Will I Go Through Gluten Withdrawal If I Start Eating Gluten
Theres no scientific evidence to suggest that people actually go through withdrawal when they stop eating gluten. Some people report feeling dizziness, nausea, extreme hunger and even anxiety and depression when they suddenly go from eating a lot of gluten to being gluten-free. These symptoms usually go away after a few weeks on a gluten-free diet, but talk to your health care provider if they persist.
The #1 Mistake People Make When Starting A Gluten
If you don’t plan out this new way of eating, it’s easy to default to gluten-free packaged foods. “I see people go on this diet and eat three meals and snacks from these foods,” says Begun. You know-the gluten-free muffins or brownies or cereals or pizza. These are often made with refined grains and heavy in sugar and often contain more calories than their traditional counterparts. The result: you may start to gain weight if this is the main change you make to your diet. So think of these as “on occasion” foods. It’s just like with any diet. A candy bar is just a candy bargluten-free or not.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Celiac Disease
Symptoms of celiac disease can be different in each person. Common symptoms are diarrhea or constipation, vomiting and weight loss, malnutrition, anemia , tiredness or fatigue, bone or joint pain, depression, stomach bloating and pain, and short stature in children.
People who suffer from irritable bowel-like stomach problems, headaches, fatigue, numbness, and depression may have gluten sensitivity.
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If You Have Anemia You Could Start Seeing Improvements
Iron-deficiency anemia occurs when you have too little iron to make adequate numbers of healthy red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout your body. Anemia causes extreme fatigue and weakness and can lead to heart problems. It’s common, affecting 20% of non-pregnant women, 50% of pregnant women, and 3% of men . While gluten has no direct impact on iron levels and doesn’t cause anemia, the prevalence of this condition is especially high among people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity . For these individuals, removing gluten from their diet could help get their anemia under control.
According to a 2014 paper published in BMC Medicine, approximately 23% of those with NCGS experience anemia. According to Beyond Celiac, anemia is particularly common among undiagnosed celiacs because the part of the small intestine where iron is absorbed is also the area damaged by the immune system when gluten is consumed. The connection between anemia and celiac is so strong that unexplained anemia is often the symptom that triggers an initial test for celiac. In a 2003 study of more than a thousand celiacs published in Digestive Diseases and Sciences, 63% had anemia. The good news, as Beyond Celiac explained, is that anemia usually substantially improves on a strict gluten-free diet, though it may take a few months to see results. Without gluten triggering the immune system to attack, the intestinal lining has a chance to heal, making iron absorption easier.
Gas And Bloating May Not Be Your Thing Anymore
You may sometimes feel sick after eating gluten, even if you dont have any immune disorders, scientists claim. You might feel bloated or gassy. It may signal that your body is not very friendly toward gluten. If this happens, you may find relief by following a gluten-free diet. But such diets need to be discussed with a dietitian who will be able to advise the right treatment for your needs.
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Wheat Gluten May Be Addictive
There are many people who believe that wheat may be addictive. Getting unnatural cravings for things like bread or donuts is very common.
Even though this is far from being proven, there are some studies suggesting that gluten may have addictive properties. When gluten is broken down in a test tube, the peptides that are formed can activate opioid receptors .
These peptides are called gluten exorphins. Exorphin = peptide that is not formed in the body, that can activate opioid receptors in the brain. Given that gluten may cause increased permeability in the intestine , some believe that these exorphins can find their way into the bloodstream, then reaching the brain and causing addiction.
Gluten exorphins have been found in the blood of celiac patients . There is also some evidence from animal studies that these opioid-like peptides derived from gluten can make it into the brain .
It is well known in various food addiction circles that wheat is one of the most addictive foods there are . This doesnt prove anything of course, but its something to keep in mind.
Bottom Line: Many people report getting unnatural cravings for wheat and there is some evidence of gluten having opioid-like effects. However, this is definitely not proven and is mostly speculation at this point.
Whats The Difference Between Celiac Disease And A Gluten Sensitivity
Though the symptoms and the existence of Celiac disease may be rather obvious, that may not always be the case. There are times when you really need to evaluate and understand the main differences. It is important to note that the terms gluten insensitivity and gluten intolerance are thrown around and used interchangeably. There are slight differences and instances where intolerance may be worse. The issue here though is that most people with either an intolerance or insensitivity never actually get evaluated, and therefore no true conclusion may be found.
With Celiac disease gluten actually triggers the immune system activity that causes the damage and resulting symptoms. Thats because true Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder. This means that it is not gluten doesnt really cause the actual damage, but rather it is the way in which your immune system reacts to it in your system.
