Celiac Disease May be to Blame for infertility in women

Unclear why you’re unable to conceive and visiting a New York fertility clinic? An Indian study suggests that infertility in women should be screened for celiac disease which could be the underlying problem.

Celiac disease occurs in one of every 100 people. People who have it cannot process gluten that’s found in grains like wheat, barley and rye. Intestinal damage, malnutrition and other long-term problems can result if celiac disease is left untreated.

Dr. Govind Makharia, a professor at All India institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, and a team of researchers looked at a number of previously published studies about infertility.

Based on an analysis of three studies that included 449 women with infertility, Dr. Makharia’s team found that infertile women were 3.5 times more likely to have celiac disease than women who didn’t experience difficulty conceiving.

Among women with no clear cause for their infertility, the connection to celiac disease was even stronger. The research team found women with unexplained infertility were six times more likely to have the disease. These result were based on a review of five studies that included 422 women with unexplained infertility.

“There isn’t strong evidence to say that celiac disease causes infertility, but there are many anecdotal experiences where women with infertility have conceived after being diagnosed with celiac disease and put on a gluten free diet,” Dr. Makharia said.

Dr. Alessio Fasano, director of the Center for Celiac Research at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, says that celiac disease has often been looked to as a reason for unexplained infertility, but no definitive proof exists. The results of the Indian study certainly support the assumption, Dr. Fasano said.

While the link between infertility and celiac disease is probable, the results of the study which was published in the January issue of the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, are based on only a few studies that include a small number of women.

“The issue of celiac disease as a cause of infertility has remained a debatable issue,” Dr. Makharia said. “The pooling of data from all the eligible studies in this meta-analysis now brings forth reasonable evidence to support screening (for celiac disease).”

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