, when consumed, causes damage to the small intestines so that food is not properly absorbed — meaning you don’t get the important nutrients your body needs to function. And if you’re not getting important nutrients, your fertility (and your health) is definitely, negatively impacted.

Symptoms of celiac disease are varied. If you are suffering from ongoing digestive issues or just want to rule out celiac disease, talk to your doctor, nutritionist, or naturopathic doctor about getting tested for it. I would not recommend self-diagnosing on this, as symptoms might also be caused by something else.

However, celiac disease is not that common — less than 1 percent (1 in 133) are affected.

Gluten Sensitivity

Gluten sensitivity, however, is another story. I’ve read that as many as 1 out of 2 people may have a sensitivity to gluten and not even know it. This “hidden sensitivity” may cause anemia, abdominal pain, bloating and gas, depression, diarrhea or constipation, and fatigue — symptoms that may also be the result of something else, by the way. While celiac symptoms tend to be pronounced, sensitivity symptoms tend not to be as apparent.

Melissa Diane Smith, a nutritionist and author of Going Against the Grain, spoke about the link between gluten sensitivity and infertility at a conference on polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), asserting that gluten sensitivity is the leading cause of recurrent miscarriage.

Now, before you go and strip your cupboards of anything gluten-like, keep the following in mind. If you are concerned that you have a sensitivity to gluten, get tested! And talk to your doctor or naturopath about it. If it turns out you do have a sensitivity, then it’s important to avoid (or eliminate!) gluten. But if you don’t have a sensitivity, I (personally) wouldn’t just cut gluten out. My feeling is that you don’t want to lose out on the valuable nutrients that come with certain grains. Plus, giving up wheat, which I recommend when trying to get pregnant, is hard enough. Going gluten-free is even tougher.

Finally, keep in mind that by eliminating wheat, you’ll be cutting out a lot of gluten already, because wheat, wheat flour and its other derivatives are found in seemingly everything!

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Comments (2)

Thanks for this post. I was just diagnosed with endometriosis and have been scouring the Internet for information. I was shocked to read about the connection between food and endo, especially when my OB/GYN never mentioned this information to me. I have been tested for celiac and it came up negative, but I have read that you can still have gluten sensitivity even if this test comes up negative. I am about to try an endometriosis diet and eliminate wheat to see if it helps. Given my history of GI issues, I'm thinking it is going to help.

Excellent post. Its hard to get the word out to PCOS'ers that gluten may be causing a lot of problems. Doctors, IF they suggest anything at all, will tell us to go low GI. I did, for years, and didn't notice a thing. However I went gluten free (because my husband and daughter are) and lost 6 pounds in 1 1/2 weeks. May not sound like much, but for someone with PCOS its a huge amount.
I try to tell women I speak to that GF is a MUST....word is getting around slowly but it is helping.
I'm going to share this on my site, thank you for the excellent information!

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