Should You Give Up Gluten When Trying to Conceive?
I had a kickoff meeting with a new client recently, and she asked me this question.
I had no idea of the answer.
Gluten is a hot topic right now. It seems like everyone is going gluten free these days. With all the rage and conflicting information about gluten, it’s hard to know if going gluten free is just a fad or a way you can seriously transform your health. And if you’re trying to conceive, the question is even more confusing.
Since I knew little about this topic, I decided to do a little research.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is the name of proteins found in wheat, barley and rye. It’s typically found in breads, pastas, baked goods, sauces, and beer (some of my favorite foods and drinks! I love me some carbs!).
Eliminating gluten from your diet is of primary concern for those suffering from celiac disease. Celiac is an autoimmune disorder, usually genetic, that leads to digestive problems if gluten is consumed. Basically, if you have celiac, gluten can cause inflammation and damage to your small intestine, making it difficult for your body to absorb necessary nutrients.
Symptoms of celiac disease include abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, or fatigue. According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, celiac can also be linked to infertility, recurrent miscarriages, and missed menstrual periods.
Currently, the only way celiac can be treated is through maintaining a gluten-free diet. Over time, not following a gluten-free diet if you have celiac disease can lead to serious complications including small intestinal cancer.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology in January 2015 found that women with infertility have more than triple the odds of having celiac disease in tandem, and for those with unexplained infertility, the odds skyrocketed to 6 times higher.
If you’ve suffered multiple miscarriages or have been diagnosed with unexplained infertility, it’s probably a good idea to get tested for celiac. If you test negative, it’s probably still worth going off the gluten and seeing what happens.
Gluten can still be an issue for you even if you don’t have celiac disease. It’s possible to have a gluten sensitivity – in this case, you could have symptoms of celiac disease without the damage to the small intestine. Just as with celiac disease, there’s no treatment for gluten sensitivities except for avoiding gluten in the diet.
While an estimated 1 percent of the world’s population is affected by celiac disease, it’s actually the most common genetic autoimmune disorder. Oftentimes cases go undiagnosed. If you think you have either celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, it’s important to get tested by your doctor rather than attempting to self-diagnose.
A Gluten-Free Diet
A safe bet for following a gluten free diet is to avoid most processed and pre-packaged foods – unless they’re labeled “gluten free,” but in any event I’d still recommend avoiding those types of foods in favor whole foods, like fresh meats, fish, eggs, beans, fruits and vegetables. Nuts and seeds are great gluten-free snacks. Quinoa and brown rice are terrific choices for gluten-free grains. Avoid wheat, barley, rye and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye).
The Bottom Line
If you’ve been diagnosed with Celiac Disease, you definitely need to make sure that gluten isn’t included in your diet.
If you suspect you have a gluten sensitivity, it’s probably a good idea to eliminate gluten from your diet.
If you don’t have Celiac, and aren’t sure if you have a gluten sensitivity, but have noticed you feel better when you don’t eat foods containing gluten, you can probably have gluten in your diet but in moderation. Keep a food diary and note how you feel when eating various foods. This will help you pay attention to how different foods affect you.
And, if you’re trying to conceive, I’d recommend going easy on foods containing gluten. You probably don’t need to completely eliminate it if you don’t want to, but definitely look toward incorporating more gluten-free foods and eating less foods containing gluten. If you’ve suffered several miscarriages and/or you’ve been diagnosed with unexplained infertility, I’d suggest going gluten free while you’re trying to conceive.
May is Celiac Disease Awareness Month. For more information: https://celiac.org/
Gluten Free Banana Muffins
- 2 small eggs, beaten
- 2 medium ripe bananas
- 3 Tbsp honey (or maple syrup if you prefer a vegan option)
- 3 Tbsp unsweetened plain almond milk
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 cup almond meal (ground from raw almonds)
- 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp oat flour (ground from gluten-free oats, I like Bob’s Red Mill brand)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a muffin tin with 8 paper liners.
- In a large bowl, combine eggs, mashed banana, maple syrup/honey baking powder, vanilla, and almond milk.
- Add almond meal and oat flour and stir once more. Taste to see if it needs more sweetener. I added a touch more because I prefer sweeter muffins.
- Pour into lined muffin tin and bake for 25-34 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and they become somewhat firm to the touch with a little give.
- Remove and let rest in pan for 5 minutes. Then coolcompletely on a cooling rack.
- Store in an airtight container or covered with plastic wrap for several days. Freeze for longer storage.