Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and other grains. It’s what gives bread its elasticity, giving them the ability to rise when baked. For people who have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, eating gluten can cause inflammation in the small intestine and damage its lining. This often leads to malabsorption of nutrients and potentially serious health problems such as anemia and osteoporosis. For many years it was believed that these conditions were caused by a lack of vitamins or minerals in a person’s diet, but now we know better: for some people the real culprit is gluten! And so if you’re suffering from any of these conditions and/or have symptoms that you think might be triggered by certain foods, it might be worth your while to talk to your doctor about being screened for celiac disease. A gluten-free diet is not only followed by those with celiac disease. Some people try it for other reasons which are not necessarily evidence-based, including weight loss. In this article, we’ll explore a few things that happen when a person stops eating gluten for more than a month.
What Happens To Your Body When You Stop Eating Gluten?
If you are intolerant to gluten and you’ve given it up, chances are your inflammation levels will decrease in your gut. This, in turn, could allow your body to heal in the absence of the trigger (gluten).
Higher Energy Levels
If you have celiac disease or other gluten intolerance, a gluten-free diet is going to decrease inflammation in your gut and increase absorption of nutrients you may not have been absorbing before. Your energy may also spike as a result of the elimination of the foods that were causing your symptoms, which may have included fatigue.
Withdrawal Symptoms (Dizziness, Nausea)
Symptoms such as nausea, dizziness and anxiety are sometimes reported by people who stop eating gluten all at once (6).
These symptoms usually go away on their own within a few weeks, but if they persist, talk to your doctor.
Some people find themselves feeling hungry more often throughout the day when they first stop eating gluten (6). This might happen because the body is expecting to digest foods that are harder to break down, so it’s sending you signals that you need more energy.
Try eating more filling protein and fiber from gluten-free whole grains, fruits and vegetables. If the feeling persists, talk to your health care provider.
After going gluten-free, many people experience frequent constipation (3). This happens for a few reasons:
- Your body is adjusting to a life without an autoimmune response to certain foods and taking the time to find balance in normal functioning.
- You may have been experiencing gluten-related digestive issues that haven’t gone away completely after going gluten free – possibly leading you to be more irregular than usual.
- Not eating lots of fruits and vegetables on a gluten-free diet can cause constipation. It is important to get enough fiber in your diet (8). If you used to get most of your fiber from gluten-containing grains, you’ll have to find new sources.
- You could also be eating lots of highly processed foods on your new gluten free diet, which typically lack adequate fiber.
Whatever the case, adding more fruits, vegetables and whole (gluten-free) grains to your diet can help increase fiber intake and decrease constipation. Fiber is a wonderful nutrient that helps move the digestive system along, so make sure you’re eating plenty of it (8).
Why Is A Gluten Free Diet Necessary?
The short answer is that some people are intolerant of gluten, which means their bodies don’t process it properly. For these folks, eating gluten triggers negative reactions in the body causing everything from digestive trouble to skin problems to headaches (10).
If you suspect you might have a problem with gluten then speak with your doctor about testing for celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
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Will A Gluten Free Diet Help You Lose Weight?
Some people lose weight on a gluten-free diet because there’s less wheat products and processed foods in their diets than before. But if you’re not careful, you could end up consuming more calories than before. Remember: Some gluten-free snacks, cereal bars, and convenience foods can have just as many calories as the foods they are replacing (or more).
To lose weight on a gluten-free diet, you must incorporate other weight loss measures, such as (11):
- Understanding calorie counts for gluten-free foods
- Keep portion sizes in check
- Eat more lean protein like fish, white meat chicken, and turkey
- Incorporate high fiber whole grains + fruits & veggies
- Drink lots of water
- Get some exercise
How Long After Going Gluten-Free Do Symptoms Go Away?
After going gluten-free, many people experience relief from symptoms that are directly related to celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. These symptoms can be uncomfortable and disruptive to daily life. The time it takes for symptoms to go away can vary from person to person. Work with your healthcare provider throughout the whole process and talk to them if you have any questions or concerns.
