Celiac Disease and Male Infertility

ben bunting BA(Hons) PgCert Sport & Exercise Nutriton  Written by Ben Bunting: BA(Hons), PGCert.


Undiagnosed celiac disease can affect male fertility. It is estimated that 19 percent of men with this disease experience infertility problems. Men with this condition often have problems with the shape and motility of sperm. The body may also not respond to the hormone testosterone properly. Since celiac disease affects the entire endocrine system, this disorder can interfere with a man's ability to conceive.

What is Celiac Disease?

It's estimated that about one in every eight Americans has the autoimmune disease. Celiac disease is more common in women than in men, and it can cause serious complications if not treated early. Fortunately, there are some simple symptoms that you can look out for and test for yourself.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder caused by the overreactivity of the immune system to gluten proteins. These proteins are found in wheat and barley. When consumed in large quantities, the immune system responds by mounting an attack on the small intestine. The result is damage to the villi, fingerlike projections that line the small intestine. The damage to these villi prevents proper absorption of nutrients.

Although the symptoms of celiac disease can be long-term, they can be alleviated by eating a healthy, well-balanced diet. You can also opt for a gluten-free diet if you have a family history of the disease. Some grocery stores and food companies even offer gluten-free products.

People with the disorder can't absorb essential nutrients from food. It can also cause long-term damage to the small intestine. For this reason, it's important to learn more about this disorder. If you suspect you have the disease, the first step is to see a doctor. 

Malnutrition and Male Infertility

Malnutrition and male infertility may be linked. Researchers have found that the total fat in the diet is negatively correlated with sperm concentration and count. They believe this is because high fat diets compromise sperm membranes, which results in reduced motility and function. This, in turn, affects the quality of the sperm. The type of fat consumed is also an important factor, as the ratio of unsaturated to saturated fat may impact the quality of sperm.

The initial diagnostic workup for male infertility should include a detailed medical history, a physical examination, semen analysis, hormone testing, and imaging. It should also focus on risk factors. These may include the duration of infertility, medications used to treat the condition, and genital surgery.

Several underlying medical conditions can also lead to male infertility. Males with varicoceles, benign growths on the testicle, are two times more likely to be infertile. These conditions may also lead to atrophy in the testicles. Hypopituitary disorders and liver cirrhosis are also possible causes of testicular atrophy.

The causes of male infertility are not completely understood, but a recent World Health Organization multicenter study reported that 20 percent of cases were due to male factors, 37 percent were due to female factors, and 15 percent were due to unknown factors. Additional studies have also reported a prevalence of male infertility of 10 to 15 percent. A systematic review conducted by the World Health Organization concluded that the evidence supporting this relationship is low. Age may also affect male infertility.

Dietary changes for those with celiac disease

In most cases, celiac disease is curable with a gluten-free diet. This will stop the inflammatory process and heal the villi, restoring absorptive function to the intestine. After removing gluten from a person's diet, symptoms usually improve within days. The next step is to learn how to properly read labels and understand the gluten in different products.

➡️READ: Natural treatments for male infertility

Several tests may be necessary to confirm a diagnosis of celiac disease. In some cases, an upper endoscopy is used to check for the condition. The procedure involves inserting a thin tube through the mouth and down into the small intestine. During this procedure, the doctor will examine the intestine using a small camera. He or she will also check for damage to the villi. 


Symptoms of celiac disease vary from person to person. They may include stomach pain, constipation, or diarrhea.Others may have no symptoms at all. Symptoms of celiac disease can be mild, or severe. In some cases, the disease may lead to more serious complications, including cancer of the intestine, and Sjogren's syndrome, an inability to produce moisture.

People with coeliac disease are often deficient in nutrients because of damage to the gut lining. These nutrients are necessary for reproductive life and healthy reproduction. While there is no direct evidence linking untreated coeliac disease to nutrient deficiency, the disease may interfere with early pregnancy stages in females.

Once diagnosed, the affected individual may need to follow a gluten-free diet.  Supplements may include iron, B vitamins, or other nutrients. Some people may take multivitamins that contain calcium and vitamin D. 

Diarrhea from coeliac disease is voluminous and pale, and malodorous. Other symptoms include abdominal distension, mouth ulcers, and lactose intolerance.

Celiac disease and male infertility

Untreated coeliac disease is associated with infertility and recurrent spontaneous abortions, but there is hope for men who are diagnosed with the disease.

Some patients experience a resurgence of fertility, which may come as a surprise to couples who have been infertile for years. In addition to reproductive symptoms, celiac disease may be accompanied by neurological symptoms such as depression, epilepsy, and migraine.

Men with undiagnosed celiac disease have abnormal sperm and hormone levels, which make conceiving difficult. Additionally, many of these men experience androgen resistance, which means that their body has a hard time responding to the hormone testosterone.

Interestingly, one study looked at the prevalence of subclinical coeliac disease in infertile couples. It revealed a higher rate of this disease than in the general population.

Celiac and sperm irregularities

Men with celiac disease have abnormal sperm, which can make conception extremely difficult. 

This is because celiac disease may affect men as a result of reduced nutrient absorption and its inflammatory effects.

Though further research is necessary to confirm whether or not the condition permanantly affects male fertility, it is still important to be aware of the aforementioned symptoms that we've covered in this article.

Men who experience unexplained subfertility should consider seeing a specialist to find out whether they have coeliac disease. 

Gonadal dysfunction in men with celiac disease

Infertility is one of the common outcomes associated with coeliac sprue, a condition in which a man develops a low sperm count, reduced sperm quality, and delayed menarche. A new study shows that the pituitary is implicated in the disorder and may regulate gonadal function. However, the connection between coeliac sprue and disordered spermatogenesis remains unclear. although, as we have previously hypothosized, it could be a result of malnutrition and inflammation.

Gonadal function is affected by a number of chronic and acute systemic diseases. The integrity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis controls the function of the testes and ovaries. Different systemic diseases affect the HPT axis at different levels and can lead to a variety of clinical and laboratory manifestations.

Celiac Disease and Hypogonadism

Celiac disease and hypogonadism are often considered related conditions. The condition affects both men and women and can lead to infertility, early menopause, and recurrent abortions. It can also cause men to experience low libido and erectile dysfunction. Men with coeliac disease have a higher risk of developing hypogonadism.

Hypogonadism is a reproductive disorder characterized by inadequate production of male andogen hormones, which are required for the development of male sex organs. These hormones also help bone health and help a man produce spermatozoa. Testosterone, the most important andogen hormone, is produced by the testes and adrenal glands. Low levels of testosterone cause hypogonadism.

Men with this condition may need hormone replacement therapy. Low doses of estrogen or combined estrogen and progesterone therapy may be necessary. Treatment for hypogonadism should address the underlying cause of the condition, and treatment should include lifestyle modifications such as dietary interventions, and exercise.

If a patient has both celiac disease and hypogonadism, he or she should be screened for both conditions. A patient with celiac disease should also undergo screening for osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a major risk factor for celiac disease and is associated with certain aspects of the condition.


Celiac disease causes inflammation of the intestine and reduces nutrient absorption. It is thought that this could be the causing association between celiac disease (when untreated) sufferer's and infertility amongst men. 

Celiac disease is also linked to gonad dysfunction and low levels of testosterone, again these are issues that can be the result of malnutrition, and both can contribute towards infertility.

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