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The Hidden Food Allergy That Causes Infertility

The problem is Celiac's disease - an allergy to wheat, rye and barley that some experts say is responsible for up to half of all cases of unexplained infertility and may even cause recurrent miscarriage.. Here's what you need to know . . .

by Colette Bouchez

If you and your partner are one of millions of couples worldwide grappling with a diagnosis of “unexplained Infertility” then you already know how frustrating this condition can be. While doctors are quick to pinpoint that “something “ is wrong - they seldom can tell you what, or what can specifically help you to get pregnant.

Now, however, a growing body of evidence has begun to shed light on a new diagnosis of unexplained infertility - and one that just might put you on the fast track to conception.

The problem is Celiac disease - otherwise known as a “gluten “ allergy.

While once thought to be a rare, inherited genetic condition, it is now been believed to affect over 2 million people in the United State alone - and many more may be undiagnosed.

“Approximately 3 million suffer needlessly, undiagnosed with this condition - most never realizing that a change in diet could change their life ”, said Alice Bast, Executive Director of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness in a recent interview.

Of those couples affected by unexplained infertility, experts say that for almost half, gluten allergy may be the cause or a significant contributing factor. And while for some the symptoms are easy to recognize (including a history of gastrointestinal upsets, diarrhea, gas and bloating) for many others signs are much more vague making the condition much harder to recognize.

Indeed, problems can be as diverse as headaches, joint pain, “brain fog”, fatigue, loss of energy, irregular menstrual cycles, anemia, and in many instances, unexplained infertility.

Indeed, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness reports that on average it can take 10 years -or sometimes more - for people to get the correct diagnosis.

Understanding The Link Between Celiac disease & Infertility In order to absorb nutrients from food, your intestines come equipped with tiny hair-like projections called villi. Think of these as tiny pond-fronds moving back and forth, helping to pull the nutrients from foods and send them into your blood stream.

In those who have Celiac disease, eating products rich in gluten (a type of protein commonly found in rye, wheat and barley) ignites an immunologic firestorm that causes the body to produce toxins. It is these toxins that damage the villi, causing them to lie flat.

When this happens nutrients are not properly absorbed - including those from proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, as well as vitamins and minerals and in some cases even water and bile salts.

But that's not the only problem that occurs.

Increasingly research suggests these same toxins create body-wide inflammation capable of affecting your health from head to toe - including your fertility. * Currently, researchers at Molinette Hospital in Turin Italy report that early findings of a study of women with Celiac disease indicate the rate of “unexplained infertility could be as much as 3.5% higher than in the general population. They also suggest Celiac disease increases the risk of miscarriage and low birth weight babies. *

In another study doctors from Tampere University Hospital and Medical School at the University of Tampere, in Finland found that the rate of celiac disease among women reporting infertility was 4.1%. * In a study conducted by physicians at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia doctors found that the rate of recurring pregnancy loss is four times higher in women with Celiac disease.

Moreover, in a meta- analysis study conducted jointly by doctors at the Technion School of Medicine in Haifa, Israel and St. Luke's Roosevelt Medical Center in New York City, doctors concluded that not only is there a strong association between Celiac disease and infertility, it also remains a condition continually overlooked by many obstetricians and even fertility doctors.

How A Gluten Allergy Can Effect Your Fertility

Are you suffering with unexplained infertility or recurring miscarriage? It could be a hidden food allergy!

While it may be easy to see how a gluten allergy could impact your stomach health, the links to fertility as well as miscarriage are a bit less obvious.

Many doctors believe the immune responses linked to Celiac disease and gluten intolerance - including the production of toxins - have a detrimental affect on the menstrual cycle and disrupt ovulation.

How does this occur? Celiac expert Dr. Alex Shikhman believes it may be through the increased production of a hormone known as prolactin. “ Studies show that when women allergic to gluten eat this protein, it typically causes an upswing in the production of prolactin,” says Shikhman, director of the Institute for Specialized Medicine in Del Mar, California. Produced by the pituitary gland, and secreted in small amounts in both men and women, prolactin is the hormone that naturally increases during pregnancy in order to help prepare your body for breastfeeding.

But it also does something else: In high amounts prolactin can turn off production of brain chemicals linked to both egg production and release. These include FSH, which stimulates eggs to grow, and LH, which prompts ovulation. In fact, one of the reasons most women don't get pregnant while they are breastfeeding is because high levels of prolactin keep them ovulating.

At the same time, however, if you want to get pregnant, the production of FSH and LH is critical. So it's easy to see how high prolactin levels can keep you from conceiving. Additionally, fertility expert Dr. Niels Lauersen believes it's not just high prolactin levels, which contribute to gluten-related infertility.

"Since the very nature of a gluten allergy means that patients are absorbing far less nutrients from their foods and even their vitamin supplements, I also believe this condition can lead to a deficiency of factors that I know are essential to getting pregnant - particularly the B vitamins, plus vitamins C, D and A, as well as minerals like calcium and iron," says Lauersen, author of Getting Pregnant: What You Need To Know.

