Celiac Disease and Infertility

Trying month after month to get pregnant can be frustrating and heartbreaking, but does celiac disease have any impact on infertility?

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, out of 100 couples, approximately 13 of them will have some complications while trying to conceive. Celiac disease, especially when undiagnosed, is known to be a culprit of reproductive issues like infertility.

Infertility and celiac disease connection

Some studies have found that there is a link between women with undiagnosed celiac disease and infertility. The reason behind this is not exactly known. However, a hypothesis is that nutritional issues like malabsorption common with celiac could cause fertility issues. Another cause could be the immune system. According to the NCBI, infertility may be caused by “immune-mediated mechanisms or nutrient deficiency” in women with celiac disease. It’s been found that once a gluten-free diet is 100 percent followed, the chances of a successful pregnancy go up, as long as there are no other underlying factors.

Celiac disease could cause folic acid, selenium and zinc deficiency. Each of those vitamins are vital, especially during child-bearing years. Click here to learn more about the nutrients needed and how to make sure you are getting enough of them.

“Chronic inflammation and/our malnourishment in the mother may be poorly conducive to successful pregnancy. In addition, laboratory studies have shown that the antibody in celiac disease [tissue transglutaminase] may bind to placenta cells and cause harm,” said Benjamin Lebwohl, M.D., M.S., director of clinical research at The Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University.

Undiagnosed vs. diagnosed celiac disease

The risks associated with pregnancy are different before and after a celiac diagnosis.

“Most of the issues that have been described regarding pregnancy outcomes in celiac disease have been found in undiagnosed celiac disease,” said Lebwohl. “That is to say, patients with undiagnosed [and therefore untreated] celiac disease appear to have an increased risk of outcomes such as miscarriages or difficulty conceiving.”

Prior to celiac diagnosis and treatment, women had an increased risk for spontaneous abortion or stillbirth.

The data came from the entire population of Danish women between 1977 and 2016. The analysis included 6,319 women diagnosed with celiac who had follow-up records in the health registry. After diagnosis, they were just as likely to become pregnant as women in the general population. They had no more problems during pregnancy and childbirth.

In contrast, women with celiac had fewer pregnancies than average during the two years prior to diagnosis. Overall, women with undiagnosed celiac had 11 more miscarriages and 1.62 more stillbirths per 1,000 live births. This supports a focus on early diagnosis in women, especially those who lose pregnancies. Following diagnosis, the risk changes.

“In those with diagnosed celiac disease who have already started the gluten-free diet, the risk largely goes away,” Lebwohl said.  

The key to a pregnancy with celiac—and is the key to the disease in general—is adherence to the gluten-free diet and consistent follow-up care. “It is important to stick to a strict gluten-free diet prior to and during pregnancy, and to be up to date with routine celiac antibody and nutrient checks,” Lebwohl said. 

Learn about the basic gluten-free diet here.

Menstrual cycle issues

Some reasons for infertility is issues with menstrual cycles. Some women find they miss a period altogether. Undiagnosed celiac disease can lead to missed periods. However, once a gluten-free diet is introduced, a menstrual cycle should continue if the diet was the only issue.

Infertility symptoms

If you have been trying for one year or more with no success of conceiving, it’s time to talk with your doctor. Women over 35 years old should seek medical advice after six months of trying. Additionally, there are multiple common signs of infertility to keep in mind.

  • Irregular periods
  • Heavy or painful periods
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Hormone fluctuations
  • Weight gain
  • Facial hair growth
  • Thinning hair

If you’re experiencing infertility, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor. Be sure to follow your gluten-free diet or get a diagnosis if you suspect you may have celiac disease, and explore other issues that could be a contributing factor. To learn more about how celiac disease impacts pregnancy, click here.

The Gluten-Migraine Connection: Could a Gluten-Free Diet Manage Migraines?

Gluten can be the culprit for a whole host of symptoms. Most people are aware of gluten causing dull aches, bloating and other gastrointestinal symptoms. However, gluten can also be the reason for frequent headaches. Approximately 30 percent of people with celiac disease experienced migraines or chronic headaches, according to research published in Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain.

What is a migraine?

Some people experience a regular headache and assume they have a migraine. A migraine is a bit different and more intense. A migraine can come on slowly or abruptly, and it can become disabling. The pain can last for several hours or even days. Between the intense throbbing in the head, nausea and vomiting, and sensitivity to sound and light, it’s no wonder many people have to climb under their blankets in the dark to try and get some sort of relief from their pain. Some people describe the feeling of a migraine similar to having the flu.

The cause of migraines is not known, but according to experts, it could be related to the trigeminal nerve system, or nerves in your face, along with a chemical imbalance in the brain.

What is the connection between gluten and migraines?

According to the journal Headache, individuals with celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity and inflammatory bowel disease have an increase in migraine headaches compared to people without those conditions.

The details of a study in this journal showed that 500 of the individuals who met the exclusion criteria went under analysis. There were 188 individuals with celiac disease, 25 with gluten sensitivity, 111 people with irritable bowel disease and 178 controls. Chronic headaches were reported by 14 percent of the control group, 23 percent of those with irritable bowel disease, 56 percent with gluten sensitivity, and 30 percent of those with celiac. The subject groups each had a significantly higher rate of migraines than the control groups.

What can you do?

It may seem obvious to steer clear of gluten to avoid migraines for those with celiac or gluten sensitivity. However, it’s not always that easy. Some people may notice a vast improvement with migraines when they give up gluten, but others still experience agonizing pain. Thankfully, there are some things you can do to lower your chances of suffering this chronic pain.

