Decoding How Gluten Intolerance Affects Fertility



As a Registered Dietitian, I work with many clients to enhance their diets and meet their nutrition goals spanning from weight loss to wellness and everything in between.  Yes, I’ve been trained in Medical Nutrition Therapy, so it isn’t always about the scale. Food is pretty powerful and believe it or not, what you eat or don’t eat for that matter can help you feel great, look great, and hey, maybe even have that baby!

Yes, it’s time to talk about gluten.  I know it’s a hot topic, and no, everyone shouldn’t live gluten-free, but if you are experiencing difficulty getting and/or staying pregnant, it may be time to at least look into it even if your fertility specialist hasn’t mentioned it (most don’t).  But first, what is Gluten? Gluten is the protein found in wheat, barley, and rye (whole grains, aren’t they supposed to be good for you?) that hold the carbohydrate molecules together. For those who can digest gluten, great but for those who cannot, their bodies see it as an allergen, which causes an immune response and inflammation in the GI tract and body as a whole.

But what if all of this healthy food isn’t helping? What if I said, some of it may actually be perpetuating your infertility?

I’ve been in this field for over a decade now and have worked with many women who are struggling with fertility, their partners, and doctors. Having a great support team is important but also having something to focus on outside of shots, hormones, and acupuncture truly helps. With diet, you are in total control of what you put into your mouth and I find this really resonates with my soon to be moms.  Most of my moms are motivated to eat healthy foods to prep for pregnancy.  But what if all of this healthy food isn’t helping? What if I said, some of it may actually be perpetuating your infertility?  Would I be the only one who has said this or have you heard it before?

Gluten and Fertility, Say What?

How does this affect fertility? An inflamed body is not a receptive body and therefore may not allow an embryo to implant successfully. Additionally, when your GI tract is impaired, fewer vitamins, minerals, and nutrients are absorbed. Leading to deficiencies and putting the body yet again in a “not ideal/safe” state for implantation. Recent research shows that undiagnosed Celiac Disease is the cause of Unexplained Infertility in 5.9% of women. Research also shows that almost 40% of Americans live with gluten sensitivity without even knowing it.  What are the symptoms of gluten sensitivity? Oh you know, many things that are so common we ignore them like: eczema, reflux, brittle hair/nails, anemia, vitamin deficiency, migraines, depression, fatigue, infertility, and the list goes on.

Since so many people are undiagnosed, I make sure to ask my clients about their eating patterns and habits, cravings, and medical history. We review blood labs too.  I assess them for the symptoms listed above that they may forget to mention (because you know…they are so common).  From there, we decide whether or not removing gluten might help them: a) feel better overall and b) up their chances of getting pregnant.

This begins the journey of decreasing inflammation and increasing implantation probability. It is important to point out this isn’t a quick fix. It can take upwards of 6 months to heal the gut lining, decrease inflammation and balance out nutrient deficiencies. A period of time this long can seem daunting to those on this journey.  But, if you can keep your eye on the prize and gather up your patience, I strongly recommend giving it a go if anything I mentioned above rings a bell.

Gluten Free Foods

In my practice, I have seen a number of my clients get pregnant or harvest viable eggs after removing gluten. Therefore, I am a big believer in this protocol.  Although many other modalities are involved to boost fertility, including hormones, needles, herbs, and tonics. I have seen enough women in my office get pregnant to continue to recommend a gluten-free diet for those trying to conceive.  The great news is that going gluten-free these days actually means eating delicious foods. Sure, there are some dry, white, empty foods out there. But, I’d say there are three delicious, nutrient-dense and satisfying ones to outnumber each of those.  If you want to give this a go, I’ve listed a few of my favorite gluten-free products below. After all, food should taste good. Yes, even the healthy kind.

Crackers: Simple Mills, Mary’s Gone Crackers, Flackers, Jillz Crackers

Breads: Ezekiel Gluten Free, Mickey’s, Barely Bread

Cookies: Simple Mills, Tate’s Gluten Free, Enjoy Life

Pasta: Banza, Tolerant

Tortillas: Siete Foods

 

 

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