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Can Gluten and Dairy Impact Fertility?

On Monday 13th August 2018 I was contacted by Annabel Hennessey from the Daily Telegraph wanting to know my opinion on AMA (NSW) Councillor, Dr Kathryn Austin and Dr Alexander Polyakov’s lack of agreement with my position on dairy and gluten.

It was clear from the final published article that scientific evidence and public education on this important issue had no bearing on her story’s agenda.

As a health professional, I do not endorse or recommend self-prescription in any way, however, if you find that you feel better off dairy and gluten, be sure to discuss calcium supplementation with your health care provider during pregnancy.

The scientifically researched and evidenced-based infographic [below] on my website and related information have been created specifically for the unique demographic of patients we serve.

This group includes couples that have been trying to conceive and/or experienced recurrent miscarriages, and typically have already attempted many forms of assisted reproductive technologies—still without success.

Further, the information provided by our site does not say dairy and gluten cause infertility and miscarriage. Rather, it describes the contributing impact gluten and dairy can have on the biochemistry of susceptible individuals.

Nonetheless, the scientific evidence is mounting against the “health benefits” of milk – even during pregnancy. These are some useful articles you may be interested in:

“According to the recent opinion of Harvard School of Public Health milk isn’t the only, or even best, source of calcium [183]. There are non-dairy foods including leafy green vegetables, broccoli, beans and tofu that supply high amounts of calcium.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4302093/

“….continued consumption of cow´s milk and dairy products during adolescence and adulthood is an evolutionarily novel behavior that may have long-term adverse effects on human health [2]”. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3725179/

“A gluten-free diet exclusively during pregnancy efficiently prevents autoimmune diabetes development in offspring and reduces insulitis and intestinal expression of RORγt.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5014974/

By way of background, I received a Bachelor of Health Sciences from The University of New England and a Master’s degree of Science in Medicine (Reproductive Health Sciences and Human Genetics) from Sydney University. I have been in clinical practice since 2001 and my team and I have helped educate a large cohort of couples that have reached out for help. I am currently completing a clinical research program at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) in Boston. As well, I am applying for my second master’s degree, this time in Public Health at HSPH, with letters of recommendation from existing faculty and a senior scientist at the National Institute of Health in the United States. 

As much as observational trials may provide some descriptors for further research, this is far from the gold standard in research and there is still much work to be done in this field.

Impact-of-Gluten-and-Dairy-on-Fertility-Infographic_Can-Gluten-and-Dairy-Cause-Infertility-by-Gabriela-Rosa-Natural-fertility-Specialist

You don’t think gluten and dairy impact your chances of taking home a healthy baby? Think again! The real impact of gluten and dairy on fertility and miscarriage revealed.

The term ‘sensitivity’ is used to describe the symptoms people experience when they consume foods that they react to and whose symptoms reduce after the removal of such foods
You do not have to have coeliac disease to have a sensitivity and react to gluten. The same applied to dairy.
Common signs and symptoms of gluten and dairy sensitivity include abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhoea and/or constipation, nausea, reflux, mouth ulcers, skin rashes, eczema, joint and muscle pain, leg or arm numbness, tiredness, headache, ‘foggy mind’, slowed thinking, poor memory, depression, anxiety and anaemia [1, 2, 3]
These symptoms are experienced minutes to many days after ingestion of gluten or dairy.
Most people are sensitive to gluten and dairy and simply don’t realise it because when these are regularly ingested, the adverse reactions and symptoms just get chalked up to ‘these unpleasant symptoms are just my “normal”’.

Gluten

  • Gluten is the main structural protein complex of wheat and other cereals including barley, rye, spelt, triticale and kamut [3]
  • Coeliac disease is where the small intestine becomes inflamed and unable to absorb nutrients due to gluten consumption [4]
  • Gluten sensitivity is when symptoms similar to coeliac disease are experienced, but subside after removal of gluten from the diet [5]
  • 1% of the population has coeliac disease [6]
  • Up to 10% of the population experience gluten sensitivity [6]
  • Up to 50% of people with gluten sensitivity experience an immune system ‘overreaction’ possibly triggering other autoimmune conditions [7]
  • This immune overreaction causes inflammation and through various immunological and biochemical pathways can decrease one’s ability to conceive and increase the risk of miscarriage [7]

Impact of gluten consumption on fertility

The increase in inflammation gluten causes can impair absorption of iron, folic acid, vitamin B12 and vitamin D. These are key nutrients required for healthy blood, immune and digestive function, conception and pregnancy [1]
Increase immunological disharmony due to continual gluten consumption (or anything else you are sensitive to) increases the risk of miscarriage, preterm birth, low birth weight of the newborn, reduced duration of breastfeeding, polycystic ovarian syndrome and endometriosis [4]

Dairy

Dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt and butter) aggravate the digestive system and cause immune reactivity [8,9].
Contrary to common misconception eggs are not dairy, some people do react to them also – but only avoid if you truly feel unwell because eggs are a great source of protein and nutrients.

