Could Bread Be the Cause of Your Infertility?

Did you know that about 40% of all Americans are sensitive or allergic to the gluten found in wheat products? Many don’t even know it yet. 1 out of 133 are severe enough to be labeled as celiac. And if you’ve been trying to get pregnant for some time and have yet to conceive, or have had multiple unexplained miscarriages, you may want to pay attention.

You know what? Pay attention anyways.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, spelt, kamut, barley, and rye. It helps bread dough to be elastic and causes it to rise. But one of the problems with gluten now is that it’s in everything! And to much of a good thing is well….not a good thing. We eat more wheat products now than ever in history because breads are so convenient. And food manufacturers place wheat and/or wheat gluten in a large majority of processed foods. Another one of the other issues with our modern wheat breads is that it has changed over the last century, as we’ve become a society that loves nice fluffy breads and baked goods. To achieve this we’ve hybridized the actual wheat berry so that it now contains more of this gluten protein and we also add more in later while baking to give it that extra rise. The fact that the USDA food pyramid claims we need more wheat and grains than any other food group is also of great concern. (One of the other reasons that a lot of people do better off of wheat is that they are no longer experiencing the blood sugar issues associated with digesting breads, plus they are now eating more whole foods and not relying on packaged, processed stuff!)

In people who are sensitive to gluten, the body actually attacks the lining of the intestine, damaging the gut wall and causing pain, diarrhea, constipation, and mal absorption of nutrients. The main problem with gluten intolerance or gluten allergies is that their can be a very long list of very different things – and not all of them are specific to the gut.

  • Anemia
  • Abdominal pain
  • Headaches
  • Ear Infections (especially chronic infections in small children)
  • Eczema or chronic skin irritation
  • Bloating and Gas
  • Depression and Anxiety
  • Diarrhea and constipation
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Infertility and multiple miscarriage
  • Aching joints or overall body soreness
  • Inflammation
  • Weight Loss (unexplained)

People with celiac disease, a wheat allergy, on average suffer for about 7 years before a diagnosis is made. And their intestinal wall is constantly being damaged during that time.

Our Story with Gluten

Last February, while doing some research for a blog post, I stumbled across an article about gluten that made me think my husbands health may change for the better if he went gluten free. After convincing him to give it a try I started cooking completely gluten free for him while retaining just a small amount of wheat products in my and my sons diet.

The first week or so was tough as not only did we have to get used to eating completely different, he started to experience withdrawal/detox symptoms and some pretty bad headaches. A couple weeks went by and he started to notice he felt better. And not just the things we thought would get better! He started sleeping better through the night and he wasn’t as sore and tired as he had been previously. After about 3 months he decided to try a bit of bread to see what happened. And boy did he find out! He got headaches for 3 days, muscle pains and aches, and stomach upset. It was clear he was sensitive to gluten.

A year later his body has healed enough where he can tolerate a small amount of wheat and normally only in the form of spelt. I have also noticed that not only do I feel much better when I don’t eat a lot of wheat, and my son’s behavior is better as well. So I currently limit our consumption of wheat/gluten products to one serving or less per day, and I may look to limiting it further.

Gluten and Infertility

Melissa Diane Smith, author of “Going Against the Grain” has been stated as saying that the leading cause of recurrent miscarriage is an undiagnosed gluten sensitivity. She also said that 85% of her PCOS clients showed positive for it as well. (It is also been shown to have a direct correlation with Endometriosis as well) Men are not immune to infertility due to celiac either as they may also suffer from unexplained infertility.

So how does gluten specifically affect fertility? No one really knows for sure actually. But one of the thoughts is that the damage to the intestinal wall can lead to a lot of malabsorption. Mal absorption leads to the body not being fed what it needs in order to produce the right amounts of hormones needed for conception or to bring a pregnancy to term. There is also the fact that celiac is an auto immune disease meaning that the immune system begins to attack parts of your body. And while pregnant, an attack on any part of your body is a very bad thing.

