Updated: Jun 19, 2020
There have been a number of studies linking gluten to issues such as infertility and recurring miscarriage. This is because gluten is often very inflammatory and can cause damage to the intestinal lining which can lead to Coeliac Disease (which can often go undiagnosed) as well as a number of other auto immune issues that could be contributing to infertility. It is estimated that as many as 80% of people with Coeliac Disease have no obvious digestive symptoms, so the condition often goes undetected. This was certainly the case with me, which is why I advise my clients with unexplained infertility to try a gluten free diet for at least 3 – 6 months to see if it helps. Coeliac Disease is not routinely tested by Fertility Specialists until you have had a number of miscarriages. At this point you will be tested for various auto immune conditions. This is often when issues with gluten may be uncovered.
I am not suggesting that everyone who is trying to get pregnant needs to avoid gluten, as this is not the case. However if you have been trying to conceive for a while, have been labelled as ‘unexplained’ or you are about to undergo IVF then it would be a good ideal to try a gluten free diet to increase your chances. When your body is in a state of inflammation (maybe from gluten or other food intolerances) then the body is in a state of stress, which tells your body that there is an emergency going on and it is not a good time to get pregnant.
Here are some of the key findings from research on gluten and infertility:
Study - Non-Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity and Reproductive Disorders 2015 autumn 8 (4) 294 -297. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Non Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity can induce malabsorption of key nutrients required for fertility such as Iron, Folate, Vitamin and Vitamin B12. This is because inflammation in the lining of the small intestines caused by gluten, can damage our enterocyte cells that absorb nutrients food our food which leads to nutritional deficiencies.
For people with Coeliac Disease (a large % of the population often go undiagnosed) - studies prove higher risk of spontaneous abortion, PCOS, Endometriosis, low birth weight of the baby and reduced duration of lactation.
Study: Increased Prevalence of Coeliac Disease in Patients with Unexplained Infertility in the United States: A Prospective Study. Choi Janet M, et al. J Reprod Med 2011, May – June (56) 5-6: 199 – 203
Study was able to detect a significantly increased prevalence (5.9%) of undiagnosed Coeliac Disease among women presenting with unexplained infertility. The findings suggest the importance of screening infertile female patients, particularly those with unexplained infertility, for Coeliac Disease.
Gluten is a scientifically known hormone disruptor – it can cause problems with conception
Gluten can cause malabsorption of vitamins and minerals by damaging the gastrointestinal tract.
Study: Coeliac Disease, Fertility and Pregnancy, Ferguson R, et al, Scand J Gastroenterol 1982 Jan. 17 (1) 65 – 68
The effect of Coeliac Disease and its treatment on fertility and pregnancy in 74 patients is reported. Those on a normal diet had a shorter reproductive period, were relatively infertile, and had a higher incidence of spontaneous abortions than those on a gluten-free diet. Although maternal health did not appear to be seriously impaired by pregnancy in undiagnosed Coeliacs, those on a gluten-free diet had significantly fewer symptoms and had heavier babies.
What research says about how gluten may be impacting on your fertility Gorevich R, Oct 21 2017 – www.verywellfamily.com
Key points of article:
Women (and possibly men) with unexplained infertility are two to six times more likely to be diagnosed with Coeliac Disease. Also women with recurring miscarriage.
Study found that untreated (and possible undiagnosed) Coeliac Disease and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Chron’s, Ulcerative colitis, IBS) can cause infertility and pregnancy loss.
Infertility is not caused by disease or malfunction rooted in the reproductive system. The body works as a whole, when one thing goes wrong it can impact other systems.
Some cases of infertility, IVF failure and recurring miscarriage may be connected to the body’s immune system overreacting - due to a high percentage of natural killer cells which is linked to recurring miscarriage and implantation failure.
A study of natural killer cells in the lab and in mice found that exposure to gliadin (protein in gluten) increased natural killer cell presence, toxicity and activity. No current studies have been done on humans.
So should you go gluten free?
If your fertility issues are `unexplained’ and you have been trying to conceive for a while without success the removing gluten from your diet may be worth considering. Especially if you have other underlying health issues going on such as hormone imbalances, allergies or digestive issues. Also if you are going to going through IVF then I believe it would be beneficial to go on a gluten free diet at least 3 months prior to IVF treatment to reduce any risk of inflammation which could impact on the procedure.
If you would like further information on going gluten free the healthy way then click here to download a free PDF guide on `Getting Started with Gluten Free’.