PCOS and Celiac Disease Connection: Why Testing is Vital for Women's Health

Do you or someone you love have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome? If so, have you been evaluated for Celiac disease? And no, before you start thinking that all women with PCOS should go gluten-free, let’s talk about what we actually know and what is evidence-based. 

Shared Immune System Dysfunction

Both PCOS and Celiac Disease are characterized by immune system dysfunction. In Celiac Disease, the immune system reacts to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, causing inflammation and damage to the small intestine. Similarly, in PCOS, there is often a low-grade inflammation and immune system imbalance, which can contribute to various symptoms.

Overlap in Symptoms

PCOS and Celiac Disease share some common symptoms, such as fatigue, digestive issues, and irregular periods. These overlapping symptoms can make it difficult to distinguish between the two conditions based solely on clinical presentation.

Hormonal Imbalance and Gut Health

PCOS is associated with hormonal imbalances, particularly elevated levels of insulin and androgens (male hormones). Celiac Disease can impact the absorption of nutrients in the small intestine, leading to nutrient deficiencies and potential hormonal imbalances. This can exacerbate the hormonal issues already present in PCOS.

Nutrient Deficiencies

Celiac Disease can lead to malabsorption of nutrients, especially when gluten-containing foods are consumed. Nutrient deficiencies, such as iron, calcium, and B-vitamins, can exacerbate the symptoms of PCOS. Iron deficiency, for instance, can worsen menstrual irregularities and fatigue, which are already common in PCOS.

Inflammation and Insulin Resistance

Both PCOS and Celiac Disease are associated with chronic low-grade inflammation. Inflammation can contribute to insulin resistance, a key factor in PCOS. Addressing inflammation by diagnosing and managing Celiac Disease could potentially improve insulin sensitivity in women with PCOS.

Impact on Fertility

PCOS is a common cause of infertility. Celiac Disease might further affect fertility by causing hormonal imbalances, nutrient deficiencies, and inflammation. Addressing Celiac Disease through dietary changes could potentially improve reproductive health for women with PCOS.

Given these potential connections, when assessing patients in our clinic at NMD Wellness of Scottsdale, we often consider Celiac testing an important aspect of our assessment and provides us the ability to provide comprehensive strategies for care and treatment. Patients must be on a gluten-containing diet prior to testing for the test to be accurate. If you are currently on a gluten-free diet, testing for celiac biomarkers will often be misleading and inconsistent. The standard diagnostic test for Celiac Disease involves blood tests to detect specific antibodies related to gluten intolerance. If the blood tests suggest Celiac Disease, a small intestine biopsy may be conducted to confirm the diagnosis.

If a woman with PCOS is diagnosed with Celiac Disease, she often will benefit from a gluten-free diet to manage the condition. This involves avoiding all sources of gluten in her diet to prevent the immune system reaction and subsequent damage to the small intestine. By effectively managing Celiac Disease, it's possible to reduce inflammation, improve nutrient absorption, and potentially alleviate some of the symptoms associated with PCOS.

About the Author: Meet Dr. ZenAlissia Zenhausern- Pfeiffer, NMD, FABNE, (commonly known by her patients as Dr. Zen), is a licensed naturopathic doctor board certified in naturopathic endocrinology and the founder of NMD Wellness of Scottsdale, a premier naturopathic medical practice that focuses on helping women to take a proactive approach to their hormone and fertility health. Dr. Zen has been featured as a lead expert in Forbes, Shape Magazine, and Instyle and is deeply passionate about bridging the gap between traditional and natural medicine in the world of fertility. She works with a variety of hormone related issues including PCOS, endometriosis and unexplained infertility. Her goal is to help more women get back into the driver’s seat of their own health to make lasting transformational changes to their health to bring more cute and adorable babies into this world. Read More About Dr. Zen...