top of page

The link between celiac disease & fertility

pregnant woman with bread

Celiac disease is sensitivity to gluten.

According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, as many as 97 percent of sufferers are not aware they have it.

Over the last 10 years, several studies have found conflicting results when looking at the link between celiac disease and infertility.

Some studies have found that women with undiagnosed celiac disease may have issues with fertility, while others have shown that there is no increased risk of infertility. It is not known if the nutritional issues (malabsorption) that occurs with untreated celiac disease may cause reproductive issues, or if the immune system may be to blame.

However, a recent study published in Human Reproduction , shows how critical it is for physicians to consider undiagnosed celiac disease when a woman has reproductive problems.

Typically, symptoms include

  • cramps and abdominal discomfort

  • chronic diarrhea

  • bloating

  • weight loss

  • fatty stools

  • easy bruising

  • peripheral neuropathies

Celiac Disease & Infertility in Women

Women with celiac disease have been shown to :

  • Have a higher rate of unexplained infertility

  • Have an increased risk of pre-term birth and spontaneous miscarriage

  • Have increased risk for polycystic ovarian syndrome and endometriosis

Therefore, many celiac disease experts recommend that women with unexplained infertility be screened for celiac disease.

In the U.K., the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends testing for celiac disease in women with unexplained reduced fertility or recurrent miscarriage.

Celiac Disease & Infertility in Men

Men with celiac disease may have an increased risk of:

  • gonadal dysfunction, which could complicate fertility issues

  • Semen issues (specifically sperm morphology)

Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity and Infertility

There is a lack of scientific information and research studies on the potential link between non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS, also commonly referred to as “gluten intolerance”) and infertility. While research needs to be done, those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity are thought to possibly be at an increased risk of reproductive issues.

However, the connection between NCGS and infertility is not yet known or proven. One case review did suggest that a strict gluten-free diet may improve fertility for those with NCGS.

What to do?

First, get tested

Get a solid diagnosis, first with testing for antibodies and other markers, and then by getting a small intestine biopsy with enteroscopy.

Then, Change the way you eat

woman in the background refusing a plate of sliced bread

If you are celiac or gluten intolerant, no amount of medicine will be effective until you stop burdening your system with what it cannot handle.

Complete elimination of glutens from the diet is not so simple a task, and may not get rid of all your symptoms. The worst form of gluten is modified gluten that hides in flours, fillers and in products that have nothing to do with wheat.

Be careful when consuming the following hidden gluten sources:

  • vinegars are often derived from wheat

  • salad dressings, mayonnaise, mustard, and ketchup

  • pharmaceutical medications contain gluten fillers

  • many drug store items, such as laxative, contain gluten.

Finally, use Chinese medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has long recognized the phenomenon and associated conditions related what the West currently calls CD/gluten sensitivity. TCM often views “Spleen Qi/Yang deficiencies” as the root of all of these findings. “Spleen Qi”, or as some translate it, “Pancreatic Qi” encompasses most digestive (and many other) functions.

Chinese medicine to the rescue

Symptoms of chronic digestive weakness may be improved with acupuncture. Many celiacs experience a severe deterioration of the intestinal villi which can lead to not only poor digestion, but also to a plethora of food sensitivities.

A 2011 clinical study published in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine shows a correlation between acupuncture and minimizing some of the symptoms of celiac disease.

Number of Chinese herbs are proven to significantly inhibit pro-inflammatory cytokines that are integral to the autoimmune dysfunctions in Celiac disease. Formulas with these herbs may be used in short courses to decrease the pathology of Celiac disease expression and promote healthier digestion at the same time.

glass jars of colorfull chinese herbs
  • Licorice and Peppermint are digestive anti-inflammatory herbs

  • Turmeric and Ginger are also anti-inflammatory and commonly used medicinals to regulate the digestive tract.

  • Many formulas such as Li Zhong Wan, Tong Xie Yao Fang, Ban Xia Xie Xin Tang etc can be applied depending on your own unique presentation. Do not self medicate with Chinese herbs.

No matter where you are in your

woman's health, fertility, pregnancy & mothering journey,

if you need support, we can help.

In addition to our own team of fertility & women's health acupuncturists, we are well-connected within the Los Angeles- Pasadena area community to help you find the right integrative and holistic care for you.

On our website, you can learn more about our services, and book an appointment.

If you have more questions please call our front desk, at 626-841-2991, or email us.

bottom of page