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Celiac Disease & Gluten-Free Diets During Pregnant

Katlyn Joy |18, July 2014


Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease of the digestive system affecting approximately 1 percent of the US population, according to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. It is also linked with infertility.

A study published in 2008 in the journal, Digestive Diseases and Sciences, concluded that a gluten-free diet had a positive impact on women who are diagnosed with Celiac disease or celiac disease and have had recurrent miscarriages. The study was done with a small group of women over a decade, to determine if a gluten-free diet may help women who have suffered miscarriages due to celiac disease.

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease happens when a person has an immune reaction to the protein gluten which is found in foods containing wheat, barley and rye. The reaction causes damage to the small intestine over time, resulting in symptoms such as bloating, weight loss and diarrhea.

Due to the damage to the small intestine, eventually a person can become malnourished since the body is unable to absorb certain nutrients. This can lead to problems affecting the organs, nervous system and bones.

When vitamin D and calcium are unable to be absorbed the damage can be seen in cases of infertility and miscarriage.

Pregnant with Celiac Disease

The National Institutes of Health recommends that pregnant women who have been diagnosed with celiac disease consult with a doctor and possibly a nutritionist to take special care. For instance, pregnant women who eat gluten-free breads and cereals will likely need folic acid supplementation since such products are not fortified the way gluten-containing products are.

Calcium and vitamin D intake also need to be watched carefully to insure appropriate amounts to secure a healthy pregnancy.

If your celiac disease is not well-controlled in early pregnancy and you also suffer from morning sickness, it can complicate things and cause weight loss, so make sure you have a plan with your doctor to handle your illness.

Not strictly following a gluten-free diet while pregnant may lead to low birth weight in the newborn, preterm labor, anemia and even stillbirth.

The No-No List for Gluten-free Diets

These are off limits for celiac disease patients, according to the Mayo Clinic:

  • Barley
  • Wheat
  • Bulgur
  • Triticale
  • Durum
  • Farina
  • Graham flour
  • Semolina
  • Malt
  • Rye
  • Spelt

You should always read labels, but expect the following to also contain gluten:

  • Breads
  • Cereals
  • Pastas
  • Baked goods
  • Candies
  • Soups
  • Salad dressings
  • Lunch meats
  • Gravies
  • Imitation seafood or meats

The Green Light List for Gluten-Free Diets

While many products are appearing on grocery shelves these days boasting a gluten-free status, there are also some grains that you may include in your diet such as:

  • Rice
  • Quinoa
  • Arrowroot
  • Tapioca
  • Pure corn tortillas
  • Buckwheat
  • Amaranth
  • Corn and cornmeal

It's important that you make certain you get the right levels of nutrients such as iron, calcium, folate, vitamin D, vitamin K, vitamin B-12, and zinc. Likely you'll need a special prenatal vitamin to meet your needs and avoid gluten products.

Trying to Conceive with Celiac Disease

If you have celiac disease and want to start a family, the NFCA recommends you get your disease well-controlled before getting pregnant. You may want to consult with a doctor if you've had repeated pregnancy loss and also suffer from celiac disease. Prior to conceiving, make sure you know how to eat a healthy diet and get the right calories and nutrients, that you are physically active and fit, and have a healthy weight.

There is no cure for celiac disease, but to avoid symptoms and complications, a person should strictly follow a gluten-free diet and take appropriate vitamins and supplements under the supervision of a medical doctor and or a nutritionist. Lab work should confirm a woman's health level with the disease both prior to and during pregnancy for the best possible outcome.

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