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What’s the deal with gluten?

As you start to think about trying to conceive, you might find yourself trying to decode all the fertility information and nutrition advice out there. Some of this information may have you questioning your decisions about food, specifically, “Should I cut out gluten?” Before you make any changes, here’s some information about gluten and how it may impact your health. 

Gluten is a protein

Gluten shows up naturally in grains, including wheat, rye, barley, and spelt. It’s also often found in sauces, supplements, food flavorings, frozen vegetables, and anything else that uses grains as a base.

Celiac disease is a condition

Celiac disease causes the protein to get absorbed into the walls of the small intestines and triggers a huge immune response for those who cannot tolerate gluten. This in turn causes damage to the small intestine, along with painful symptoms like bloating, flatulence, and diarrhea. Roughly one percent of the U.S. population has celiac disease. Those with celiac disease should avoid gluten. 

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity 

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity causes GI distress without an immune response. Those with sensitivity may notice increased inflammation markers on their blood work. If you notice a pattern of GI distress that may be related to your gluten intake, talk to your primary health care provider about labs and assessment tools to rule out celiac disease and sensitivity before cutting it out from your diet.

For those who are not allergic or sensitive to gluten, a gluten-free diet is not inherently a healthful one. Foods that naturally contain gluten (breast, pastas, whole grains) are filled with beneficial nutrients and often enriched with iron and folic acid. Some gluten-free substitutes require more additives and ingredients like additional sugar and fats. People who don’t eat gluten may have to put extra effort into making sure they get their essential nutrients.

Going gluten-free probably won’t have much of an impact on your health unless you have celiac disease. If you think you might have gluten sensitivity, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor. 

Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team

Read more


  • “Symptoms & Causes of Celiac Disease.” NIDDK. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Jun 2016. Web. Accessed 10/26/17. Available at 
  • “What is Celiac Disease?” Celiac. Celiac Disease Foundation (CDF), 2017. Web. Accessed 10/26/17. Available at
  • “Celiac Disease.” MedlinePlus. U.S. National Library of Medicine, HHS, NIH, Nov 2016. Web. Accessed 10/26/18. Available at 

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