Can gluten intolerance cause infertility?

gluten-intolerance-celiac-disease-infertility

Couples trying to conceive may want to add a gluten-free diet to their regimen. Research shows a clear link between celiac disease (gluten intolerance) and infertility in both women and men.

Infertility affects about 10 percent of couples wanting to have children, or more than 6 million Americans. Several studies have shown the prevalence of celiac disease is higher in women with unexplained infertility. Also, women with celiac disease are three times more likely to miscarry and four times more likely to experience complications in pregnancy.

Gluten’s effect on the reproductive system extends beyond fertility. In a 2011 Russian study, women with celiac disease generally began menstruating a year or more later than their peers, and suffered significantly more menstrual irregularities and amenorrhea (lack of menstruation).

Knowing whether gluten intolerance is a pregnancy risk can be difficult as symptoms aren’t always obvious. Studies have shown women with undiagnosed celiac disease often do not have digestive complaints, the symptom most associated with celiac. This is consistent with findings in the general population: the majority of those with celiac disease do not, in fact, suffer from digestive problems.

Gluten intolerance also affects male fertility

Women aren’t the only ones whose reproduction is affected by gluten intolerance. Male fertility is also at risk. Newer research shows that 20 percent of married men with undiagnosed celiac disease have infertile marriages. Semen analysis has shown problems with both the structure of sperm and its motility. Another study showed men with undiagnosed celiac disease tend to have hormonal imbalances that may lead to infertility. There is good news, however. Sperm function and hormone balance were both shown to improve on a gluten-free diet.

Studies look at narrow segment of gluten-intolerant population

These studies, while illuminating, look at celiac disease only, which accounts for a small minority of people with a gluten intolerance. Celiac disease is an autoimmune reaction to gluten. “Gluten intolerance” is a broader category that includes people whose health is compromised by gluten, although their reaction may not be autoimmune. If studies were expanded to include the full range of those who have an immune reaction to gluten, the rates of infertility and birth complications due to gluten intolerance could be found to be quite a bit higher.

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Study shows sugar makes us more stupid; omega 3 to the rescue

2 7 sugar makes you stupid

A recently published UCLA study shows what many have suspected all along: Eating too much sugar makes you stupid. Scientists found that just six weeks of bingeing on sweets and soda will sabotage both learning and memory. Fortunately, consuming omega-3 fatty acids can counteract some of the damage.

The study looked at the effects of fructose — in the form of cane sugar (sucrose), high-fructose corn syrup, and corn syrup — which is found in the American diet in everything from soft drinks to baby food. A whopping 156 pounds of sugar per year is what the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates an average American consumes, including 82 pounds of fructose, the sugar that was studied. In total, we Americans are consuming 150 more pounds of sugar per year than we did in 1822. Put another way, our sugar consumption has increased by almost a pound of sugar per person per year. Every year. That’s a lot of sugar.

Sugar lowers the brain chemical needed for memory

While sugar’s role in obesity, diabetes, fatty liver, and even Alzheimer’s Disease has been established, this is the first study to show how sweeteners directly affect the brain.

Sugar reduces the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a brain chemical necessary for the formation of memories and for learning and recall. As expected, those with diabetes or pre-diabetes (insulin resistance) show lowered levels of BDNF. Additional research links low BDNF levels to depression and dementia.

DHA can help protect the brain from sugar damage

In the UCLA study, two groups of rats were given a fructose solution for six weeks in addition to their regular feed. One group of rats also received omega-3 fatty acids in the form of flax seed oil and DHA, an omega-3 compound that protects the brain from damage and facilitates memory and learning.

The rats were trained to learn a maze in five days. After six weeks of being given the sugar solution, they were then put back into the maze to test their memory. The rats that received the omega-3 oil and DHA were able to negotiate the maze much faster. The brains of the DHA-deprived rats showed a decline in synaptic function, poor communication between neurons, and worsened memory. These rats also developed a resistance to insulin, a hormone necessary not only for blood sugar regulation but also for brain function. Insulin controls synaptic function, and so imbalances in insulin may disrupt neurons and cause memory loss.

The study clearly suggests that fructose impairs memory and learning. It also suggests that a daily intake of DHA, such as through salmon, walnuts, flax seed, or a supplement, can help protect the brain from the harmful effects of sugar.

DHA cannot stand up to 156 pounds of sugar

Of course, simply adding more DHA to your diet isn’t going to counteract the damage of eating 156 pounds of sugar a year. The best way to stay smart is to cut out the sweeteners and moderate your carbohydrate intake to a level that doesn’t disrupt blood sugar balance. A bonus side effect of this lifestyle change is a way out of your daily energy highs and lows, and who knows, maybe even a dropped pound or two.

For help getting started on a brain-healthy diet, contact my office.

Type A person with adrenal fatigue? Here’s what to do

2 6 type a person with adrenal fatigue

Are you the kind of person who races through life at a 100 miles an hour? Is your motto, “Plenty of time for rest in the grave”? Do caffeine and energy drinks fuel your waking hours? If so, you may be setting yourself up for a crash of epic proportions.

Many people today suffer from adrenal fatigue, a condition in which the body’s adrenal glands do not make sufficient hormones in response to stress. A huge fight with your spouse or a giant afternoon soda are both stressors to which your adrenal glands must respond. However, when you call on their services too frequently, as many Americans do, you risk causing adrenal fatigue.