Focus on your sleep—Too little or too much sleep can bring on a migraine. Try to aim for seven to eight hours of sleep per night.

Be aware of hormonal changes—Many women notice a prevalence of migraine headaches either right before their menstrual period or during a mid-cycle. This could be brought on due to estrogen level chances.

Monitor medications—Be cautious of the medication you take. Some medicine, like cold medicine, nitroglycerin or birth control pills, can bring on a crippling migraine.

Vitamins are key—According to Amy Burkhart, MD, RD, who writes a blog called TheCeliacMD, vitamins are critical with celiac, so monitor them to stay within the best range. Make sure your iron level is normal. Oftentimes individuals with celiac disease can experience low iron. Vitamin D should also be within the optimal range. Additionally, have your doctor check your zinc, B12 and magnesium. Each of those vitamins are important, but when you have celiac, you could be deficient in those areas, causing more migraines.

Celiac disease can already be hard to live with for some people. Adding migraines to the mix just makes it worse. Staying on top of your health and lifestyle, along with making sure your vitamins remain optimal, is a vital part of keeping migraines at bay.

The Gluten and IBS Connection

Consuming the smallest portion of gluten can leave you hunched over with stomach pain if you’re sensitive to it. But Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) can bring some of the same symptoms as celiac disease. Whether you have gluten intolerance, IBS or both, it’s important to understand the differences and how there may be a connection between the two.

What is IBS?

According to the American Journal of Nursing, IBS is a chronic gastrointestinal condition that causes abdominal pain and disturbances in bowel habits. IBS is common and can reduce the quality of one’s life. Most doctors agree that belly pain, diarrhea, constipation and gas are major indications of IBS. Many people believe that the pain or uncomfortableness from eating gluten can be similar to IBS symptoms.

Comparing Symptoms and Causes

Celiac Disease


  • Abdominal Pain
  • Weight Loss
  • Diarrhea and/or Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea


Individuals with celiac disease can’t tolerate gluten. When they eat it, they experience the symptoms above. If they continue to eat gluten, their immune system will attack the small intestine. The inner lining that is used to absorb nutrients from food will become damaged as well.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome


  • Abdominal Pain
  • Bloating
  • Fullness
  • Gas


According to Dr. Alessio Fasano, director of the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital, stress is one of the most recognized triggers for IBS. “There are many other causes that seem to be involved in this pathogenesis, including food allergies, food intolerances, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth and other gastrointestinal infections, to name a few,” he said.

In the Facebook group “Gluten-Free,” a member posted to see who has both IBS and celiac disease. One of the members of the group, Elissa Ackerman Michaels, commented, “The higher the stress, the worse the IBS symptoms are…Celiac occurs when I ingest gluten, and when I’m stressed my IBS pain shows up as severe abdominal pain or heartburn.”

Dr. Amy Burkhart, founder of www.theceliacmd.com, agrees. She said, “One of the causes of IBS is stress. There are numerous papers linking IBS and stress, along with studies showing benefit to IBS patients by using stress reduction techniques like mindfulness.”

How to distinguish symptoms between celiac and IBS

Because abdominal pain is prevalent with both conditions, it can be hard to know which one you’re dealing with. According to Burkhart, “The answer is to test.” She strongly urges people to always test for celiac disease before implementing a gluten-free diet.

“Many people diagnosed with IBS will do a trial of a gluten-free diet to help eliminate symptoms, and at times they are even told to do so by their health care provider,” Burkhart said. “Once they do this, testing for celiac disease won’t be accurate. People need to consume gluten again for proper testing, and many people will refuse to do so if the gluten-free diet has been beneficial.”

Is there a connection?

When it comes down to the connection between celiac disease and IBS, further testing and research are needed.

“Celiac disease can be misdiagnosed as IBS if celiac testing isn’t done or isn’t done correctly,” Burkhart said. “Even after a celiac diagnosis, celiac patients are more prone to ongoing digestive symptoms than the average person and may be diagnosed with IBS, but often the issues creating the symptoms are treatable. People with celiac disease are at a higher risk to have other autoimmune conditions, which may create digestive symptoms that mimic IBS. Celiac patients also have an increased risk of other conditions, such as additional food intolerances and bacterial overgrowth syndromes.”

Fasano believes there is a connection between the two diseases “since abdominal pain, bloating, and irregular bowel movements, which are features of IBS, are common symptoms experienced by people with celiac disease.”

Gluten-free and IBS study results

According to recent research by 23 international experts, a gluten-free diet can provide significant benefits to not only gluten-sensitive patients but also to individuals living with IBS. The study found that the prevalence of IBS in the world is about 10-20 percent.

This study went in-depth regarding the prevalence of studies on non-IgE wheat allergy, gluten sensitivity, potentially harmful wheat ingredients and ways IBS is triggered by wheat, along with how symptoms from gluten sensitivity and IBS are similar. Researchers mentioned how the number of studies has roughly quadrupled in the last eight years. The most recent studies support the hypothesis suggesting that wheat components and gluten, in general, may trigger IBS symptoms. Current evidence reveals that a wheat-free, gluten-free diet can provide a major benefit to IBS patients who may have gluten-sensitive IBS.

While studies and research are ongoing and there is not a definite answer to this theory, it is highly possible that gluten can be a dietary trigger.

