Olympic hopeful comes out as gluten intolerant

All eyes are on London for the Summer Olympics, which begin on July 27th. Literally thousands of athletic hopefuls will converge upon the city, with adrenaline running through their veins and a story to tell. Included in the roster of potential Gold Medalists is 25 year-old world champion swimmer, Dana Vollmer.

Vollmer recently entered into a partnership with Crunchmaster, a popular brand of gluten-free crackers. Vollmer is gluten intolerant and a strong advocate for gluten-free living.

Gluten intolerance, also referred to as gluten sensitivity, refers to a spectrum of allergic disorders including wheat allergy and celiac disease. Several studies link these conditions to increased levels of miscarriage and Human Reproduction identified 8% of women diagnosed with unexplained infertility as having gluten sensitivity.

This disorder is often overlooked as a potential diagnosis of infertility, particularly if no symptoms are evident. Possible symptoms of gluten intolerance are those associated with stomach distress, such as bloating and abdominal pain, but often, those with the disorder present as asymptomatic.

For those who suspect this diagnosis is at the core of their infertility or recurrent miscarriage history, it is suggested their doctor run a blood test to check for higher than normal levels of autoantibodies, including anti-tissue transglutaminase antibodies and anti-endomysium antibodies. If found positive, further testing might be required to confirm the diagnosis.

The recently married Vollmer has a head start on many other women with the disorder, as she has embraced a gluten-free lifestyle. Going gluten free is the only known cure for the condition and, based on other underlying infertility-related factors such as age, is often enough for many women to conceive naturally and avoid miscarriage. While many experts believe more research is needed, most admit there is no down side to embracing this dietary lifestyle for their patients with unexplained infertility.

The Olympics is the world's own showcase, underscoring both our ability to transcend boundaries and also, our fragility. Former Olympians who struggled with infertility include Dara Torres and Fatima Whitbread.

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