Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Gluten and Fertility: Some Things You Might Want to Know - Dr. Aviva Romm
How Does Gluten Intolerance Interfere with Fertility?
There are 4 primary ways that gluten intolerance and celiac interferes with fertility (and also optimal pregnancy health):
1. Chronic Inflammation: Gluten intolerance and celiac cause inflammation not just in the gut, but as a result, throughout the body. The chemicals that are produced when your body is in a chronic state of inflammation tell your body that it’s in a danger zone and so not a great time to get pregnant. Chronic inflammation is also associated with conditions that can interfere with getting pregnant – for example, endometriosis, which has also been associated with celiac disease. Inflammation is also associated with pregnancy problems, including gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, and preterm labor, so it’s important to get a handle on it before you get pregnant. Going gluten free and healing your digestive system, as described later in this article, will help you to do this!
2. Nutritional deficiencies: Your digestive system keeps you healthy in numerous ways, perhaps most obviously, through the digestion of food to provide you with nutrition. When you have gluten intolerance, inflammation develops in the lining of the small intestine that interferes with nutrient absorption. When the lining of our gut is damaged, for example by irritation due to gluten intolerance, the body is less effective at absorbing nutrients, including the ones needed for healthy conception. This includes protein, fats, zinc, vitamin D, iron, and selenium – all important for conception and healthy pregnancy.
3. Gut “dysbiosis”: It’s amazing how much our bodies mirror the natural world. In the human body there are layers of gut lining that, like soil in a garden, provide a home that feeds and nourishes the optimal bacteria, our microbiome, that we need to metabolize our food, break down, and absorb our nutrients, as well as get rid of waste.
The health of the vaginal flora is also dependent on the health of the gut flora. Like in garden soil, healthy microorganisms keep down the “bad bacteria” and other bugs in the soil that can harm the plant’s roots, damaging the whole plant. In the vagina, the good flora keep the vaginal environment at the right pH and sugar level at conception to support the passage of the sperm, and thus, facilitate conception. When the good flora aren’t hanging around in adequate numbers, the not-so-good guys that can contribute to or cause fertility problems become out of control. The wrong kind of gut flora can prevent conception, might reduce the effectiveness of IVF, and can lead to preterm birth when you do get pregnant, so now’s the time to get those flora in order. If you get regular vaginal infections, this is a sure sign that things are out of order down there, but even without those, if you are struggling to get pregnant, take an oral probiotic with Lactobacillus reuteri and Lactobacillus rhamnosus. You can additionally use these in the form of a vaginal suppository a few times weekly while trying to get pregnant. I recommend that my patients insert the capsules at night before bed; they will dissolve while you sleep. Several oral and vaginal suppository products are available on the market.
4. Autoimmunity: Because celiac disease is also an autoimmune condition, this can change the body’s ability to tolerate foreign cells including your partner’s sperm – or the baby. Additionally, celiac, both as a result of autoimmunity, and the selenium deficiency that it can cause, is associated with hypothyroidism, which can interfere with getting pregnant. If you have an autoimmune condition, gluten may be a culprit. Go gluten free, follow the 4R program below, and connect with a Functional or Integrative Medicine Doctor, or licensed Naturopath skilled in natural fertility treatment and gut health.