Other foods to avoid with IBS

If you follow a gluten-free diet and still experience IBS symptoms, it could be due to other dietary components. Every person’s body is different, and what may trigger one person may not necessarily impact another. Work closely with your doctor and try cutting out the following one by one to see how you feel.

  • Cereal and bread made with refined grains
  • Carbonated drinks and alcohol
  • Dairy (try eliminating just cheese at first)
  • Processed foods (pre-packaged)
  • High-protein foods

Quick Tips: Going Gluten Free

Whether you just learned that you need to give up gluten or have decided on your own to start following a gluten-free diet, knowledge is power when it comes to making the transition. Educating yourself on what to look for in ingredients lists—as well as what to avoid—can help ease the seemingly overwhelming burden of completely transforming your diet.

Look beyond the label

As you walk through the grocery store aisles, you’ll notice several food items emblazoned with a “gluten-free” label. This label is legally allowed on packaged food that contains less than 20 parts per million (ppm) gluten. It’s still ideal to check the ingredients list for possible wheat or other gluten-filled ingredients. Keep in mind that even packages labeled “wheat-free” can still contain gluten.

Many products list allergens that the packaged item is free from, such as milk, wheat, nuts, soy and eggs. However, these lists do not always include barley and rye, which comprise gluten. If either of these ingredients appears in the ingredients list, leave the product on the shelf.

Shopping tip

Avoid items in bulk bins at the grocery story. Even gluten-free items could still be cross-contaminated from gluten-containing items that used to be kept there or from other shoppers reaching in after touching gluten-containing foods.


Steer clear of products that contain any of these ingredients:

  • Wheat
  • Rye
  • Triticale
  • Brewer’s yeast
  • Wheat starch that hasn’t been processed to remove any presence of gluten under 20 ppm
  • Malt, including malt vinegar, malt flavoring, malted barley flour, malted milk, malt syrup and malt extract

Other gluten-containing grains derived from wheat that you should avoid and look for on ingredient lists include:

  • Durum
  • Wheat berries
  • Semolina
  • Emmer
  • Farina
  • Spelt
  • Einkorn wheat
  • Kamut
  • Farro
  • Graham

Double check!

These common products could contain gluten:

  • Crackers, including
  • Graham crackers
  • Goldfish crackers
  • Saltines
  • Pretzels
  • Croutons
  • Salad dressing
  • Stuffing
  • Gravy and sauces (most use a wheat-based flour as a thickener)
  • Soy sauce and sauce with roux
  • Marinades and seasonings

Triple check!

You will need to personally verify that these types of foods don’t contain gluten:

  • French fries may be prepared in a batter containing wheat flour, cross-contaminated during production or cooked in a shared fryer at a restaurant.
  • Many granola and energy bars include wheat or oats that are not gluten free. Potato chips may contain wheat starch or malt vinegar.
  • Avoid any soup that is cream-based because it may employ a thickener made from flour. Soups could also contain barley.
  • Any meat substitute made with seitan, a wheat gluten, should be skipped. Such products include vegetarian burgers and sausage as well as imitation seafood and bacon.
  • This one comes as a shock to many: Some restaurants use pancake batter, which typically contains gluten, in their omelets and scrambled eggs. If you’re craving the incredible edible egg, be sure to ask your server how it will be prepared.

Beware cross-contamination

Even after you’ve gathered your 100 percent gluten-free ingredients, you still need to keep the risk of cross-contamination top of mind.  Be especially careful when using these common kitchen items:

  • Fryer
  • Toaster
  • Oven racks
  • Cutting boards
  • Flour sifter
  • Colander
  • Shared storage containers (if not washed properly)
  • Shared condiments that require a utensil; for example, butter or peanut butter

Heather Burdo is a health content writer from New York.

Packing Protein Into the Vegan Diet

The vegan diet boasts tremendous health benefits, including lowering cholesterol and blood pressure and reducing the risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes. But many people still worry that they won’t get enough protein from a meat-free diet. While it is a legitimate concern, many meat-free sources of protein are available to you.

The importance of protein

You’ve always heard protein is good for you, and you know it should be included in every meal, but do you know why? Protein is a major component of every cell in the body. In fact, nails and hair are made up mostly of protein. Protein is also needed to build and repair tissue. The body utilizes it to make hormones, enzymes and other bodily chemicals. Protein plays a key role in building bones, muscles, blood, cartilage and skin.

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein is 56 grams per day for men and 46 grams per day for women.

A range of sources

Meat is far from the only source of protein. In fact, these vegan-friendly foods are just a sample of those chock full of this crucial macronutrient.

Green peas. All foods in the legume family are good sources of vegetarian protein. Add 1 cup to your meal for a whopping 7.9 grams, which is almost equivalent to a cup of milk.

Nuts. These crunchy little treats are high in protein, providing 5 to 6 grams per ounce, and low in unhealthy saturated fat. Stick with the dry roasted or raw varieties for the most nutritious snack. Nut butters also offer a good source of protein, but choose brands with the fewest number of ingredients and no added sugar.

Quinoa. While most grains contain only a small amount of protein, quinoa—which is technically a seed—provides more than 8 grams of protein in 1 cup, along with nine essential amino acids crucial for growth.

Chickpeas. Also known as garbanzo beans, these versatile beauties can be added to any fried or crispy snack, used as a salad topping or pureed into hummus. With a whopping 7.3 grams of protein in a half cup, this tasty source of protein should not be skipped.

