A Swedish Study published in April 2011 by Fertility and Sterility found that untreated celiac disease may not hurt fertility in men as previously thought. Great news right? We can all relax, eat some bread and continue spawning children with celiac disease–right? Unfortunately, no… Once again, inequity rears its nasty head!
Ladies… I hate to tell you, but if you want to be “Fertile Myrtle” than you need to find out if you are gluten intolerant and stop eating gluten if you are. This April study is only applicable to men’s fertility and not women. Ladies, if you are having problems conceiving–gluten might be the cause and stopping consuming it might be the answer. And if you already know you have a problem with gluten and yet you continue to sneak bites of cookies, sandwiches and crackers–shame on you! Gluten proteins can remain in our system for 3 months or longer! So every time you take “just a little” bite of that tempting donut, you are choosing another 3 months or so of infertility.
For us women, gluten can result in a whole host of hormonal problems. Dr. Eyal Sheiner, who studies celiac disease in Israel, said that women with celiac disease who continue to consume gluten start menstruating later and hit menopause earlier than other women. Additionally, he told Reuters Health that “several studies have found that celiac women who do achieve fertilization, often have higher chances of miscarriages” and poorer fetus growth rates.
Reproductive issues are not limited to women with celiac disease but can also affect women with non-celiac gluten intolerance. A New Delhi study published November 24 in Fertility and Sterility found that women with non-celiac gluten intolerance are more likely to have “unexplained infertility, recurrent abortions, stillbirths or intrauterine growth retardation.” They are also more likely to have preterm births, low-birth-weight infants and require a cesarean section.
Now, I should also mention that I am not advocating eating gluten as a form of birth control! Obviously the malnutrition. lack of nutrient absorption and immune disregulation that comes with consuming gluten when intolerant to it hurts not only the baby, but also the mom. The reproductive affects alone are a reason to test and stay off of gluten all together and forever, but add to that the affects on the pituitary, nervous system, thyroid, adrenals, the neuromuscular and skeletal systems and need I say more!
Given the obvious inequity in this situation… Men? Hello? Yes, you guys out there need to go off the gluten too. You know how hard it is to be gluten free when someone is constantly rubbing their pastries, breads, pizza and double chocolate cherry stout from the Mountain Sun (okay, so yes, Stout Month at the Mountain Sun is the one and only thing I miss from my days of glutinous gluttony) in our faces? Yep, do it for your lady and the little parasite (I mean unborn child) not yet realized. Yes, everyone that is not gluten free that is reading this, what the world needs is more gluten free allies (hmmm… yes, that will be a blog post later). And honestly, I wouldn’t put all of my “eggs in one basket” (okay that seems like the wrong analogy for this topic of discussion). Studies indicating reproductive problems for women that are gluten intolerant are pretty conclusive, but ONE study finding men’s infertility not affected by gluten when intolerant does not a conclusive determination make.
If either of you wants to know whether gluten may be the cause of your fertility problems, please contact myself or another practitioner to help you test. Also, testing negative for celiac disease does not mean that you are not non-celiac gluten intolerant. There are tests to determine whether a person is non-celiac gluten intolerant, but as with celiac disease tests, these are non-conclusive. False negatives happen and the tests do not test for all of the proteins in gluten containing grains. If you have any questions about testing or issues raised in this article, please comment and I will do my best to answer or find the resources for you to get your answer.
To learn more about gluten and other problematic foods, check out our free Anti-Inflammatory Video Training Series.