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Unexplained Infertility Could Be Celiac Disease

A 2011 study - published in the Journal Of Reproductive Medicine - demonstrates how women with unexplained infertility are far more likely to have celiac disease than other women. Celiac disease - an increasingly common autoimmune disease - can cause infertility and increased miscarriage risks; celiac disease is estimated to affect approximately one in one hundred and thirty people in the USA.

This study (1), published in June 2011 examined 191 female infertility patients and all underwent standard infertility tests and blood testing for the immune markers of celiac disease. Four of the one hundred and ninety one women tested positive for celiac disease which was confirmed by further testing. This finding represented a 5.9% incidence of celiac disease in women were also diagnosed with unexplained fertility, a far higher incidence than the 1.3% national average. The study authors concluded that:

“Women with unexplained infertility are at increased risk for having undiagnosed celiac disease, which may be a potentially modifiable (and treatable) risk factor.”

Subsequent to diagnosis and a gluten-free diet all four of the women conceived within one year. A strict gluten-free diet is the only known effective treatment for celiac disease and is extremely effective in resolving celiac-related infertility and miscarriage.

If you have unexplained infertility - or recurrent miscarriage - and want to pursue testing for celiac disease you need to be eating gluten (present in all wheat products) for some weeks or months prior to the test. When gluten is avoided for an extended period the test is less accurate in detecting the disease. A positive blood test is often followed-up with a intestinal biopsy to confirm the diagnosis but either way the only treatment available is a gluten-free diet which should be continued throughout pregnancy to avoid miscarriage.

This article is for purely informational purposes and in not intended to diagnose or replace medical or nutritional advice for which you should consult a physician or dietitian.

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Choi JM, Lebwohl B, Wang J, Lee SK, Murray JA, Sauer MV, Green PH. Increased prevalence of celiac disease in patients with unexplained infertility in the United States. Journal of Reproductive Medicine, 2011; 56 (5-6): 199-203

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