A celiac disease test may explain infertility according to a Danish Study which reports that women with undiagnosed celiac disease have a 62% chance of experiencing a still birth in comparison to women who do not have celiac disease.
This week, LetsGetChecked discuss celiac disease, celiac disease tests and how the condition may affect your fertility. LetsGetChecked is joined by Christina Kantzavelos , who lives with celiac disease and shares her experience of taking a Female Hormone Test, in honour of Celiac Awareness Day.
- What Is Celiac Disease?
- Does Celiac Disease Affect Fertility?
- What Is A Celiac Disease Test? Should You Take The Celiac Disease Test?
- Case Study: Celiac Disease & The Female Hormone Test
What Is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder in which the digestive system, the small intestine in particular believes that gluten is a threat. If you suffer from celiac disease, the ingestion of gluten may cause moderate to severe symptoms including bloating, chronic fatigue and a change in bowel movements.
Celiac disease is one of the most prevalent digestive conditions, affecting 1%-1.5% of the global population. There is no cure for celiac disease. The only known treatment is to follow a strict lifelong gluten free diet.
If you eat gluten and suffer from celiac disease, the gastrointestinal tract may face irreversible damage, as villi and ephitelial cells that line the small intestine are flattened. The function of villi is to absorb nutrients from the food you eat, while the epithelial cells are the building blocks of all internal and external organs.
This diagram illustrates the difference between those who suffer from celiac disease and those who do not. On the right, you see how villi and epithelial cells look for those who have a healthy small intestine. The structures are rounded and fit for purpose in enabling healthy digestion.
The diagram on the left illustrates damaged villi and epithelial cells. As the structures are flattened, they are less able to carry out their role in digestive function. This creates a domino effect for other physiological functions, including reproduction according to the latest study which tracks the connection between fertility and reproduction.
A wheat allergy differs from celiac disease in that those who are intolerant to gluten will experience similar symptoms to those with celiac disease, however, there is no autoimmune response and the lining of the intestine will not be damaged to the same degree. Despite the current popularity of the gluten free diet, it is estimated that only 6-7% of the U.S population suffers from a wheat allergy. Global figures are not as easy to decipher as some people choose to follow the diet for perceived health benefits.
Does Celiac Disease Affect Fertility?
Celiac disease has been associated with several potential outcomes associated with pregnancy including miscarriage, foetal diseases, molar and ectopic pregnancies and an increased risk of stillbirth.
Numerous reports over the last three decades have connected undiagnosed celiac disease as the root cause of reproductive issues. Despite conflicting views, a most recent Danish study published in Human Reproduction illustrates that celiac disease plays a significant role in the reproductive system as well as the digestive one.
In the nationwide Danish study, 6319 women who were diagnosed with celiac disease were compared to 63166 women who did not experience the condition.
In the study, reproductive events in women aged 15-50 were monitored over a 39 year period dating 1977 to 2016.
It was found that:
The chance of pregnancy, live birth and the risk of stillbirth, molar and ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage and abortion due to foetal disease was the same in both sample groups, however this does not apply to those with undiagnosed celiac disease.
Prior to being diagnosed, women who suffer from celiac disease are 12% more likely to suffer a miscarriage than those who did not experience celiac disease.
Women who have undiagnosed celiac disease are 62% more likely to experience a stillbirth
Women who have undiagnosed celiac disease experience 20-31 less pregnancies per 1,000 pregnancies compared to those who do not experience celiac disease
What Is A Celiac Disease Test? Should You Take The Celiac Disease Test?
The study concludes that those with undiagnosed celiac disease are more likely to suffer from reproductive issues, with the recommendation that there should be a focus on ruling out celiac disease if you are trying to get pregnant or if you are suffering from symptoms associated with the condition.
A celiac disease test measures levels of enzymes and antibodies in the blood to decipher biological sensitivity to gluten.
Celiac disease tests examine levels of tissue transglutaminase (tTG). The function of tTG is to repair damage within the body. As celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder, the body begins to attack itself when it is met with gluten-containing products. This response manifests itself in different ways. The majority of the time, this manifestation can be seen through severe bloating, chronic fatigue and digestive discomfort that lasts for over six weeks.
Low levels of tTG in the blood make room for anti-tissue transglutaminase, harmful antibodies that can cause further damage to the intestine and overall physical wellness.