We typically associate adrenal fatigue with chronic tiredness, but Type A people—those who are prone to impatience, aggression, ambition, and competitiveness—may be moving too fast to realize they suffer from adrenal fatigue.

Common symptoms of adrenal fatigue

  • Feel exhausted often; Type A’s typically push through this
  • Feel overwhelmed, constantly stressed out
  • Crave sweets, salty foods, and caffeine or nicotine
  • Crash around 3 or 4 p.m.
  • Feel more awake and energetic in the evening
  • Poor sleep patterns
  • Difficulty waking in the morning
  • Slow to recover from illness, injuries, wounds, or exercise
  • Frequently sick
  • Assailed by allergies
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Lightheaded or blacking out momentarily when rising from a seated or reclining position
  • Shaky, lightheaded, and/or irritable when going too long without food

The epic crash: when adrenal fatigue wins out

Sure, you can push through adrenal fatigue. Athletes do it routinely; overtraining often causes adrenal fatigue. That doesn’t change the fact that adrenal fatigue depletes your immune system, hormone function, and brain health. What the Type A person most fears losing is productivity, and nothing stops productivity like an adrenal crash.

Adrenal fatigue means that any major stressor—accident, major illness, divorce, death of a loved one—can cause an epic crash. The consequences of such a crash can include chronic fatigue, autoimmune illness, a harrowing transition into menopause, or some other chronic health disorder. Recovery can be a very long, slow road.

Lasting health requires major lifestyle changes. The most challenging thing for Type A patients with adrenal fatigue is that the moment they start feeling a little better, they crank up the pace, which puts them right back where they started. Although racing around frantically may feel productive, the truth is you can accomplish more, make fewer mistakes, and irritate fewer people when you operate with better adrenal health. You don’t have to sacrifice your competitive edge to act with more purpose, deliberation, and forethought, all hallmarks of a more relaxed, adrenal-friendly approach.

Overcoming adrenal fatigue is a multi-pronged approach that includes:

  • Removing dietary stressors: sugars, caffeine, junk foods, excess carbs, and food intolerances
  • Addressing any lingering health imbalances: hormonal, immune system, or gut
  • Exercising regularly, but not over exercising
  • Working with your practitioner to use customized nutritional therapy to support your adrenal health

Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism can lead to more autoimmune disease

Hashimoto's-hypothyroidism-autoimmuneFailing to manage your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism condition could lead to future autoimmune diseases. A recent study revealed that roughly one in six patients with Hashimoto’s has another autoimmune disease, most commonly:

  • atrophic gastritis, a condition in which the lining of the stomach is constantly inflamed
  • vitiligo
  • celiac disease
  • antiphospholipids syndrome, which may cause blood clots, miscarriages, or stillbirths, and
  • multiple sclerosis.

Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease that attacks and damages the thyroid gland, causing symptoms of hypothyroidism that include weight gain, cold hands and feet, depression, fatigue, and hair loss. In the United States, about 90 percent of hypothyroidism cases are due to Hashimoto’s.

Of the more than 1,500 patients with autoimmune thyroiditis (Hashimoto’s) who were included in the study, 16 percent were found to have an additional autoimmune disease. These patients also exhibited poor absorption of T4, chronic unexplained anemia, and recurring pregnancy losses. Thyroid hormone medication, which is the conventional treatment, may compensate for a damaged thyroid, but it does not address the underlying autoimmune condition.

Managing your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism can prevent other autoimmune diseases

Hashimoto’s is more an autoimmune condition than a thyroid condition and must be managed accordingly. Autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism are evidence of an immune system that has become so imbalanced it attacks the very tissue it was designed to protect. Fortunately, research in recent years has provided us with tools we can use clinically to help restore balance and thus tame the autoimmune attacks.

Ditch the gluten

The first and perhaps most important step is removing gluten from the diet. Gluten causes a strong immune reaction in many people, and studies show a link between gluten and numerous autoimmune diseases, including Hashimoto’s. When someone with an undiagnosed gluten intolerance eats gluten regularly, it puts the immune system on constant red alert. This causes chronic inflammation and can trigger the onset of an autoimmune disease.

The autoimmune diet

Most people with an active autoimmune disease also suffer from intestinal permeability, or leaky gut, a condition in which the gut walls become damaged and overly porous. This allows undigested foods, bacteria, and other pathogens into the bloodstream, where they trigger more inflammation.

Managing an inflamed and leaky gut is foundational to taming an autoimmune disease. One of the first steps to repairing leaky gut is to temporarily follow an autoimmune diet, which eliminates foods that commonly provoke an immune reaction. Many people with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism find they must also eliminate other foods, such as dairy or corn, in addition to gluten. In my office, we supplement this diet with select nutritional and herbal compounds that help restore the gut lining.

Sometimes these tools alone are enough to substantially reduce autoimmune flare-ups.

Going beyond the autoimmune diet may be necessary

Other times, more intensive therapy is required. This can include unwinding long-established cycles of inflammation, restoring immune balance, and/or determining whether a bacterial or viral infection, an environmental toxin, or something else is provoking the autoimmune attacks.

If you would like help addressing Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and preventing future autoimmune diseases, please contact my office.

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