Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and other grains. It’s what gives breads their 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 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: The real culprit is gluten! And so if you’re suffering from any of these conditions, it might be worth your while to cut out all foods with gluten for more than one month – just so you can see how different you feel. A gluten-free diet is not only for celiacs. Most people try it for other benefits including weight loss. What happens when you stop eating gluten? Read on to find out!
What Happens To Your Body When You Stop Eating Gluten?
Gluten is known to cause inflammation in the intestines. For people with celiac, this leads to damage of the small intestine’s lining (9).
If you’ve given up gluten, chances are your inflammation levels will decrease. This, in turn, could allow your body to heal more quickly than it normally would on a gluten-rich diet.
High concentrations of the amino acid glutamate appear not just in gluten grain products but also in ice cream and potato chips.
Excess extracellular glutamate is an excitotoxin because it over-stimulates brain cells, making them die prematurely. Over time this can lead to conditions such as depression or Alzheimer’s disease. It can also cause problems with day-to-day focus and concentration (2).
On a gluten-free diet, there’s no wheat for your body to turn into glutamate. And that can mean a happier, clearer-headed you!
Higher Energy Levels
A gluten-free diet is going to decrease inflammation in your gut and increase metabolic activity throughout your body. Your energy may also spike as a result of the elimination of inflammatory foods like wheat products.
Resolve Other Food Allergies
If you suffer from food allergies (even those unrelated to gluten), chances are they will clear up on a gluten-free diet. Why? Because many allergic reactions occur as a result of inflammation caused by undigested proteins such as those found in wheat products (1). If you’re not eating these kinds of foods anymore, then there’s no more inflammation and less chance for an immune system response.
Withdrawal Symptoms (Headaches, Leg Cramps, Nausea)
One of the first things you probably noticed after stopping to eat gluten was a headache. Or maybe it was fatigue or nausea? In any event, symptoms such as nausea, dizziness and anxiety are very common for people who stop eating gluten all at once (6).
In many cases these symptoms will last anywhere from one to three days before going away completely, but have been reported as long as two weeks after ceasing gluten intake. This is thought to be a result of your body having to adjust to a life without inflammatory foods and finding new ways to digest food substances that were previously indigestible or poorly digested.
Most people find themselves feeling hungry more often throughout the day when they first stop eating gluten (6). This happens 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.
Naturally, this is a good thing! It means your body has started working on creating the healthy conditions necessary for optimal performance.
After going gluten-free, many people experience frequent constipation (3). This happens for a few reasons:
- Your body is adjusting to a life without inflammatory foods and taking the time to find new ways to digest substances that were previously hard to break down.
- 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).
- You could also be eating lots of processed foods on your new gluten free diet, which typically lack adequate fiber.
Whatever the case, adding more fruits, vegetables and whole grains to your diet can help increase fiber intake and decrease constipation. Fiber is a wonderful food 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 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.
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 symptoms that are directly related to celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. These symptoms can be uncomfortable and disruptive to daily life.
Unfortunately, the only way to truly know if your symptoms have gone away is to reintroduce gluten into your diet after being on a gluten-free regimen for at least six months. If your symptoms return, you could have celiac disease or NCGS.
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. This isn’t true at all! 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)
- Oats aren’t guaranteed to be gluten-free so make sure to carefully read food labels.
If you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, it’s best to play it safe and skip foods that 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 whole foods 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 adhere to a gluten-free diet. Consuming enough fibre, 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
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, resolve other food allergies, 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.
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)