What is celiac disease?
When the body reacts to gluten present in food, antibodies are then released to protect against the perceived threat. These antibodies attack the lining of the intestine and, over time can even damage the lining of the small intestine where nutrients and vitamins and absorbed. This reaction is the most severe symptom of celiac disease, which is an autoimmune disorder. There is no known cause of celiac disease.
How is celiac disease treated?
There is no cure for celiac disease, but it is helpful if you can remove all traces of gluten from your diet to prevent the antibody reaction that damages the villi of the small intestine. Removing gluten from the diet can be difficult as wheat is a main source of gluten. Wheat is the main ingredient in most pasta and bread, but it is also added to processed foods. People with celiac disease must treat gluten with the same caution as people with severe food allergies – complete avoidance.
Trying to conceive and celiac disease
People between the ages of 40 and 60 are usually the most likely to get diagnosed with the disease, but that does not mean younger people do not suffer from the condition. It is estimated that 1% of the population suffers from celiac disease, but the condition remains largely undiagnosed as symptoms mirror conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome. However, unlike irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease is thought to affect both male and female fertility; making it difficult to conceive. The Canadian Celiac Health study reported that more than 14% of women with celiac disease faced infertility or miscarriage.
It is possible to carry a pregnancy to term with celiac disease without medical issues. It is vital to follow a strict gluten-free diet to keep any possible reactions and symptoms to a minimum prior to pregnancy. Gluten-free diets provide all the necessary vitamins, nutrients, and calories the body needs during pregnancy.
Medical issues are possible but tend to be reserved for those with undiagnosed celiac disease. If the condition is left untreated during pregnancy there may be an increased risk of preterm labor, anemia, and low birth weight.
There is no reason that women with celiac disease cannot breastfeed. The autoimmune response that occurs with celiac disease is not passed on or triggered by antibodies in breast milk. Some doctors believe breastfeeding protects infants against celiac disease and other conditions involving immunity.