The biggest problem with dairy is not the sugar known as lactose (although some people do have difficulty digesting lactose or may even be allergic or intolerant to it all together) nor is it the fat. The major issue with dairy is its A1 casein protein [9]

A1 casein disrupts digestive processes causing nausea, cramping, bloating, gas, diarrhoea and/or constipation [9]
Incidentally, despite some research pointing to dairy as cardioprotective, we now know that the saturated fat in dairy (also found in other vegetable fats such as coconut oil) is beneficial for a healthy heart, however, the A1 casein protein has been shown to increase inflammation and the risk of cardiovascular disease [10]

Impact of dairy consumption on fertility

In order to produce milk, a dairy cow needs to be pregnant or lactating. During pregnancy, there is an increase in many naturally occurring growth promoters and hormones including oestrogen, which cross the cow’s plasma into the milk [11]

Consuming the hormones from other animals in this way can negatively impact hormonal balance in some individuals. Dairy contains measurable amounts of steroid hormones including oestrogens [12]
60-70% of the oestrogens consumed in the average diet come from dairy products [13]

Oestrogens are absorbed by the body and reduce semen quality [14, 15, 16]

Pesticides, volatile organic compounds and chlorinated pollutants (readily found in man-made chemicals in our environment and food chain) are potent endocrine disruptors.

In men, these chemicals are associated with lower semen quality and contribute to male infertility [15, 16].

In women, high-fat and low-fat dairy intake both increase the risk of reproductive problems [17]. Therefore, all dairy is best avoided.

The high presence of hormones and endocrine disruptors coupled with the inflammatory effect of dairy is detrimental to women with irregular periods, acne, polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis, uterine fibroids and increases the risk of infertility [17,18, 19]

How Do You Eat Your Way To Parenthood And Simply Feel Great?

Add more of what actually makes you feel great and ditch what you know simply doesn’t

Be sure to remove any foods from your diet your are allergic or sensitive to as this step alone will dramatically increase your chances of taking home a healthy baby

Avoid gluten but also avoid gluten-free products as they are highly processed and less than health and fertility promoting! Removing gluten improves sperm health, increases the chance of getting pregnant, reduces the risk of miscarriage and low birth weight, increases the duration of breastfeeding and prevents early menopause [20]
Avoid dairy products as they cause the immune system to overreact, increasing the risk of reproductive conditions that lead to infertility and adverse pregnancy outcomes [18]

Removing gluten and dairy from your diet reduces digestive symptoms and discomfort associated with irritable bowel syndrome including and not limited to bloating, abdominal cramps, pain and disturbed bowel habits [21,22].
Ideally, base your meals on organic vegetables and protein (free range and grass fed as well as organic to reduce your toxic ingestion load) [23, 24]

Remember to drink plenty of water, whilst avoiding soft drinks, alcohol and caffeine because when you are well hydrated your bodily functions perform better and you feel great with less effort [25] Drink 2-3L filtered water daily, stored in a glass or stainless steel flask to avoid dangerous hormone disruptors from unfiltered water and plastics that negatively impact your fertility and baby [26]

References:
[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4053283/
[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4040760/
[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5025969/
[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4600520/
[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28810029
[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5054857/
[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4854981/
[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5525306/
[9] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4818854/
[10] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3649459/
[11] https://rspca.org.au/campaigns/dairy-cows
[12] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3359127/
[13] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306987701913805
[14] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3712661/
[15] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4779388/
[16] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3712661/
[17] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2800240/
[18] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4085920/
[19] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15692464/
[20] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25003268
[21] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26405704
[22] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5444258/
[23] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4421765/
[24] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25460141
[25] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4907331/
[26] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25569353

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About Gabriela Rosa (MScM (RHHG), BHSc, ND, Post Grad NFM, DBM, Dip Nut, MATMS, MNHAA)

We help couples struggling with fertility difficulties and recurrent miscarriages for over 2 years take home healthy babies, even when other treatments have failed. The Fertility Challenge online event is FREE and works to redefine fertility and empower couples through a proven, interactive and transformational 12-day journey on their path to parenthood. We have now successfully educated and inspired over 60,000 people in 100+ countries toward their dream of becoming a parenInternationally renowned fertility specialist Gabriela Rosa (MScM (RHHG), BHSc, ND, Post Grad NFM, DBM, Dip Nut, MATMS, MNHAA) and team have helped thousands of couples overcome infertility and miscarriage to create healthy babies, even when other treatments have failed. We only take on patients we absolutely believe we can help – if you feel you’d benefit from our expert insights into your particular fertility situation please register your interest today. Availability is strictly limited, once registered we will contact you as soon as an opening becomes available.