The gluten-free lifestyle is gaining popularity in American culture. Even at some of the most mainstream cafes and grocery stores, you can find gluten-free alternatives to your favorite breads and baked goods. Many people are giving up gluten because of the known health benefits associated with cutting it out of your diet. However, some people avoid gluten for a different reason. People with celiac disease suffer from abdominal pain, diarrhea, and weight gain when they eat gluten. The disease is actually fairly common, as 1 in every 133 people in the United States are afflicted with it. Unfortunately, negative reactions to gluten are not the only side effects of the disease.
Women with celiac disease are often infertile. Infertility is defined as the inability to get pregnant within a year after discontinuing contraception. So, while you could get pregnant eventually with celiac, it will be much more difficult. If you have celiac disease, you’ve probably noticed that your periods are sometimes irregular because your body cannot spare any resources, particularly iron. This is because your body has trouble absorbing certain minerals and nutrients, especially if you’re undiagnosed and still eating gluten. In fact, women who seem to be infertile are often tested for celiac disease because the two problems are so closely related. You ovulate less frequently when you have untreated celiac disease because you are malnourished.
Luckily, diagnosing celiac is the first step in recovery. If you have been infertile for a while and realize that you have celiac disease, cutting gluten from your diet might make fertilization of your eggs easier, and you will increase your chances of getting pregnant.
If you’re having trouble getting pregnant and you’ve been experiencing abdominal pain, diarrhea, weight loss, and a general ill feeling, it’s time to get tested for celiac disease. Cutting gluten out of your diet will be difficult at first, but the benefits will be well worth the sacrifice. Besides, giving up gluten is easier now than it ever has been before. Twenty years ago, people with celiac couldn’t even think about eating anything remotely close to bread or wheat. Now, gluten-free options are bountiful. People with celiac can eat everything from cupcakes to foot-long subs thanks to the popularity of alternative baking.
- Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.