It may be associated with thyroid problems or other autoimmune conditions as well. It is a true condition and avoiding gluten altogether may offer significant relief. By avoiding gluten you may not only relieve your symptoms, but you may also help your body to get back to absorbing nutrients the way it is supposed to.
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Consider A Binding Agent Like Activated Charcoal
Activated charcoal binds to toxins in your body and helps to reduce gas and bloating, Firshein says. One study on rats also found that those that took activated charcoal had less intestinal inflammation and damage than rats that didnt take activated charcoal.
Keep in mind, though, that the binding from these ingredients isnt selective and that you cant target the gluten. Charcoal binds to good stuff, too, and could exacerbate nutrient malabsorption, Cording says. If you do decide to go this route, Firshein recommends drinking plenty of water to avoid constipation.
If You Have A Sensitivity You’ll See An Improvement In Your Digestive Health
“If you are going gluten-free because you have been diagnosed with celiac disease, then you may feel relief of symptoms including GI issues, weight loss, improved nutrient absorption, a decrease in aches and pains and headaches, and increased energy,” Shapiro says. “If you have or suspect you have a gluten sensitivity, then removing it may decrease gas and bloating.”
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Clean Out Your Kitchen
Before starting the gluten-free diet, you need to clean out your kitchen and get rid of everything you no longer can eat. Foods containing gluten most often include bread products, baked goods, pasta, many frozen and canned foods, some ice creams, and snack foods.
Gluten appears in many places you wouldn’t expect. If in doubt, give away or dispose of everything, especially wheat flour and baking mixes. When doing so, you’ll need to be careful not to breathe any airborne flour, which could make you sick.
You’ll also need to replace any open condiments since they’re likely to have been cross-contaminated with gluten . The same goes for spices you’ve used in baking since those likely have been cross-contaminated by wheat flour.
Donate unopened gluten-containing packages, jars, and cans to a food bank or hand them over to a friend. Alternatively, if you’re planning on sharing a kitchen with family members or housemates who don’t eat gluten-free, you’ll need to segregate those products.
You’ll need a new toaster since it’s possible to get symptoms from the tiniest morsel of gluten. You’ll also need new plastic and wooden utensils and non-stick pans if you use them. Replace all these kitchen tools when gluten-free since you can’t clean them thoroughly enough to keep yourself safe.
Your Weight Could Change
If you’re cutting out gluten because you think it’ll help you lose weight, it’s time to rethink your weight-loss strategy. As the Cleveland Clinic explained, “There’s absolutely no evidence that simply getting rid of gluten will result in weight loss.” It may indirectly help you shed some pounds by encouraging you to choose healthier food options overall, but gluten isn’t inherently fattening and there are plenty of calorically dense and unhealthy foods that are gluten-free.
If you’ve just been diagnosed with celiac disease and begin eating a gluten-free diet, you’re more likely to see weight gain than weight loss. Because damage to the intestinal lining can cause malabsorption of nutrients and frequent bouts of diarrhea, many undiagnosed celiacs are malnourished and underweight . Those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity may also be affected, even though their intestinal lining isn’t damaged. A 2014 study of individuals with NCGS published in BMC Medicine found that 25% of respondents experienced weight loss. For those with celiac disease and NCGS, cutting out gluten can help them move the scale in a healthier direction.
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You Might Experience Frequent Constipation
A lot of the whole-grain foods you cut out on a gluten-free diet are good sources of fiber. If you simply ditch them without compensating for the loss in other areas of your diet, your digestive system could get all out of wack which is what you were trying to avoid. By upping your intake of leafy greens and legumes, you’ll avoid this issue.
The Connection Between Gluten And Celiac Disease
Gluten is a protein found in foods that contain wheat, rye, and barley. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease in which eating gluten causes the body’s immune system to damage the small intestine, which reduces its ability to absorb virtually all nutrients.
According to the National Institute of Health, three million Americans, or 1 in every 133 people, have celiac disease, but only about 5 percent of them have been clinically diagnosed.
A related condition called gluten sensitivity or non-celiac gluten sensitivity can cause symptoms similar to celiac disease, but without the intestinal damage.
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May Help Boost Energy
People with celiac disease often feel tired or sluggish. They may also experience brain fog, which is characterized by confusion, forgetfulness, and difficulty focusing .
These symptoms may result from nutrient deficiencies caused by damage to the gut. For example, an iron deficiency can lead to anemia, which is common in celiac disease .
If you have celiac disease, switching to a gluten-free diet may help boost your energy levels and stop you from feeling tired and sluggish.