Beans. There are literally thousands of varieties of beans, and each one is chock full of protein.  Including just 2 cups of kidney beans in vegan chili, for example, adds 26 grams—that’s almost half of the RDA for men and more than half for women.

Tofu and tempeh. These foods made from soybeans are an exceptional source of protein, containing approximately 10 and 20 grams, respectively, in just a half cup. If you choose a soft tofu, try mashing it up and mixing it with a variety of vegetables for a tofu scramble to increase your protein intake.

Chia seeds. A great source of protein, chia seeds can be used in a number of ways—blend them up in a smoothie, stir them into oatmeal or sprinkle them on top of salad.

Edamame. Boiled edamame—immature soybeans in a pod—can be served either cold or hot for a snack or an appetizer. Providing 17 grams of protein in 1 cup, this simple source is worth adding to your vegan dietary menu.

Exposed: 5 Gluten and Celiac Myths

Presented by

How many times has someone told you “a little gluten won’t hurt you?” Fortunately, those who have lived with diagnosed celiac for a while automatically disregard such false assertions. However, for those new to gluten-free living, sifting through the common gluten and celiac myths can be overwhelming. To help navigate the sometimes-confusing world of celiac and the gluten-free diet, two experts weight in on five popular—but inaccurate—myths.

It’s OK to eat just a little bit of gluten.

Unfortunately, this is one of the most common phrases you will encounter. “Ingesting even minute amounts of gluten is dangerous if you have celiac disease,” according to Amy Burkhart, MD, RD, an integrative physician and dietitian. “Even if someone doesn’t have significant outward symptoms from the ingestion, internal damage is occurring. Studies show that at a level of 50 milligrams [equivalent to a crumb of bread], damage occurs to the intestine in most people with celiac disease. This leads to a multitude of symptoms, which vary from person to person.” Over time, the risk of long-term consequences, including heart disease, autoimmune disorders and cancer, can increase with gluten exposure.

If I take a digestive aid, I can have some gluten.

“There are currently no products on the market that adequately digest gluten to a level that is considered safe for someone with celiac disease,” Burkhart says. “The products now available on the market for gluten digestion aren’t meant to be utilized by someone with celiac disease to enable them to eat gluten. Using them for such a purpose would be dangerous, as it would expose them to toxic levels of gluten.” She adds, “Exposure to gluten in someone with celiac disease typically causes immediate symptoms as well as long-term consequences…. Currently, there are multiple medications in clinical trials…specifically for people with celiac disease. Their final approval is being anxiously awaited by many.”

I don’t have the same symptoms as others with celiac, so I must be fine.

Never assume that you are fine because you don’t have the same issues after ingesting gluten as someone else with celiac. As Arshad Malik, MD, explains, “Celiac disease can present itself with a myriad of symptoms, such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, abnormal liver enzymes, iron deficiency anemia and recurrent migraine headaches, to name a few.” He notes that, “It’s important to test for celiac disease if there is suspicion…It’s also recommended that asymptomatic first-degree relatives of patients with confirmed diagnosis of celiac disease get tested.”

I’ll give up gluten for a few months and see how I feel instead of getting tested for celiac.

You may think you’re doing yourself a favor by seeing how your body reacts, but you can’t accurately diagnose yourself this way. “Beginning a gluten-free diet without appropriate testing isn’t recommended,” Malik says. “This is because the symptoms of celiac disease can be nonspecific, and blood work or a biopsy of the small intestine is essential to make the diagnosis.”


The gluten-free diet will help me lose weight.

Malik weighs in to put this myth to rest: “Weight loss occurs when you burn off more calories than you consume, not by avoiding gluten. Not all gluten-free foods are equally nutritious. For example, an apple and a gluten-free sugar cookie are both gluten free but vary drastically in nutritional value.”


Want to learn more about celiac and following a gluten-free diet? Read “What is Celiac Disease?” and “The Basic Gluten-Free Diet.”

Hop To It: Gluten-Free Easter Basket Ideas

Knowing your child has celiac, especially this time of year, can feel overwhelming. As your child waits for the Easter Bunny to bring a basket of goodies, you may feel hesitant because you have to be careful with gluten and cross-contamination. Luckily, there are several options to create a perfect gluten-free Easter basket for your child.

Keep Small Toys in Mind

Regardless of celiac, you likely won’t want your child to get hopped up on sugary chocolate bars anyway. As you create an Easter basket, consider small toys or something your child has asked for recently. For example, yo-yos are a popular Easter item. Other great toys include bubbles, sand toys, miniature cars, watercolor paints, Mad Libs or alphabet magnets for younger children. If your child is older, you could add an iTunes gift card, video game or books.


Themed Easter baskets

If your child is not a big candy or chocolate fan, you can still make a special themed Easter basket. The possibilities are endless, from superheroes to popular Disney, Nickelodeon or storybook characters. Fill the Easter basket with small toys and decorations that fit the theme. If your child is older and not really into fictional characters anymore, put together a movie night Easter basket with movie passes or a Blu-ray for your whole family to watch. Throw in some PJs and popcorn for some extra fun!