What You Can Do

If you think you have a gluten sensitivity, your doctor can run a blood test to see if you in fact have celiac. The one issue I do see with this test is that if you don’t have celiac, but are just gluten sensitive, it doesn’t show up. If that happens to be the case, I do know that holistic doctors out there have a different test they use, though I’m not sure of the name of it, but it measures your reaction to foods differently. Alternatively, you could also try going gluten free for a couple months! (It takes at least a few weeks for the effects of the wheat to get out of your system, so one week just isn’t long enough) Watch for symptoms when you cut it out, and if you in fact have an intolerance to it, you’ll notice when you eat something with gluten in it after a month or so. And even if you haven’t had a positive diagnosis, your health care professional can help you figure out what a gluten free diet may look like for you.

Going gluten free can be tough – I won’t lie to you. But it can also be very worth it in the end! There are now a lot of different resources both online and in print which does make it easier, but gluten free living is a total switch from a normal American diet. Gluten is used in a lot of processed foods and you really have to start reading the labels, and if you truly have celiac, that means replacing things like your toaster and cutting boards. You also need to make sure that your not just looking for substitutes for your normal fare! Gluten free eating can be just as unhealthy if you constantly buy products that are full of other ingredients (bad fats, sugar, stabilizers) that help get the texture close to wheat. My advice would be to also research a primal or paloe diet and equip yourself with recipes from them so that you can cut out your bread and bread substitutes. (Plus GF items are expensive!!)

More Resources about Gluten Intolerance:

Since it would take a book to write all there is to know about gluten sensitivities, here are a few other resources for you.

My friend Michele, over at Frugal Granola, actually found out (herself!) that she had celiac. This was after she had multiple miscarriages and other health issues. Though not online much anymore (since she had her first full term pregnancy and baby born last August!) her site has some great information  and gluten free recipes. She was the one whose brain I picked constantly while making the switch to Gluten Free eating last year.

**update**

We also did a week long series on gluten last fall :

http://www.westonaprice.org/moderndiseases/healing-celiac-disease.html

http://glutenfreegirl.blogspot.com/

http://glutenfreegirl.blogspot.com/2005/08/what-heck-is-gluten-anyway.html

http://glutenfreeworks.com/gluten_sensitivity.php

http://www.celiac.org/

So is going gluten free something you’ve ever looked into, or do you know you have an intolerance to it?

What is your biggest hangup about such a diet change?

This post is linked to Kitchen Stewardships Spring Cleaning Carnival where today everyone is posting about Getting the Gluten Out, so head on over there to find more information as well!

Check out this month\'s sponsor, Natural Fertility Shop. They are 100% focused on helping you during your journey towards parenthood and have expert staff and knowledgeable customer service here to help you every step of the way.

All images and content are protected under US copyright laws, please do not copy and paste.

Links in the post above may be affiliate or referral links - meaning that through a sale I may be given monetary benefit. I blog with integrity and only endorse companies and products I love.

I am not a doctor and don\'t pretend to be one. Use everything you read only to inspire you to do your own research and be an advocate for your own health. Please read my disclaimer in full.

About Donielle

Donielle is an amateur herbalist and natural momma to two littles (with another babe in heaven) after dealing with being less than fertile. She has a passion for nourishing nutrition, natural living, and spreading the word on how food truly affects our health.

Comments

  1. Hi Donielle – our entire family does better without grains in general, and those with gluten in particular. We spent many years eating those foods and suffered a myriad of health issues because of it. My husband definitely gains weight when he eats bread and now he’s back to eating it again. He also enjoys beer, which contains grains as well. I’ve been trying to convince him to return to a low ratio of these items, but he’s in a high stress situation with our new business getting going and he doesn’t make the time he once did to eat as healthy as he used to. He eats out more than our whole family does since he is away from home more. I’ve tried to get him to come home for lunch since he’s only 1 1/2 miles away, but he always says he’s too busy. So I try to deliver a home-made meal to him whenever I can, but since we home school I find that I just can’t always fit it in.

