What It Is
A common but often undiagnosed autoimmune digestive disorder that results from an allergic reaction to gluten, which is found in most wheat products, rye, barley, oats, and many other foods. (Not to be confused with irritable bowel syndrome, which can also cause cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea but has no effect on fertility or pregnancy.)
Who Gets It
Children and adults. Since the symptoms of celiac disease aren’t necessarily debilitating, women may not know they have it, although the problem is estimated to affect an estimated 2 million people, or one in 133 Americans.
Vague gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms that can include bloating, cramping, diarrhea accompanied by stomach pain, gas, irregular periods, or weight loss.
How It's Diagnosed/Detected
Anyone who is experiencing any of the above symptoms above should talk to a physician. A simple antibody test can determine whether the symptoms are due to celiac disease or the more benign irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The test may be especially important for women who are having symptoms and are having a hard time getting pregnant.
How It Affects Fertility (And Pregnancy)
Celiac disease affects fertility in a roundabout way, because sufferers are unable to absorb food. This malabsorption of nutrients and vitamins causes suppression of the hormones that stimulate the ovaries to ovulate. If you have celiac disease, you might not have normal periods.
The treatment for this condition is completely dietary; people with celiac disease must avoid gluten and pay careful attention to balancing their nutrient intake.
If you are diagnosed with celiac and adhere to a gluten-free diet, you’ll reverse everything, including your inability to get pregnant. Once celiac disease is treated, patients are usually able to get pregnant on their own.
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