• Celiac: A Silent Cause of Infertility

      With gluten-free foods crowding grocery store shelves and restaurants promoting new gluten-free menus, it's pretty likely you've heard of celiac disease. But were you aware that most people who have celiac don't know it? One in one hundred white people in the U.S. have celiac, and yet only about 15% of those people are aware that they have the disease. A lack of awareness and diagnosis of celiac disease can have serious consequences such as infertility. (Other health consequences of undiagnosed and untreated celiac include malnourishment and susceptibility to anemia & osteoporosis to lymphoma.) In fact, according to the NIH, the rate of celiac disease is at least 2.5 to 3.5 percent higher among women with unexplained infertility than women with normal fertility.

      Celiac disease is defined as the body's immune-mediated reaction to gluten, an elastic protein that is found in wheat, barley and rye. After exposure, the small intestine suffers harm over time and limits the body's ability to pull nutrients out of food as it passes through the digestive tract. Symptoms can include GI upset, diarrhea, weakness, weight loss and fatigue.

      A new study has found that one out of every one hundred white Americans has celiac disease. Of those who are walking around with celiac, eight out of ten people don't even know it (82%). And interestingly, ninety percent of people who follow a gluten-free diet do not have the disease.

      Many people are unaware of the extreme health consequences of a celiac diagnosis and instead just consider it an unfair life sentence to bland, boring and bread-lacking food. (Even prisoners get bread and water, after all.) But several serious (and some potentially life-threatening) problems that go hand-in-hand with celiac. According to the A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia, untreated celiac can lead to:

      • Autoimmune disorders
      • Bone disease (osteoporosis, kyphoscoliosis, fractures)
      • Certain types of intestinal cancer
      • Low blood count (anemia)
      • Liver disease
      • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
      • Infertility or repeated miscarriage

      Education is definitely needed so that more of us understand the signs and symptoms of celiac and learn about its consequences. One member of the IVFConnections community learned about celiac the hard way - after she had been struggling with infertility for years.

      Sunshine, a long-time member of the IVFConnections community, was not diagnosed with celiac for many years. Her struggles with infertility (a consequence of the disease) ultimately led to the diagnosis. "I presented in a form often called silent Celiac. I did not have any typical symptoms, but instead would have these four hour long intense stomach aches that I would have to breathe through. There was no pattern to it."