Safe candy ideas

Although you don’t want to overdo it with chocolate and candy, you know how happy your child will be upon spying candy in that special basket. Thankfully, you have plenty of safe, gluten-free options to choose from:

  • Andes Mints
  • Baby Ruth
  • Bit-O-Honey
  • Dove Chocolate
  • Goobers
  • Jelly Belly jelly beans
  • Junior Mints
  • Milk chocolate, peanut and peanut butter M&M’s
  • Necco Wafers
  • Oh Henry!
  • Peeps
  • Peppermint Patties
  • Sno-Caps
  • Sour Patch Kids
  • Swedish Fish
  • Tootsie Rolls
  • Wrigley gum


A word of warning

Although some brands, such as Mars, offer gluten-free choices, all of their items aren’t gluten free. For example, only the plain M&M’s are gluten free, and it’s crucial to avoid the pretzel M&M’s because they contain wheat. Hershey’s specifically lists barley malt, wheat or rye on ingredient lists to indicate when the item is not safe. Finally, stay away from premade Easter baskets. You can’t be 100 percent sure there is no gluten-filled candy in the basket, unless you order a specifically gluten-free Easter basket from a trusted source.

Do it yourself

Crafty parents can even make some of the items for the basket. Knowing the ingredients that go into items such as play dough allows you to stress less and know your child isn’t in danger of cross-contamination with gluten.




Make your own play dough!


  • ½ cup rice flour
  • ½ cup salt
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon cooking oil
  • 1 cup water
  • Food coloring, optional


Combine the ingredients and mix together. Stir on low heat for 3 minutes or until the ingredients form a ball. Make sure to let it completely cool before storing in a sealable bag.

Source: parents.com/fun/activities/indoor/gluten-free-play-dough-recipe


Explaining the Gluten-Free Diet to Loved Ones

While the holiday season should be an uplifting time of year, you may be dreading what your family has to say about your gluten-free diet. Sure, some loved ones support your dietary requirements, but others just don’t get it. In fact, some can be downright rude. How do you cope?

1. Educate

Because some people think of the gluten-free diet as merely the latest trend in weight loss, it’s easy for them to assume that’s all going gluten free is—a fad. If your loved ones are willing to listen with an open mind, try educating them. Spout some solid facts in response to any rude comment. For example:

  • When someone with celiac eats gluten, the body will attack the intestinal villi in the small intestine, which renders the person incapable of absorbing nutrients from food.
  • According to Dr. Alessio Fasano, director of the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment at MassGeneral Hospital for Children, the gluten-free diet holds similar significance for those with celiac as insulin does for people with diabetes.

Depending on how long you’ve been gluten free, you’ve probably had a family member tell you that it’s OK to eat a small piece of pie or other gluten-filled item. Of course this comment probably makes you want to scream, but try to keep in mind that it probably comes from a good place. Unfortunately, the only thing you can do is gently explain that even a small amount of gluten is harmful.

2. Find an advocate

Let’s face it—there’s almost always going to be that one family member who just doesn’t get it. However, hearing how serious celiac and gluten intolerance are from a third party may help. This could be someone else on the gluten-free diet for health reasons or even a medical professional who can outline the serious consequences that eating gluten can have for those with celiac or gluten sensitivity.

3. Avoid using the word “diet”

Even though following a gluten-free diet is the only way to heal the effects of celiac in the small intestine, the word “diet” may turn your family off from hearing the whole story. Instead, tell them you simply can’t eat gluten because doing so triggers your immune system to destroy the part of the small intestine that absorbs vital nutrients, which can lead to serious illness.

4. Stand your ground

No matter how your loved ones react, don’t back down. Never let someone convince you—or, worse, guilt you—into tasting the dessert he or she made. Avoid cross-contamination from gluten-containing foods, a more likely risk during family get-togethers. To ensure you have something safe to eat, bring along a gluten-free dish or two (or more) and let everyone indulge. Hey, if you can’t beat ’em, feed ’em!

Heather Burdo is a health content writer from New York. Visit her at heatherburdo.com.

Don’t Let Hidden Gluten Ruin Your Holidays

From frantic shopping trips to festive parties, it’s easy to get caught up in the holidays and perhaps not be as guarded as you normally are when it comes to avoiding gluten. But with all of the decadent treats suddenly everywhere you turn, even at work, it’s especially crucial to check labels and ask questions this time of year. Protect yourself from hidden gluten this season with these important tips.

Calling all candy lovers

Even if you’re about to grab a type of candy you’ve had before because you are certain of its gluten-free status, make sure it’s the exact same item. Different companies employ different recipes for similar products, so while one brand is gluten free, another may still contain wheat or gluten. Remember that it’s not always as simple as checking for a “gluten-free” label—it’s important to go through each ingredient. While wheat is often found in baked goods, some candies such as Twizzlers or licorice use it as a thickener or binder.

Look out for the word “malt” on labels. This common gluten-containing ingredient is used as a flavor enhancer in several candies and beverages. Maltose, a malt sugar sometimes used in candy, also contains gluten.

Avoid candies that have been rebagged, which are purchased in bulk from the manufacturer then repackaged into smaller packets. Even gluten-free candy could come in contact with gluten, risking cross-contamination.

Play it safe

Even if your family knows that you can’t consume gluten, you may feel most comfortable making your own dish for a get-together. Dishes like casseroles and stuffing often contain gluten. Instead of taking the risk, offer to bring a dish. If you have a favorite item, such as gravy, be sure to bring a gluten-free version that you can savor just as much as the gluten eaters.

Platter danger

If you know the beautiful cake on the counter contains gluten but the frosting doesn’t, don’t risk the temptation. It takes only a miniscule crumb of cake along with that frosting to put you in agonizing pain. Also steer clear of meat and cheese platters. As people grab the crackers, crumbs fall everywhere, contaminating the gluten-free items.

Holiday spirits

It’s not uncommon to enjoy a glass of a wine, a beer or a cocktail with a holiday dinner. While others are sipping, you may want to indulge in a gluten-free option of your own. If the host has the bottle handy, check the label. However, if it’s in a decanter or other unlabeled container, just avoid it. Check whether any of the alcoholic beverages are gluten free, or bring your own gluten-free holiday spirits.

Some people dread the holidays because it can be overwhelming while trying to adhere to a gluten-free diet. But this season should be full of joy and peace of mind. Use these tips to help let loose, enjoy your family and avoid any hidden gluten.

Heather Burdo is a health content writer from New York. Visit her at heatherburdo.com.

The Gluten-Thyroid Connection

As if dealing with celiac disease isn’t enough, many people also have concurrent thyroid disease without  even realizing it. Like celiac, thyroid disease typically stems from an autoimmune disorder. According to the American Thyroid Association, approximately 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease, but a shocking 60 percent of them don’t know they have the disease. Between 1.5 percent and 6.7 percent of those with an autoimmune thyroid disorder are also living with celiac disease.

What exactly is thyroid disease?

The butterfly-shaped thyroid gland is located in the lower portion of the neck. In addition to maintaining metabolism, the thyroid regulates other hormones and keeps organs functioning properly. This tiny gland is responsible for a large portion of the body. In someone with celiac disease, white blood cells will attack the small intestine lining; however, with an autoimmune thyroid disorder, the white blood cells mistake the thyroid gland as a foreign invader and attack the gland. An autoimmune thyroid disorder is typically the culprit for an underactive thyroid, known as Hashimoto’s disease, or an overactive thyroid, caused by Grave’s disease. Thyroid disease can appear at any age. Some women develop postpartum thyroiditis, which affects approximately 10 percent of women after giving birth. The main cause for thyroid disease is still unknown; however, some researchers believe it can be hereditary, come from an alternative autoimmune disorder or even be triggered by a traumatic event.

How gluten affects thyroid disease

Although more research is necessary, many doctors, researchers and patients believe there is a strong link between gluten and thyroid disease. According to current research, approximately 4.1 percent of adults who have a form of thyroid disease also have celiac disease. That same research estimates that 7.8 percent of children who are diagnosed with a form of thyroid disease also live with celiac.

A doctor’s perspective

According to Amy Myers, M.D., founder of the Austin UltraHealth medical clinic in Austin, Texas, thyroid conditions start in the gut. She believes thyroid disease can develop from a leaky gut, which occurs when your small intestine becomes too penetrable and allows liquids and particles to flow through your bloodstream from your digestive tract.  In fact, Myers finds that gluten tends to be one of the primary causes of leaky gut in her patients with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease.

When someone who has gluten sensitivity or celiac disease eats gluten, the proteins from the gluten will go through the stomach, into the small intestine and force the body to produce a chemical called zonulin, which opens up the intestinal walls, allowing particles and liquids to flow. When this happens, over time the body becomes chronically inflamed, leaving one susceptible to developing an autoimmune disorder, such as thyroid disease and other serious conditions.

Positive impacts of a gluten-free diet

When individuals with celiac disease stick to a gluten-free diet, their levels of anti-tTg–an antibody in the blood associated with celiac disease—usually return to normal. Consistent research shows that people with both celiac disease and a thyroid condition who follow a gluten-free eating regimen will not only reduce their celiac-related antibody levels, but they may also notice a decrease in their thyroid antibody levels. In a 2010 study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, 11 out of 15 children with celiac disease also had abnormal thyroid hormone levels. After 12 to 18 months of eating a gluten-free diet, those thyroid hormone levels began to decrease and return to normal.

Symptoms of Thyroid Problems

Although several thyroid symptoms could be misinterpreted for another condition or triggered solely by celiac disease, it’s best to know potential signs of trouble:

·       Weakness

·       Fatigue or difficulty sleeping

·       Weight gain

·       Weight loss

·       Sensitivity to cold and/or heat

·       Hair loss

·       Dry skin

·       Muscle cramps

·       Irritability

·       Depression

·       Constipation or diarrhea

·       Jaundice

·       Slowed speech

·       Abnormal menstrual cycle

·       Infertility

·       Increase in tongue size

·       Mental fog

·       Difficulty focusing

·       Bloating

·       High cholesterol

·       Racing heartbeat

·       High blood pressure

·       Bulging eyes

If you notice several of these symptoms, it’s worth visiting your physician for a blood test. If you are convinced that your symptoms are not being caused by celiac disease, you must be your own advocate when it comes to asking for blood tests and having your thyroid tested. Some helpful blood tests include TSH, free T3, reverse T3, free T4, thyroid antibodies, vitamin levels, cortisol level and iron level.

-By Heather Burdo

A World of “Gluten Free”

Traveling abroad? Here’s how to say “gluten free” in six languages. If you’re not going to an area that speaks one of these languages, you can easily access apps with phrases and other details to help you eat worry and gluten free while you’re away from home.

Spanish: sin gluten

French: sans gluten

Italian: senza glutine

Portuguese – livre de glúten

 Danish – glutenfri

Turkish – glütensiz

Apps to help you stay on track

 Gluten Free Restaurant Cards from CeliacTravel.com

This app provides gluten-free restautant cards in 54 languages that that can be shown to a server and/or chef to explain the restrictions of your gluten-free diet.


A guide to food-allergy-friendly restaurants across the United Sates, AllergyEats provides peer reviews regarding how well a restaurant accommodates the needs of food-allergic and food-intolerant guests.

Dine Gluten Free

Browse restaurants and  read peer reviews of  gluten-free-friendly businesses around the world in this easy-to-use app.

Find Me Gluten Free

This app allows you to search by location for gluten-free pizza, bakeries, fast food, local busineses and more. Access user reviews, tips and other useful information.

Gluten-Free World
Whether in your hometown or traveling abroad, the Gluten-Free World app aims to help you find pubs, restaurants, bakeries, cafes and even stores so you can relax and enjoy yourself instead of wasting time researching. The app provides not only the name but also hours and directions to each spot.

Please note that not every app will be available on all platforms.

—Heather Burdo

Surviving Your First Gluten-Free Summer


With summer finally here, people are eager for bonfires and get-togethers. Although you may look forward to spending time with family and friends, you can’t help but wonder how you will survive your first gluten-free summer with all those food-centric gatherings. Luckily, you can enjoy yourself and stay safe by keeping the following tips in mind.

Who says you can’t have a burger or hot dog?

Hot dogs and burgers are two of the most common summer go-to foods, and you can still indulge in them. However, some varieties of hot dogs contain wheat gluten. If you can’t confirm whether the frankfurter is gluten free, it’s best to steer clear. Also ask whether the burger has been mixed with any sauce or seasoning, which could contain gluten.

Note: Put tinfoil down on the grill while your burger is cooking to avoid any gluten cross-contamination.

Offer to Host the Get-Together.

If you’re hesitant about eating at someone else’s home, host your own shindig. You would be in complete control of making sure the food is safe. It’s possible to make a gluten-free version of almost any food, so you can create a whole summer feast of everyone’s favorite dishes.

  • BBQ chicken
  • Buffalo chicken
  • Chicken and veggie skewers
  • Hamburgers
  • Gluten-free hot dogs
  • Pulled pork
  • Baby back ribs
  • Corn on the cob
  • Grilled jalapeño poppers
  • Baked beans
  • Gluten-free macaroni and cheese
  • Gluten-free pasta salad
  • Potato salad

Bring your own dish.

If having the get-together at your home is out of the question, you have other options. Bringing a seasonal gluten-free dish would be ideal, so you won’t miss out. Ask the hostess or host ahead of time what will be on the menu so you can plan accordingly. Even if you don’t want to make large separate dishes for everyone at the party, you could bring just a plate for yourself to eat when everyone else sits down to feast.

Your beloved s’mores are not out of the question!

Most people enjoy sitting around a bonfire, roasting marshmallows and enjoying a s’more. Because traditional graham crackers contain gluten, people think they have to go without. Fortunately, gluten-free graham crackers do exist, such as those made by Schär, Kinnikinnick or Pamela’s Products.

Heather Burdo is a health content writer from New York. Visit her at heatherburdo.com.

Taking gluten free on the road

 Having celiac disease and living a gluten-free lifestyle can feel overwhelming at times, even in your own home. Imagine managing the demands of eating gluten free with the logistics and complexities of traveling away from your comfort zone, whether for business or pleasure. How can you safely avoid gluten in an unfamiliar place—especially if you don’t speak the language? Some people think that traveling while gluten free is nearly impossible. Thankfully, solutions do exist that make it not only possible but enjoyable to go wherever you want without constantly worrying about cross-contamination.

Plan ahead

Planning a safely gluten-free trip goes beyond scotravelping out the best hotel and other attractions. Perform a quick internet search for supermarkets in the area you will be visiting. Even if you won’t have gluten-free eateries close by, having access to safe groceries enables you to plan your meals and snacks. When booking your hotel, choose a room with a refrigerator where you can store vegetables, fruits and other safe but perishable items. Of course, it’s always a good idea to have nonperishable foods such as granola, protein bars and crackers on hand in case you get stuck somewhere on a day trip with no gluten-free options.

Snacking on the plane

If you’re taking a long flight to your destination, you’re bound to get hungry. Ask your doctor ahead of time for a doctor’s note to give to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at the airport. The note will allow you to pack “medical food” snacks such as soups, shakes, yogurt, hummus and peanut butter.

Before booking your flight, call the airline to ask whether they provide a gluten-free menu. Many airlines are catching on and adding safe options. If this is the case, check in with them a week or so before your flight to ensure that they will have it ready for you. If your airline does not provide gluten-free options, pack some vegetables, fruit, cheese, dry cereal or protein bars in your carry-on bag.

Driving to your destination

If traveling by car, you have the benefit of stopping to eat at restaurants along the way. Even so, it’s best to map out your route and meals ahead of time. Call ahead to any restaurants you are considering to inquire about their gluten-free menu items so that you already know the gluten-free status and don’t have to worry about it in the moment, already starving after spending hours in the car.

Eating at a restaurant

Enjoying a top-notch meal at a restaurant should be one of the treats of traveling away from home. Whether you have crossed state lines or an entire ocean, you can still enjoy this luxury. As with every other aspect of your trip, planning and calling ahead will help save time and stress. If you are lucky enough to find a dedicated gluten-free restaurant (or more!), then check out the menu and decide on the meal that you are going to sit down and take stress-free delight in, knowing it’s absolutely safe for you.

If you are not this lucky, but rather find eateries with separate gluten-free menus or specific gluten-free items, still inquire about the precautions the staff takes to keep the meal safe from kitchen to table. As you well know, but the staff may or may not, just because a dish contains all gluten-free items does not mean it is safe from possible cross-contamination. Even the smallest amount of gluten can send a person with celiac disease or gluten intolerance into a whirlwind of pain. Asking these types of questions before even setting foot into an establishment can help you determine which restaurants understand what it means to keep food safely gluten free for their patrons.

Although you are doing your homework ahead of time, you should still befriend your server and ask questions. Never feel embarrassed by asking how the food is prepared or whether the same utensils or fryers are used for both gluten-containing and gluten-free items.

Traveling with a gluten sensitivity or full-blown wheat allergy doesn’t have to make your vacation stressful. Planning ahead and knowing what to expect can allow you to enjoy your vacation to the fullest and make lasting memories.

Heather Burdo is a health content writer from New York. Visit her at heatherburdo.com.


Thanksgiving, On a Budget

Finding gluten-free options for Thanksgiving dinner that everyone in the family will enjoy is not the only tricky part. It’s easy to get carried away with wanting to cook the most satisfying meals and bake delectable desserts during the holidays, but your wallet can take quite the hit. According to one study, gluten-free food items are 242 percent more expensive than gluten-containing foods. Luckily, these budget-friendly options can help you serve a delectable spread without breaking the bank.

Image source: www.proflowers.com

Pass on prepackaged food

Skipping prepackaged food typically means avoiding the gluten-free aisle altogether. Instead, shop for foods that are naturally gluten free—for example, rather than buying an overpriced packet of gravy mix, simply make your own with just a few ingredients. Instead of purchasing a boxed dessert in the gluten-free aisle, bake one from scratch. Omitting prepackaged food doesn’t just save you money, it also allows you to feed more people with fewer ingredients.

Incorporate whole foods

Not only will adding more whole foods to your Thanksgiving menu leave you with more money in your wallet, it’s also healthier. Rather than adding mashed potatoes and other carb-enriched foods, try putting more vegetables and fruits on your dinner table. Guests will get full faster, and you won’t have to worry about spending extra.

Plan out your menu

Sitting down and planning out your entree, sides and desserts can save you quite a bit of money. Think of how many servings of each dish you will be preparing, and only purchase what you need. It can be easy to go overboard during the holidays, but sticking to a list will help you meet your budget.

Heather Burdo is a health content writer from New York. Visit her at heatherburdo.com.

Resisting Gluten Temptation This Holiday Season

The holidays are approaching, and you see everyone around you making gluten-containing pumpkin pies, cookies and stuffing. Somewhere between knowing you need to stick to your gluten-free diet and watching all that gluten-filled food preparation, part of you may be tempted to try just one bite of that delectable dessert or savory stuffing.

Not giving into this impulse during the holidays is critical, but how do you stick to your gluten-free diet when the majority of food in the buffet is filled with gluten? Luckily, you have several strategies to resist gluten temptation this holiday season.

You are not alone

According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, 1 in 100 people worldwide is living with celiac disease. Individuals who have a first-degree relative with celiac disease have a 10 percent chance of developing the disease. Remember, while you may feel alone in your gluten-free eating during the holiday season, millions of others are dealing with the same thing. If you need a little extra help this time of year, check out online support groups and other forums where those who can’t eat gluten share their own strategies for battling temptation.

It’s not worth your health

You know what celiac disease is and how it damages your health but when you see family members digging into their pies and eating whatever they want, you somehow forget all about it. When you feel the urge of temptation to try even a small bite of gluten-filled pie or stuffing, remember how the tiniest piece can begin attacking your small intestine. Your villi will become further damaged, and your thanksgiving feastbody won’t properly absorb the nutrients.

According to board-certified physician Jane Anderson, many adults’ small intestines often don’t ever fully recover from the damage gluten causes. A 2010 Mayo Clinic study involving 241 adults revealed that two-thirds of adults’ intestinal villi recovered after five years. Those who cheat on their gluten-free diet will continue to have ongoing damage.

Be prepared

If Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner is at someone else’s house, make sure you go prepared. If you know they won’t have gluten-free offerings or if you are unsure how careful they will be with cross-contamination, it’s best to bring your own food. You can make a small dish of turkey and some homemade gluten-free stuffing. Knowing what will be served at the dinner allows you to customize your own meal so that it’s similar to what everyone else is eating. Just like with any diet, if you take steps to head off temptation before it strikes, you will be more successful.

Guests often contribute dishes to a family dinner, so bring a dessert that everyone will enjoy. Consider bringing a crust-less pie, flourless cookies or gluten-free cupcakes.

Offer to host dinner

When you host a holiday dinner at your house, you are in control, eliminating any worry over cross-contamination. And even if your guests bring dishes to contribute to dinner, you will know which ones to avoid. Remember that you don’t have to completely overhaul every dish. Oftentimes people can’t even tell the difference between gluten-free and gluten-containing fare. For example, you only need to substitute regular breadcrumbs with the gluten-free variety when making stuffing. Preparing plenty of yummy gluten-free options will help quash any temptation that may have consumed you at a loved one’s home.

Indulge your sweet tooth

You’re seeing all of these cookies, pies, cakes and other sweets—why not make them yourself? While the gluten-free diet seems restricting, you can make a gluten-free version of just about any recipe. With millions of Americans on the same diet, you have access to thousands of recipes to satisfy all guests’ dessert cravings while sticking safely to your diet.

-Heather Burdo