People with either of these conditions will most likely need to continue eating gluten-free foods for the rest of their lives in order to avoid debilitating symptoms and serious health problems.
How To Ease Into A Gluten-Free Diet
After going gluten-free, you may feel like your entire diet and lifestyle needs to change in order for you to be successful. It doesn’t have to be that difficult. You can ease into things and make the transition easier on yourself by following these simple steps:
Learn Which Foods To Include And Avoid
The most obvious places where people find gluten in their diet is in wheat products such as flour and pasta, but did you know it’s also found in unexpected places like soy sauce, french fries, and some types of candy? Luckily, there are fantastic resources out there to help you learn what foods to include or avoid in your gluten-free new lifestyle.
Here are the foods you should eat on a gluten-free diet (7):
Here are the foods you should avoid on a gluten-free diet:
- Wheat (including durum flour, triticale, spelt, and other types of wheat)
- Oats are commonly cross-contaminated during processing so make sure to carefully read food labels and look for those that are certified gluten-free.
If you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, it’s best to play it safe and skip any foods that may contain wheat (5).
Carefully Read Food Labels
Before purchasing something at the grocery store or eating at a restaurant, take a minute to carefully check the ingredients list on the packaging for any type of wheat product that may be lurking inside (i.e., malt vinegar, starch, and dextrin). It might take some time upfront, but soon it’ll become second nature – and you’ll save yourself from having to do it once you’re in the store and see something with gluten in it.
You may be surprised at how many ingredients contain wheat or gluten-based grains. When eating out, choose restaurants where you can custom order your food and check for any hidden sources of gluten in anything they serve (even if something isn’t “flour” based).
When grocery shopping, visit stores where there are plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts to choose from that fit into a balanced diet plan. In fact, most processed foods will have their ingredients listed on the packaging these days – making it easy to find what’s free of gluten and what’s not.
Create A Balanced, Fiber-Rich Diet Plan
Without planning ahead, you may not thrive on a gluten-free diet. Consuming enough fiber, protein, and healthy fats is essential when following a gluten-free diet plan and for health (4). Remember – the goal is to slowly make your way towards healthy eating habits that are sustainable in the long term!
Read More: Gluten-Free Meal Plan Spelled Out In Detail
Watch Out For Sneaky Sources Of Gluten
You might be surprised at how many things contain unsuspected amounts of wheat or gluten-based grains! Some examples include soy sauce (which is sometimes fermented with wheat), french fries (they’re typically cooked in the same oil as other foods containing gluten), and candy (that includes malt).
The Bottom Line
If you have celiac disease or another gluten sensitivity, your digestive system might feel the most noticeable changes when you stop eating gluten. This can lead to better digestion, less inflammation and more energy throughout the day. You may also find you have fewer skin issues, experience less cramping after meals, think more clearly and have higher energy levels in general! If this sounds good to you then it’s definitely worth trying. Always talk to your healthcare provider before making any major dietary changes.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Adverse Reactions to Wheat or Wheat Components (2019, onlinelibrary.wiley.com)
- Chronic Glutamate Toxicity in Neurodegenerative Diseases—What is the Evidence? (2015, frontiersin.org)
- Effect of a gluten-free diet on gastrointestinal symptoms in celiac disease (2004, academic.oup.com)
- Essentials of Healthy Eating: A Guide (2011, onlinelibrary.wiley.com)
- Gluten: A Benefit or Harm to the Body? (n.d., hsph.harvard.edu)
- Gluten-Free Diet: Is It Right for Me? (n.d., hopkinsmedicine.org)
- Gluten-free diet (2021, mayoclinic.org)
- Health benefits of dietary fiber (2009, academic.oup.com)
- Intestinal Barrier Function in Gluten-Related Disorders (2019, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The Gluten-Free Diet: Fad or Necessity? (2017, diabetesjournals.org)
- Weight-Loss and Maintenance Strategies – Weight Management (2004, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)