Celiac disease tests secondly examine levels of EMA antibodies in the blood. EMA antibodies are responsible for intestinal swelling and the malabsorption of nutrients in the gastrointestinal tract, which means you could be eating what you perceive as a perfectly balanced diet, yet still remain nutrient deficient. High levels of EMA in the blood indicate that you may have celiac disease.
Celiac disease tests are generally taken using a blood sample. LetsGetChecked offer celiac disease tests that can be taken from the comfort of your own home without the need to make a doctor's appointment or deviate from your busy schedule.
This video outlines how to take a blood sample without needing to visit your physician, with accurate, online results within 5 days.
Our Case Study: Celiac Disease & The Female Hormone Test
This week, LetsGetChecked is joined by Christina Kantzavelos to discuss her experience of taking the Female Hormone Test, having learned that celiac disease and infertility are linked.
Christina Kantzavelos is the founder of Buen Qamino. LetsGetChecked can reveal that 62% of female consumers are simply curious about their fertility status when they choose to take a female fertility test. Christina is part of this sample group and states:
“I was simply curious. Female hormones play a big part in our overall health, and mine had never been tested before.”
Before taking the female hormone test, did you know that there is a connection between infertility and undiagnosed celiac disease?
I had no idea, but I'm also not surprised, as nutrigenomics has taught me that food and certain nutrition can affect our gene output.
Before your diagnosis of celiac disease, how did you find your hormonal health? Was it something were aware of? Did you experience any irregularities?
Like many women my age in the US, I've been on birth control for the majority of my adult life. Prior to being on birth control, I used to have ovarian cysts and frequent and heavy menstruations, which I believe birth control (progestin) has helped with. It's difficult to know what my hormones look like at baseline, at this point in my life, without birth control.
After your diagnosis of celiac disease, did you make any changes to your hormonal health?
I simply changed my diet, which has evolved into being very clean, nearly-paleo, and low-histamine. Knowing what I know about nutrigenomics, and based on my current health, I believe this has positively impacted my overall health, including hormonal health.
Did following a gluten-free diet improve your hormonal health? (Prevent negative symptoms associated with your period.)
It is difficult to know because I began my gluten-free diet after my IUD Mirena insertion, but I am sure it only benefited.
Do you think there is a connection between hormonal health and celiac disease?
I definitely think so. There is research surrounding celiac disease and its impact on the endocrine system and adrenals, which are in charge of producing hormones.
When your body is stressed, because you are damaging it with gluten, you will produce stress hormones, as opposed to the helpful hormones you need.
What steps do you take to improve symptoms associated with the menstrual cycle?
A clean diet is important. Everyone is different, but if you have celiac disease or a wheat allergy, then you should make every effort to avoid gluten, even if you do not suffer from any physical symptoms. You may also want to find out if you are having any other poor reactions to food (i.e. lactose, casein, soy, corn, high-histamines, etc.), which could also be impacting your health. It's important to not damage your body any more than you already have.
What are your favorite gluten-free recipes? Do you have one you would like to share?
I use Sun Basket, which delivers a box of organic ingredients and recipes for gluten-free/paleo meals to me weekly. These meals are delicious and have made my life a lot easier. Otherwise, I enjoy finding recipes via Instagram, Pinterest, and Google that cater to my gluten, dairy, soy-free, and low-histamine diet. Here is a healthy vegan buttery popcorn(less)"snack recipe I came up with, that I eat on a regular basis.
What are your personal tips and tricks for staying healthy?
"Listen to your body!"
My body will tell me whether or not it feels right after eating something or completing a certain activity. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, but I know my body likes when I eat clean, meditate regularly, sleep for at least 8-10 hours a night, as well as when I walk after meals and spend time in nature.
What do you think are the building blocks for nutritional health when following a gluten-free diet?
It took me a while to realize this, but just because something is packaged 'gluten-free' DOES NOT mean it's necessarily healthy. Sure, it's 'healthier' than eating something gluten-filled, but a lot of the gluten-free products out there are processed and are high in chemicals, and in sugars. Many of us with celiac disease have already done damage to our bodies, and we should try to reverse it, rather than potentially cause further damage.
What do you think of the LetsGetChecked service? How did you find taking the test?
I thought it was a bloody (pun) easy test, and turned me into a believer and doer of the at-home health tests. If you don't mind seeing blood, then this puts dealing with making an appointment to see a doctor, going to the lab, and or dealing with insurance to shame. The process and turnaround were quick, and I loved that a medical professional called me with the results.
Written by Hannah Kingston | Approved by Medical Director Dr. Dominic Rowley