Celiac Disease and Infertility
Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition where eating gluten (found in wheat, rye, oats, barley) damages the lining of the small intestine. The damage causes a lack of absorption of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and, in some cases, water and bile salts. As a result, individuals can develop deficiencies of important nutrients, including B12, folic acid, iron, zinc, and vitamin D. Beyond the classic symptoms of celiac disease (abdominal cramping, gas, diarrhea, constipation, anemia, weight loss, etc.), numerous other symptoms may be present such as bone loss, joint pain, depression, migraines, fatigue, and infertility.
For both men and women, given the diagnosis of unexplained infertility, one should talk to their doctor about investigating the possibility of having celiac disease. Numerous studies show a link between the two. In women, celiac disease can lead to delayed menses, amenorrhoea, early menopause, reduced pregnancy rate, and recurrent miscarriages. In men, it can cause hypogonadism, immature secondary sex characteristics, hyperprolactinaemia, and reduced semen quality.
Following a gluten-free diet along with correcting nutrient deficiencies can lead to a return of fertility for both men and women. Fortunately, grocery stores and restaurants are making it easier to be gluten free these days. I advise working with a health practitioner / nutritionist for guidance on meal planning and recommendations for specific nutrient that may be best for you.
Article written by Margo Gladding, MS, CNS, LDN for Ellicott City Pharmacy.