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Is There a Connection Between Celiac Disease and Reproductive Problems?

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Celiac Disease related image Photo: Getty Images

Celiac disease (CD) may have a connection with infertility and other reproductive disorders. There have been a number of studies done that support this statement but there are also many studies that seem to support the very opposite. The National Institute of Health sheds some light on this ongoing controversy.

Supportive Data

The Celiac Disease Foundation defines CD as an inherited autoimmune condition which inhibits persons from eating foods that contain gluten. When individuals with CD consume gluten it can create an immune-mediated toxic reaction and damage the small intestine and prevent food from breaking down completely. Presently, research exists that definitely indicates those with untreated CD suffer changes in menstrual disorders, unexplained infertility, recurrent spontaneous abortion, intrauterine growth retardation and low birth-weight babies. In certain clinical trials, participants with CD were given regular food to eat. As a result, reports by the NIH stated that a number of reproductive problems developed including “a shortened reproductive span with delayed onset of menstruation and early menopause, along with more frequent secondary amenorrhea – the temporary or permanent cessation of menstruation in women who previously had normal periods.”

Among these same trials, the risk of infertility increased from 2.5 to 3.5 percent for women with CD versus women without. Other documented results found that miscarriages also rose with patients having untreated CD. Additionally, spontaneous abortion rose nine times, low birth-weight six times and intrauterine growth retardation three times.

Non-supportive Data

Of course, there is the other side. More than one study indicated that the relationship between CD and reproductive issues was basically nonexistent. Other trials varied widely in their findings--from an increased risk of reproductive problems in women who showed CD symptoms only, to concluding that the same problems exist in women without CD as those with.

So what do doctors say about all of this conflicting data? Dr. Kay Stout, M.D., obstetrician/gynecologist at the Virginia Women’s Center in Kilmarnock was quoted by NIH as saying, “Most studies are small and observational,” and “it is safe to say more research is needed.” Her response reveals that a lot of these trials had not been consistent in the way the tests were run. NIH did, however, state that most evidence supports the idea that there is a connection between CD and reproductive issues. The practical application? If you feel something is wrong and are experiencing CD symptoms, get tested for this disease. It is always wise to be safe and informed.

Best in Health!

Resource: National Institute of Health, The Celiac Disease Foundation

Dita Faulkner is a freelance writer and avid knuckle cracker.

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