The Impact Of Gluten On Embryo Implantation, Pregnancy Loss, NK Cells, Endometriosis And AMH/FSH levels

Mar 07, 2024

The Impact Of Gluten On Embryo Implantation, Pregnancy Loss, NK Cells, Endometriosis And AMH/FSH levels

Gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, has sparked interest in its potential role in health conditions, including infertility. Celiac disease, triggered by gluten, prompts an immune response that damages the small intestine lining (1). This condition affects roughly 1% of the global population, with many cases undiagnosed, potentially leading to severe complications, including infertility (2).


Celiac Disease & Infertility

Celiac disease, if left undiagnosed, can significantly impact fertility, with research indicating a higher prevalence among women facing difficulties conceiving compared to the general population (3). Additionally, women with unexplained infertility are at a heightened risk of having undiagnosed celiac disease (4). Moreover, untreated celiac disease has been linked to an increased likelihood of miscarriages and spontaneous abortions (5,6).


Thankfully, adopting a gluten-free diet to address celiac disease may positively influence fertility outcomes. Research suggests that women diagnosed with celiac disease who adhere to a gluten-free diet often experience improved pregnancy outcomes, including enhanced results with assisted reproductive technology (7). Both celiac disease and non-celiac wheat sensitivity have the potential to impact the reproductive system, potentially leading to fertility issues, pregnancy complications, and menstrual disorders (7).


Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity encompasses adverse reactions to gluten without the presence of celiac disease or wheat allergy (7). While research on its specific impact on fertility remains limited, there is speculation that untreated non-celiac gluten sensitivity may influence fertility through inflammatory mechanisms. Studies suggest that individuals with non-celiac gluten sensitivity may encounter menstrual irregularities, implying a possible association between gluten sensitivity and reproductive health (8). Given that inflammation is commonly linked to both non-celiac gluten sensitivity and celiac disease, it is advisable to minimize inflammation, particularly when attempting to conceive or during pregnancy.


Understanding the Impact of Gluten on Health

In reproductive immunology, the role of natural killer cells is crucial. However, excessive natural killer cells or overly potent ones can lead to issues such as recurrent miscarriage and failed embryo implantation during in vitro fertilization (9). Exposure to gliadin, a component of gluten, has been linked to increased natural killer cell activity (10). Additionally, individuals with celiac or non-celiac wheat sensitivity may be more prone to having anti-nuclear antibodies, which can impact fertility and assisted reproductive technology outcomes (11, 12).


Furthermore, research suggests a potential association between celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity and conditions like endometriosis, a common cause of infertility in women (13, 14). Studies also indicate a correlation between gluten and diabetes, especially in individuals with celiac disease, who have a higher likelihood of developing type 1 diabetes and other autoimmune disorders. Research showed that a gluten-free diet during pregnancy could mitigate signs of type 1 diabetes and celiac disease in offspring (15). Additionally, other research found that increased maternal gluten intake during pregnancy was linked to a higher risk of type 1 diabetes in children (16).


The relationship between our gut and gluten is crucial, especially for those dealing with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Going gluten-free can enhance gut health by encouraging the growth of helpful bacteria while decreasing the presence of inflammatory species (17). Research shows that the condition of our gut directly impacts fertility, highlighting the importance of maintaining a healthy digestive system for those trying to conceive (18).


The relationship between thyroid conditions and gluten is noteworthy, especially concerning infertility (19). Research suggests that adopting a gluten-free diet may improve thyroid function and reduce inflammation, particularly among women (20, 21). For individuals navigating fertility challenges alongside thyroid issues, exploring the potential benefits of a gluten-free regimen may warrant consideration.

Testing For Celiac and Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity

Exploring testing for celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity opens doors to understanding and personalized solutions. While important for those grappling with symptoms or suspecting gluten intolerance, testing isn't always conclusive. Partnering with healthcare professionals ensures accuracy and tailored guidance. With over 60 gluten proteins, tests may miss crucial markers, leading to potential false positives (22). In our practice, we recommend an initial elimination diet lasting 60-90 days, excluding gluten and typically dairy, and comprehensive testing for food sensitivities. Using this approach, we can gain valuable insight into gluten's impact and focus on gut healing.


Going Gluten-Free

When it comes to adopting a gluten-free diet, there are several key points to consider for successfully navigating the diet. Firstly, understanding the distinction between going completely gluten-free versus opting for a mostly gluten-free approach can make a significant difference in managing your sensitivity or allergy. Moreover, it's essential to remain vigilant about hidden sources of gluten in unexpected places, such as sauces, supplements, and other seemingly innocuous products. For those with heightened sensitivity, even trace amounts of gluten, like those found in wheatgrass, can trigger reactions, underscoring the importance of meticulous label reading and awareness of gluten's aliases. When dining out, taking proactive steps such as researching restaurants beforehand, effectively communicating your gluten sensitivity to staff, and advocating for your dietary needs can help safeguard against accidental exposure. While it may require extra effort, ensuring your gluten-free meal is well worth the discomfort to maintain your health and well-being.


Additionally, staying gluten-free while traveling is entirely feasible with careful planning. Embracing the gluten-free diet isn't about deprivation; it's about discovering new foods and enjoying the positive impact on your overall health. As you become more attuned to how food affects your body, the journey toward a gluten-free lifestyle can be empowering and enlightening.


Who Should Consider Testing and Adopting a Gluten-Free Diet?

While not everyone requires screening for celiac disease, it's advisable for individuals showing symptoms such as gastrointestinal symptoms, iron deficiency anemia, delayed menarche, decreased AMH, high FSH, diminished ovarian reserve, and premature ovarian insufficiency levels, or a family history of celiac to undergo testing (7). At Fab Fertile, we commonly observe non-celiac gluten sensitivity in patients with low AMH and high FSH levels. Removing gluten from their diets has been consistently associated with improved fertility outcomes. The decision to adopt a gluten-free diet should be made in consultation with a healthcare provider.

At Fab Fertile Inc., we can provide personalized guidance, such as whether eliminating gluten is right for you and how to take on a gluten-free lifestyle. Let’s connect and talk about how the Fab Fertile Program could help you and your partner achieve pregnancy success! Book your free 15 minute call here.



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