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Celiac Disease and Fertility

“When was the last time you went to the doctor?” Ron asked.

I thought he was kidding. As I try to get pregnant, it seems like I’m always at the doctor. If I’m not having my blood tested to check my hormone levels, I’m having a sonogram appointment to track my ovulation, or participating in a procedure known as IUI (intra-uterine insemination) where Ron’s sperm is deposited directly into my uterus by a catheter.

“Not a fertility doctor; a general internist,” he clarified.

Good question. I checked my records. I hadn’t had a regular checkup in over five years. Wow. I scheduled an appointment and made of list of all the issues I wanted to discuss. One of the most pressing matters on my mind? Celiac disease.

With celiac disease, a person has a toxic reaction to gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley), making it difficult for the digestive system to absorb nutrients. Two of the symptoms (you can find a more comprehensive list here) are fatigue and an abdominal area that is sensitive to touch. Both of those rang a bell. Although I knew a tender abdomen and fatigue could also be related to my endometriosis, I wanted to check for sure.

Earlier this year, when I wrote an article about fertility-boosting foods, I recalled interviewing nutritionist Breea Johnson who said that women struggling to conceive should look into food allergens. She said: “Wheat can be inflammatory and inflammation can affect ovulation and hormone production. In America, we eat a lot of wheat, like breads, bagels, and pasta. There is an established connection between celiac disease and infertility.”

So my doctor took a blood sample and sent it off to a lab. The results would be back in a week. While I waited, I became absolutely convinced I had celiac disease. I avoided whole wheat wraps in favor of quinoa salads, and I made sure the oatmeal I cooked in the morning was processed in a wheat-free facility.

When I finally learned the results, I was disappointed. The test indicated celiac disease was “unlikely.” The doctor reminded me not having celiac disease was good thing. Later, I realized part of me felt like if I did have celiac disease, I would have an answer to my infertility. It would be another big piece to the infertility puzzle. Taking a walk that evening, I was grateful (very grateful) for my good health and my body’s ability to properly digest wheat. Trying to find the source of infertility can be a long process. But I did make a step with my celiac test. I knocked out one potential cause. And my doctor was right—that was good news.

About Jenny Rough

Jenny Rough is a lawyer-turned-writer. Visit her on the web at www.jennyrough.com

Comments (5)

There is actually an established association between infertility and celiac disease, however, there's not a well-established connection between other types of gluten intolerance and infertility. Celiac disease accounts for a small part of gluten intolerance, and some general celiac tests may discount a negative celiac test which may be positive for gluten intolerance.
Hi, Breea. Thanks for the clarifications. I didn't realize there was a difference between Celiac disease and gluten intolerance. Both you and my doc suggested trying to eliminate for awhile it to see how I feel...
Sometimes you just want an answer. Even if it means that you might have another problem. For different reasons -- I totally know how you feel. .-= Brooke´s last blog ..Wishful Wednesday =-.
This is interesting! I am definitely gluten intolerant, but not celiac, and both of my girls are as well, so I wonder what this portends for their future babymaking abilities. You might investigate the link between the ability to methylate vitamin B and infertility. After being diagnosed gluten intolerant, I discovered that I also possess a gene that renders me unable to process B vitamins. It's not terrifically rare, and for women, the implications come in the form of a blood clotting disorder which, when you get pregnant, often leads to miscarriage, or can prevent pregnancy altogether by clotting blood strangely. Later in life, it can lead to strokes as well. The test is a simple blood test and the 'fix' is simple, too - just take vitamin B that is already broken down for your body to use it. Thanks for your concise, informative writing, Jenny! It is so great to see you writing in so many places! .-= kario´s last blog ..Girlfriend =-.
Thanks, Brooke! And thanks, Kari - I'm going to look further into the B vit info.
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