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Can there be gluten in semen?


Updated April 15, 2014

Question: Can there be gluten in semen?
Answer: Probably not.

So far, there do not seem to have been any scientific attempts to find out whether small amounts of any gluten a man eats can end up in his semen. You might be thinking, "Gluten is a large protein molecule that can't pass through skin, so it can't get out of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract." In fact, in at least one situation, gluten does leave the GI tract: When a nursing mother eats gluten, some of it winds up in her breast milk.

I asked gastroenterologist Dr. Dan Leffler, who's an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of Clinical Research for The Celiac Disease Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, for his opinion on whether there can be gluten in semen. He agreed that there's no easy answer. "My best guess is no, at least not in significant quantities," Dr. Leffler said. "Breast milk is a special case, as dietary proteins are probably brought there specifically to help train the infant immune system."

As for semen, he continued, "The testes tend to tightly regulate entry of proteins, and there is no reason to expect that there would be any benefit" for the body to have gluten in semen, as there is for having gluten in breastmilk.

Dr. Leffler acknowledged that no scientific study has been done of this question. "Lacking studies," he concluded, "I would consider this most likely safe from a celiac perspective."


Leffler, Dan. E-mail interviews. February 23 and 25, 2009.

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