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Celiac Disease, Miscarriage, and Infertility

Celiac Disease and its Connection to Miscarriage and Infertility
By Mash at The Lucky Life

Celiac Disease and it’s Connection to Miscarriage and Infertility

More and more research is starting to point to Celiac Disease as a cause of unexplained infertility or recurrent miscarriages for some women. Researchers who have studied women with infertility have found that they test positive for Celiac disease-related antibodies at a rate that is ten-fold higher than the normal population. Since it is a disease of the digestive tract, there is not much awareness amongst fertility specialists about the disease, however, the awareness is slowly increasing. This article is particularly aimed at women who are struggling to find answers, and may be displaying some of the other symptoms of this disease.

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease (also known as Coeliac Disease) is an autoimmune disease of the digestive tract, caused by a reaction gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and oats. When a person has Celiac Disease, their body’s reaction to the gluten causes damage to the villi (tiny protrusions of the small intestine, used to absorb nutrition), and as a result they tend to become malnourished, no matter how much food they eat. Once a person has been diagnosed, and gluten removed from their diet, their digestive tract starts to heal, nutrition starts to be absorbed, and the symptoms usually start to subside.

Some Common Symptoms

Around 1 in 133 Americans have this disease, although it is estimated that 95% of sufferers are undiagnosed. The symptoms vary, classical symptoms are generally digestion related like abdominal bloating and pain, diarrhea, and others symptoms which are frequently ascribed to irritable bowel syndrome. Other symptoms are related to problems with  absorption, such as fatigue, anemia and osteoporosis. Sufferers of other autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and thyroid autoimmune diseases are often found to have Celiac Disease, and in some cases changing their diet to exclude gluten has caused these diseases to clear up or improve. A link has also been found between migraine and Celiac Disease – migraine sufferers are 10 times more likely to have Celiac. Around 10% of people suffering with Celiac Disease have Dermititis Herpetiformis (an itchy skin rash). There are also people who have Celiac Disease with no symptoms at all, they are called Silent Celiacs.

Miscarriage and Infertility

Importantly, recurrent miscarriage and infertility are also symptoms of Celiac Disease. I’ve included some (but there are many) relevant studies with the facts.

• Women with undiagnosed Celiac Disease have a 9 times higher chance of miscarriage than those who are diagnosed and have gone gluten free. Celiac Disease and Pregnancy Outcome PMID:8677936. These miscarriages can happen at any time in a pregnancy and sadly, are often late term miscarriages. There is a suspicion that they may be due to malnourishment of the fetus.

• Some of the further listed atypical symptoms of Celiac disease are: delayed menarche, amenorrhea, early menopause, infertility, impotence, hypogonadism, recurrent abortions, and low-birth-weight or preterm deliveries. Celiac Disease and Reproductive DisordersPMID: 20017709 and Celiac Disease and its Affect on Human Reproduction PMID: 20337200.

• In a population of women with endometriosis, they found 2.5% of the women to be Celiac positive, more than double the rate of Celiac Disease than is found in the general population. Serological Testing for Celiac Disease in Women with Endometriosis PMID: 19400413

Diagnosis

Tests can only be done while gluten is still present in the diet. It’s very important not to be gluten-free when you are going for tests! A mistake that many people make is to cut out gluten, and when their symptoms disappear as a result, to go for the tests. Since they are looking for antibodies, the tests will then probably come back negative. The first step would be some blood tests for antibodies that your doctor might order: Total IgA, IgA-tTG, and IgA-EMA. If the antibody tests come back positive, your doctor will probably order a biopsy of the lining of the small intestine, to check for the autoimmune response. Some people test positive for the antibodies and negative for the autoimmune response, this means that they have a gluten intolerance, and not Celiac Disease. However, many people with gluten intolerance suffer similar symptoms, and they are advised to give up gluten too. It doesn’t make sense for your body to harbour inflammation!

Finally, here is a clip from a woman who suffered 3 miscarriages and went to 23 doctors before being diagnosed, who now works for a Celiac Disease NGO:

References:

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