Home celiac Unexplained infertility? It might be caused by gluten

Unexplained infertility? It might be caused by gluten


Just a quick cut and paste today. (I’m studying for an exam) This topic is a subject that is important and close to my heart.

I’ve never been able to get pregnant. Yup – infertile. A loaded word that often makes a woman feel less than a woman. Unexplained infertility. I have no hormonal problems, I don’t have PCOS, my cycles were regular as clockwork, and my period was 3 days long, always. I did suffer PMS and severe cramps. I’ve written previously how these resolved partly with the zone diet and omega 3, and fully with paleo + supplements.

I was almost 49 when I switched to a paleo diet. All my joint inflammation went as well – quickly and totally. My regular swelling knees stopped swelling. (Similar to my mother’s -she has lupus. I had a mildly positive ANA like her). I used to get regular ganglion cysts – unsightly bumps on my wrists, I had a very large one on my left wrist – it disappeared in weeks. I’ve had no recurrence.

I discovered I have Hashimoto’s – my first checkup in years when I turned 50 showed a slightly elevated TSH and my thyroid antibodies were very high (Thyroglobulin 1036, Thyroperoxidase 1586 U/mL)

Hashimoto’s is strongly linked to celiac disease. I immediately banned gluten from my diet, in fact I banned all grains as there is cross-reactivity with all grains. (I’m still symptom free as far as the Hashi’s goes, and hoping to stay that way) I highly recommend you follow Dr Kharazians diet recommendations if you have Hashimoto’s.

What I will never know though – is if gluten caused my infertility.

This Link popped up on Twitter today:

Increased Prevalence of Celiac Disease in Patients with Unexplained Infertility in the United States: A Prospective Study


Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder which can present with a variety of non-gastrointestinal manifestations. In women, it may manifest with an assortment of gynecologic or obstetric disorders. Some reports have linked female infertility with undiagnosed celiac disease. Though there are a number of studies from Europe and the Middle East, only two prior American studies have examined the prevalence of “silent” celiac disease in a female infertility population. We prospectively performed serologic screening for celiac disease in 188 infertile women (ages 25–39). While we did not demonstrate an increased prevalence of celiac disease in our overall infertile female population, we were able to detect a significantly increased prevalence (5.9%) of undiagnosed celiac disease among women presenting with unexplained infertility (n=51). Our findings suggest the importance of screening infertile female patients, particularly those with unexplained infertility, for celiac disease.

And in the text (full text) – please go and read it if infertility affects you – the authors note that one of the 4 women diagnosed had NO gut symptoms at all. On a positive note – they go on to say:

All four patients underwent nutritional counseling concerning the gluten-free diet. All four conceived within a year of their celiac diagnosis and diet changes. Patient A conceived naturally within a month of her diagnosis and diet change.

If unexplained infertility is something you suffer from, and even (IMO) if you do not have a positive test for celiac, try a gluten free diet.

I wish I’d known far younger than 50!

However the door for me was not closed with regards to having children. We have two wonderful Russian siblings, now teens, who we adopted from Siberia 10 years ago.

I also recommend: Chris Kresser’s Healthy Baby Code



  1. Hi Julianne,

    I’ve been lurking for a while but finally wanted to thank you for your fantastic blog, and for sharing your own health issues in an honest and sympathetic manner. I am sorry for your fertility troubles (though was so happy to read about your adopted children).

    A nutritionist and Foresight pre-ceonceptual counselor (http://www.foresight-preconception.org.uk/) I am familiar with gluten-related fertility problems; indeed, in one couple I worked with recently, getting the husband to stop eating wheat appears to have helped them conceive (they had already made lots of other thanges, but this seems to have been the clincher).

    Here are two PubMed links to articles that highlight the role of gluten not only in female, but also male fertility:

    Good luck with those exams!
    All best,

  2. Very interesting! I know someone that adopted a healthier, vege-heavy diet and became pregnant naturally at 49, to her enormous surprise (she already has two grown children). She miscarried at 10 weeks, and admitted feeling relieved and that this was ‘meant to be’, but still… quite a story. I will ask her if it was gluten free.

    I would be very interested to hear your story of adopting from overseas. This is something that my partner and I have thought about, but it seems such a daunting prospect. We have never conceived, but mostly that is because we spent the first 10 years of our relationship trying hard not to and now we are probably too old (both 41) or maybe even infertile, who knows?. Sad, huh? Just too busy to remember about having any kids (travel, work, playing with the nieces and nephews, getting educated, buying stuff, blogging).

    Good luck with exams! I am studying for mine too (the two 3rd year papers in the grad cert). We will probably be in a paper together next semester (I’m doing all four in semester 2).

    • I’m just doing one paper – advanced topics in macronutrients. I could probably have managed 2.
      4 papers would be daunting – unless I was not working and had no kids.

      I was like that too with regards to kids. Too busy to try seriously until late 30’s.
      We adopted through ICANZ. Lots to watch for – most daunting is not the process, but being sure your children are okay (or as okay as possible coming from an institution).

      One needs lots of time, working part time suits me. I like to be home for kids before and after school.

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