Infertility and Celiac Disease: Is There a Link?

Gluten-filled bread which could be linked to infertility in women who have celiac diseaseThe connection between infertility and celiac disease – essentially an allergy to gluten which is a component of wheat and other grains – is becoming more clear, according to a meta-analysis of several recent studies.  With May being Celiac Awareness Month, it’s a good time to look at the connection between the two.

The meta-analysis found that women who had trouble conceiving were three and a half to six times more likely to have celiac disease than women who didn’t have trouble conceiving. That is significant, according to the author of one of the studies, especially when it comes to taking action to increase the chances of becoming pregnant.

“There isn’t strong evidence to say that celiac disease causes infertility,” says Dr. Govind Makharia, a professor at All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, in a Reuters article, “but there are many anecdotal experiences where women with infertility have conceived after being diagnosed with celiac disease and put on a gluten-free diet.”

Infertility is defined as an inability to conceive after at least one year of trying.  There are many reasons why a couple might have trouble with infertility: In about a third of these couples, the conception challenges involve the woman, another third involve the man and the remaining third involve both people or it is a mystery.  While the medical community offers insightful testing and drug-based therapies to help increase the chances of conception, integrative medicine also shows promising results with therapies such as acupuncture and herbal treatments.

But with these studies pointing toward a link between infertility and celiac, help for couples who are trying to start a family could be as close as their kitchen.  Here are some links to helpful recipes, resources and support:

The Celiac Foundation

Beyond Celiac

US Department of Health and Human Services

Gluten-Free Living

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics