Today, gluten-free diet and recipes become increasingly popular and become a preferred choice especially in Western countries like the United States.
In fact, due to its high demand, the gluten-free market share valued at $2.84 billion in 2014 and projected to reach up to $4.89 billion dollars by 2021.
However, is it worth eating gluten-free foods?
Initially, I thought it was nothing and the gluten-free trend may just be another fad.
On the other hand, my views were changed when I stumbled on a summit where Dr. Tom O’Bryan was a speaker where I learned that eating gluten-rich foods may have an effect on male fertility and it hurts the sperms.
But first, let’s learn a bit about Dr. O’Byran and if you want more information about his credentials, you can visit his website at TheDr.com.
Tom O’Byran is an internationally-recognized workshop leader and speaker with a specialty on NCGS(Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity) and Celiac Disease.
He published a paper entitled “Celiac Disease and Reproductive Health” in Practical Gastroenterology back in 2009.
The paper can be downloaded free from his website if you want to read the details of it, but here’s a snippet below where he talked about male fertility specifically. Know that infertility due to gluten sensitivity also affects women.
His paper provides information and could be valuable especially for couples who tried many times to have a baby but no luck.
Men also suffer from infertility stemming from undiagnosed celiac disease. Affected males show a picture of tissue resistance to androgens. The increases of follicle-stimulating hormone and prolactin may indicate an imbalance at hypothalamus-pituitary level. Hypogonadism is a known factor in male infertility and has been found in 7% of celiac males in one survey. Endocrine dysfunction unaccompanied by other features of hypogonadism was found commonly and 19% of male celiacs were infertile.
Improvement in semen quality and successful pregnancy in previously infertile women is associated with gluten withdrawal by their male partners. The most striking endocrine findings in a study of 41 recently diagnosed men with celiac disease was increased plasma testosterone and free testosterone index, reduced dihydrotestosterone (testosterone’s potent peripheral metabolite), and raised serum luteinizing hormone, a pattern of abnormalities indicative of androgen resistance. As jejunal morphology improved, hormone levels returned to normal. These higher rates of infertility among sufferers of celiac disease, as well as improvement associated with the gluten-free diet, indicate the value of celiac-related antibody testing in couples, both the male and female partners with unexplained infertility.
Is Gluten Toxic?
Every time I watched Dr. Tom O’Bryan talks about the topic of gluten, he always begins with a statement which states;
Gluten is not bad for you. Bad gluten is bad for you.
Not all gluten are toxic, but the gluten in wheat, rye, and barley is the one considered toxic. Dr. Alesio Fasano of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, an expert in celiac disease, and a researcher on the subject said;
Gluten is toxic, but not everybody who eats it will get sick
He is also referring to the toxic gluten content in wheat rye and barley. If there’s another person to listen about gluten sensitivity, it is Dr. Fasano.
In fact, here’s one of his presentation talking about the basics of gluten and how it affects the gut microbiota and later led to a series of different adverse effects.
How Does Gluten Affects Male Fertility?
It’s hard to imagine the negative effect of gluten on male fertility until I heard Dr. Tom O’Byran explained during an interview on one of the summit. He said that during sexual intercourse, when the male ejaculates inside the woman’s vaginal canal, millions of sperms are released and these sperms race towards the egg, but in the end there’s only one winner.
The winning sperm when it reaches the egg, it penetrates the egg with burst similar to a force field and eventually enter the egg. Once inside, it shares the male genetics with the female genetics sealing the egg from other incoming sperms.
This egg penetration capability of the egg is dependent the male’s zinc level. If the male has low zinc, the winning sperm may not be able to penetrate the egg in order for fertilization to take place.
Now, the level of zinc does not cover in male fertility tests. Usually, male fertility testing only tests sperm count, morphology and motility.
Hence, a male may pass all the markers in a male fertility tests, but if he is low in zinc, he is still at risk of infertility as his sperm can’t penetrate the woman’s egg for fertilization to occur.
What’s The Connection Between Zinc and Gluten?
When you listen to Tom O’Byran’s lecture on this subject, it’s listening to your favorite music whether in an FM radio, or from a music player.
You can’t stop listening as it makes you learn more very effectively. Here’s what he says on how gluten can negatively affect the male sperm in terms of zinc absorption.
The undigested gluten peptides come out of the stomach, but not broken down in order for the small intestine able to extract the nutrients.
When it comes out of the stomach, there’s a small part of the small intestine called duodenum, which connects the stomach and small intestine.
This is the area where inflammation occurs. According to Dr. O’Byran, it’s like having the soldiers guarding from intruders and this immune response consider those undigested peptides as intruders.
When inflammation occurs at this point, nutrients like zinc and B-vitamins cannot be absorbed by the body through the small intestines.
This is what explains why a man regardless the amount of zinc or B-Vitamins he take regularly, he is still deficient because the these nutrients are not absorb if he is eating gluten-rich foods and if he is sensitive to it.
It’s very complex thing to understand, but with someone like Dr. Tom O’Byran, it’s easily understood. He has tested this on many couples including himself with good results.
So, if you’re struggling to have a baby regardless of the effort you put on it, going gluten-free may be a good option for you.