    I’ve been avoiding most grains now for the past couple of months other than an occasional piece of sprouted grain toast and sprouted corn tortillas with Mexican dishes we make. I definitely notice a vast difference. Although it hasn’t improved my fertility, I still notice an enormous change in most everything about my health when I don’t eat grains. Thanks for this post!

    donielle Reply:

    @Raine Saunders, I’ve been trying to cut out most grains as well – but that sure is hard! :-) On a normal day though we usually only have one meal with some type of grain. Bad days we have 2. I’m really trying to psych myself up to go grain free for a month or so and see what happens. It’s just hard to wrap my head around it and figure out all the details!

  2. Really good info, Donielle. We don’t personally seem to have gluten sensitivities, though we all do better when we choose spelt or kamut rather than regular wheat. I think this is really helpful for a lot of people, though, and I sent it out on Twitter. :)

    donielle Reply:

    @Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home, Thanks! :-)

  3. Hi, I have endometriosis and was just wondering if you have a further reference for the link btween endo and gluten intolerance you mentioned? Jas

  4. My friend just found out she has celiacs after years of feeling horrible, and even having her gall bladder removed! I’m so happy she is feeling much better. It’s amazing how much you hear about it now!

  5. Great post. I’ve been wondering if I have a gluten sensitivity, which is causing my fertility issues. I’ll bring it up to my acupuncturist soon to see if he has any feedback.

  6. thank you so much for this post! I didn’t realize that there was a link between infertility and gluten. I haven’t been formally diagnosed with Celiac disease, but I have committed to a GF lifestyle. I accidentally didn’t eat gluten one day when my husband was away on business. I ate, veggies, meat and rice. Just no gluten. And I felt a million times better. Bloating, constipation, abdominal cramping, fuzzy head, inability to concentrate, low energy, depression, GONE. In one day…so I tried it the next day and the same. I was just so thrilled to be able to fit into my pants at the end of the day. Before I was so bloated by 5pm, I had to change into sweats. I didn’t get a blood test done at that time and I don’t plan on it because I’d have to eat gluten again. (though I hear that official diagnosis can be an useful when advocating a GF lifestyle.)
    I guess I am very lucky that I was able to conceive. I was able to get pregnant on our first try twice. But when eating gluten my cycle was 42-45 days regularly and I was diagnosed with PMDD and put on medication. Now, GF and med-free, my cycle is 25-28 days regularly and I have few to no PMS symptoms. It is like I have regained weeks of my life I used to spend in bed. this dramatic difference is what convinced me gluten and I just don’t mix.
    A strict GF lifestyle is very difficult. I don’t eat out at restaurants…ever. I have found I am just that sensitive. Simple cross-contamination gives me stomach cramps. I don’t eat many packaged foods because the GF baked goods also give me a stomach ache, so I feel as though I am cooking non-stop. It is frustrating that fresh veggies and lean meats are more expensive than the less healthy food choices. But we are so lucky that we are able to afford this diet that is so important for me. There are so many growing resources out there to help GF people navigate, we are truly lucky.
    The thing that has surprised me most is that gluten affects so many of us…those with aspergers, autism, and those with eczema. It is something I think many more are going to pay attention to in the near future.
    Thanks for your resource links too! I am off to check them out.

  7. Oh, gluten, my nemesis. I know I feel better when I’m GF, but it’s an on again/off again relationship. Sometimes it’s easy breezy, sometimes I want to throw a 2 year old tantrum about not being able to eat anything ever.

  8. Michael Winslow says:

    Little do we know that Wheat was the first GMO food, that one slice of Wheat bread has 14 times the Gluten of normal Wheat…

Trackbacks

  1. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by donielle: New blog post: Could Bread Be the Cause of Your Infertility? http://goo.gl/fb/5iHJT

  2. […] other issues, constipation/diarrhea, decreased immunity, joint aches, poor recovery from workouts, infertility & miscarriage, increased risk of death (especially via heart disease or cancer), those are just what I can think […]

  3. […] lot of evidence lately has highlighted the dangers of gluten on fertility.  You can find a helpful list here.  It lists the various reasons many women are choosing to […]