In fact, he says that whenever any of these nutrients are in short supply getting pregnant can be much more difficult. "It doesn't have to be from a gluten allergy - any problems that cause a decrease in nutrients, including irritable bowel syndrome or a poor diet, can be a factor in unexplained infertility," says Lauersen.

Moreover, Dr. Shikhman has been gathering data suggesting there may be a link between gluten allergy and endometriosis, the menstrual related disorder that is also the leading cause of infertility in young women. According to his preliminary research, when caught in its earliest stages, mild endometriosis responds to a gluten-free diet - meaning that not only does the endometriosis clear, but so do the related fertility problems.

Lauersen contends that diet does make a huge difference with endometriosis - with or without a gluten allergy. "It's important to recognize that this condition does respond to diet and vitamins - and any diet that would reduce inflammation would be effective, " he says. Additionally, it's important to point out that it's not just women who can be affected by a gluten allergy or sensitivity. Indeed, some studies show that men who are sensitive to gluten also experience problems with sperm production - including producing sperm that are misshapen or in other ways defective. And this too can often contribute to a couple’s diagnosis of unexplained infertility.

Gluten Allergy And Recurring Miscarriage

In addition to making it harder to get pregnant, if you do happen to conceive, a gluten allergy can also increase your risk of recurring or chronic miscarriage.

How does this occur? One theory links the problem to a blood protein known as antiphospholipid antibodies. Normally, the membranes of all your cells contain molecules called phospholipids. Some of these molecules contain a glue-like substance that actually helps the cells of your placenta ( the sac that surrounds and nourishes your baby in the womb) to fuse together and grow. When the body produces antibodies to phospholipids, it causes tiny blood clots to form within the placenta, thus blocking nutrients from your reaching your baby. When your baby can't be nourished, growth and development can become so restricted, a miscarriage results. In women who have Celiac disease, Dr. Shikhman says the production of these antibodies can soar - along with the risk of miscarriage.

“There is a very strong link between antiphospholipid antibody syndrome and gluten intolerance - and consequently, an increased risk of miscarriage,” he says.

Fertility expert Dr. Niels Lauersen adds that when a mother has poor nutrition, before and right after pregnancy, studies show that the risk of miscarriage increases.

"So it stands to reason that if you are not absorbing the proper amounts of nutrients from your foods or your prenatal vitamins, then your baby will not be receiving the proper nourishment necessary to survive and thrive. So even without the antiphospholipid antibody syndrome, still, your risk of miscarriage would naturally increase, " says Lauersen.

Could You Have A Gluten Allergy? How To Tell !

Here's how to tell if a gluten allergy is affecting your ability to get pregnant ...and what you can do!

While the exact cause of a gluten allergy - or Celiac disease - is not known, it is considered an autoimmune disease, a condition wherein your body's immune system attacks it own tissue.

And, it can also be hereditary. About 1 in 133 Americans have the condition, but that number rises to 1 in 22 for if you have a family member who is also affected. But just having the gene isn't enough to cause you to develop the problem. Indeed, it is only when factors in your life and your lifestyle come together with your genetic history that the condition takes hold.

For reasons we don't yet understand, a gluten allergy can arise after a health trauma, such as an infection or injury, or sometimes, after pregnancy, or after a surgery. [Of course!!! People get injected with protein that causes the gluten allergy!!! - bfg]

That said, the disease would not appear until gluten is consumed.

For many men and women the symptoms of a gluten allergy are easy to spot: You simply don't feel well after eating foods that contain wheat, rye, or barley - such as breads , cereal, or pasta. Problems can include bloating, gas, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal upsets that are had to miss. Unfortunately , however, too many doctors still misdiagnose this condition, instead labeling these patients as having irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), an entirely different condition requiring altogether different treatment. But this condition is also misdiagnosed for another reason: Sometimes the telltale gastrointestinal symptoms can be minor or even non-existent. Instead, other symptoms move to the forefront, some of them quite diverse. These can include:

If, in fact, you do have any of the above symptoms, and particularly if you have more than one, then experts say speak to your doctor about the following blood tests used to diagnose Celiac disease: * Total IgA * IgA antitissue transglutaminase (tTG) * IgA antiendomysial antibody immunofluorescence (EMA) If IgA is deficient, IgG tTG test should also be ordered. At the discretion of the doctor, antigliaden IgG may also help nail down the problem. Depending on the results of these tests your doctor may also order a biopsy of your stomach lining to know for certain if gluten sensitivity is your problem.

IMPORTANT TO NOTE: You must be eating gluten foods at the time of your testing in order to get the proper diagnosis. So, if you believe you have a gluten allergy and want to be tested, don't change your diet until after the tests are done.

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One in Six or one in Seven couples

Around one in six or one in seven couples will experience difficulties if they want to conceive and although most will eventually have a child naturally, some will not.

According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, infertility affects about 6.1 million people in the U.S., equivalent to ten percent of the reproductive age population.



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