You’ve heard about what a lot of people are calling a fad…becoming gluten-free. Yes, there are the jokes as to what you can actually eat…wooden tables is one of them :). So let’s say you’re curious as to what it really means to be gluten-free and would it realistically benefit me in any way to forgo such things as breads, pastas, baked goods, beer, etc. (basically all that makes life more enjoyable)? Well, it may surprise you to learn that one factor that has recently come into the limelight is gluten sensitivity or intolerance. It has been found that gluten sensitivity is associated with not just delayed menstruation but also infertility and miscarriages. Researchers now believe that undiagnosed celiac disease and its little-known cousin, gluten intolerance, may be behind the problem of infertility in a large number of women.
A recent study has found that gluten intolerance may be the reason behind infertility in 3.5% of all cases of infertility. There are many cases where infertility remains unexplained. Celiac disease often remains undiagnosed as testing methods are inadequate. In another study, it was reported that many women undergoing treatment for infertility were able to conceive when gluten was removed from their diet.
How does gluten intolerance impact fertility
- Intolerance to gluten causes inflammation not just in your gut but throughout your body. This state of inflammation gives signals to the brain that your body is not in an ideal condition to conceive.
- This intolerance also interferes with normal absorption of nutrients as lining of small intestine also develops inflammation. This means that your body is less effective in absorbing vital nutrients such as iron, zinc, vitamin D, and selenium. All these are crucial for becoming pregnant.
- There are layers of gut lining that are home to both good and bad bacteria. Gluten intolerance leads to an increase in the number of bad guys with a simultaneous decrease in the number of good guys. It becomes difficult for your vagina to maintain right pH levels and sugar levels that are conducive for conception.
- Celiac disease is believed to be an autoimmune disease. This means that your body cannot tolerate foreign cells, in this case sperm of your partner that is essential for conception. It can also lead to miscarriages, as a pregnancy is also seen by your body as a foreign organism needed to be expelled.
- If a woman thinks that it is her gluten sensitivity that is behind her infertility problems, it is better to tell her doctor so that she may be tested for celiac disease. Once she has been tested positive for gluten intolerance, she should follow a gluten free diet for a few months before trying to become pregnant.
If you don’t know about celiac disease, it is an auto immune disease that results from sensitivity to a special protein called gluten that is found in many grains such as wheat, barley, rye, triticale, and spelt. Recently, a team of researchers led by Dr. Kumar at Maulana Azad Medical College in New Delhi studied presence of celiac antibodies in women with unexplained infertility problems. These researchers found that celiac antibodies were 5 times more likely to be present in women with unexplained infertilities and miscarriages than women without any complications. This study concluded that women suffering from unexplained infertilities should consider testing for celiac disease. The study also concluded that if gluten intolerance is identified, women should follow a gluten-free diet to increase their chances of conception.
Dr. Stephanie M Moleski of Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals conducted a research on celiac disease and its association with infertility. Her study clearly proved that rate of infertility was significantly higher among women suffering from celiac disease than women without this disease. Her data showed that 41.2% of the women suffering from celiac disease also suffered from infertility problems. This percentage stood at 36.5% for women without celiac disease.
While it is now accepted that celiac disease may be a reason behind infertility and miscarriages, it is heartening to note that going on a gluten-free diet can help in correcting many of the infertility related issues. There are a large number of parents who say that they became parents after they gave up on gluten and followed gluten-free diet for a long time. However, not all gluten-free foods are healthy or promote fertility. You should increase your intake of fruits and vegetables and proteins to enhance your fertility. One word of caution: avoid junk food that may be gluten-free as it contains nothing but loaded calories. Going gluten-free will cool down inflammation in your gut, make your body less reactive to autoimmune disease, and increase your chances of conception.
I became gluten-free about 7 years ago even though I have never had any indication of a gluten intolerance. I truly thought that it would be a passing fancy of mine since I was so accustomed to eating breads, pastas, whole wheat cereals, etc. and thinking nothing of it. However, once I determined that a change in my diet would benefit my fertility as well as my waistline, I cut the glutens out cold turkey. Was it easy? No, of course not but I liked the very positive changes I experienced once I did so. First thing I noticed, I started to lose weight rather easily. No brainer since the glutens I had been previously eating were overly refined carbs which convert and are stored quite quickly as fat if not metabolized. The constant struggle I had experienced with my weight fluctuations since puberty was finally over! Sure, I couldn’t eat certain foods but now I certainly could keep my weight managed and my dress size stable for once.
The second thing I noticed, was that certain pains in my joints that I would experience off and on started to diminish. I have thankfully never suffered from any accidents which would cause me lingering pain but I did experience, from time to time, knee and arm pain which I couldn’t explain. As the glutens started to disappear from my diet, so too did these random pain episodes I had always experienced. Now, after much research, I’ve learned that glutens can cause inflammation in everyone (not just the gluten intolerants) and not only in just your reproductive area. This inflammation can lead to joint pain which can feel like arthritis. So if this is something you suffer from, isn’t beneficial that you try being gluten free as well?
The third thing I noticed, was that I really wasn’t as limited in my food choices as I had previously thought I’d be. I eat carbs all the time, mainly in the form of oats, rice (all kinds), potatoes, and quinoa and don’t feel like I’m missing out at all. I also eat “pasta”, yes pasta but it’s not made with wheat flour but with alternative grains instead. Believe me, I have tried a large variety of gluten-free pastas and was always disappointed by most of them. My husband is Italian so when I’d mention a “pasta” dish using non-real pasta, I’d get the “yuck” face! However, in my quest to find good and tasty ones, I have thankfully found ones which can sometimes be found at your local grocery store. If not, they’re listed in my Shop and can be delivered straight to your door via Amazon.
Becoming gluten-free isn’t easy by any means, but the studies show it can greatly boost your chances to conceive. Isn’t that what we’re trying to accomplish here? Try it and reap the benefits you’ll soon see and feel.
 Women and celiac disease: association with unexplained infertility. Pellicano R et al. Minerva Med. 2007 Jun: 98(3):217-9.
 Fasano A, Berti I, Gerarduzzi T, et al. Prevalence of celiac disease in at-risk and not-at-risk groups in the United States. Arch Intern Med. 2003;163:286–292.
 Celiac disease: fertility and pregnancy. Eliakim, R Sherer DM. Gynecol Obstet Invest. 2001: 51(1):3-7