According to one literature review, people with celiac disease experienced significantly more fatigue than those without celiac disease. Not only that, but five of the seven studies included in the review concluded that following a gluten-free diet was effective at reducing fatigue (
Stop Eating Foods Prepared By Friends And Family Members
Unless you’re part of a family or a group of people with celiac or gluten sensitivity who really do know how to cook gluten-free, you’re all but guaranteed to get glutened if you eat their food. The gluten-free diet has too steep a learning curve for anyone to master it in one afternoon. Bring your own food to social events and focus on the company, not on the food.
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Action Steps: Tips For Avoiding Gluten
If you are making the commitment to avoid gluten and truly doing it for all the right reasons, you should get serious about it. You want to really focus on what it means to avoid gluten altogether. This is going to be an adjustment like anything else, but you can do it if you are truly committed. If you make this your mission you can adapt to gluten-free eating in a couple of weeks and hopefully get some relief from your challenging symptoms.
In order to make this your new way of life, here are a few tips to help you in avoiding gluten moving forward.
Gluten-free diets may be all the rage, but you know if its truly right for you. If you focus on doing it for the right reasons then you can get something out of it. If you are trying to manage your symptoms then this may be the diet for you. Understand if you truly have Celiac disease or a gluten intolerance or insensitivity and this comes from an appointment with your doctor.
A Boost In Brain Power
According to a 2019 article in Patient, “Brain fog is a general term for a set of symptoms affecting the cognitive processes. It isn’t a medical condition in itself, but rather occurs as common feature of other conditions.” Brain fog can lead to issues with memory, information processing, concentration, higher-level thought, and speaking to or understanding others. Although there are many things that could cause brain fog, if you can’t explain why your mind always feels muddled, it may be a sign of gluten intolerance, and going gluten-free could improve your mental clarity.
In a 2014 study published in Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, researchers administered a number of cognitive tests to celiac patients at regular intervals for a year following diagnosis. Individuals were tested on how well they could process information, their spatial abilities, memory, motor function, and attention. The study authors concluded that below-optimal cognitive performance in undiagnosed celiacs probably interferes with everyday tasks. They also found that, “In newly diagnosed celiac disease, cognitive performance improves with adherence to the gluten-free diet in parallel to mucosal healing.” A 2014 study of individuals with non-celiac gluten sensitivity found that 38% of individuals experienced “foggy mind.”
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How Do I Get Started With A Gluten
If youre interested in trying a gluten-free diet, talk to a physician or a registered dietitian. They can guide you toward a balanced eating plan that meets your unique nutritional needs.
Tips for making dietary changes if you have celiac disease include:
- Check for warnings on packages. Many products that dont contain gluten may have been processed in a facility where there are gluten products.
- Keep kitchen utensils, dishes and other food prep items that are used for gluten-containing foods separate from your utensils.
- Read ingredient labels carefully to check for any traces of wheat. Some artificial colors and seasonings also contain gluten.
- Substitute oat, buckwheat, quinoa or other gluten-free or alternative grain flours for wheat flour in cooking and baking.
You Might Be Able To Tolerate More Dairy
In addition to improving calcium absorption, going gluten-free can indirectly benefit bone health for those with celiac disease by making it easier to consume more calcium-rich dairy products. As Beyond Celiac explained, many people with celiac disease develop lactose intolerance because the damage the immune system does to the intestinal lining makes it difficult for the cells there to produce the enzyme needed to digest the lactose in milk and other dairy products. Following a strict gluten-free diet gives the intestinal lining a chance to heal and begin producing the necessary enzyme.
It’s important to note, however, that some degree of lactose intolerance is very common, even among people without celiac disease. According to a 2013 paper published in the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences, roughly 75% of the world’s population will become lactose intolerant at some point in their lives. This means that their bodies will no longer be able to produce enough lactase, the enzyme needed to break down and digest lactose, the sugar found in dairy products. The undigested lactose can cause a range of unpleasant symptoms, including abdominal pain and cramping, gas, bloating, and diarrhea. Severity of symptoms can vary significantly from person to person, depending on how much lactase an individual can produce and how much lactose they consume.
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Create A Balanced Fiber
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 . Remember the goal is to slowly make your way towards healthy eating habits that are sustainable in the long term!
What To Do If You Have Symptoms
If you have diarrhoea or you are vomiting, its important to keep yourself well hydrated by drinking lots of water.
Some people find that taking medication to treat constipation, diarrhoea or headaches can ease symptoms, but check with your pharmacist or GP.
The most important thing is to get back onto your gluten free diet to try to prevent further symptoms.
If your symptoms are very severe or do not improve, speak to your GP.
Coeliac UK support gluten free food safety for people with coeliac disease and gluten related conditions. To find out more, click here.
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