Last updated on October 5th, 2023.
A gluten free diet really can change your life. After all, eating gluten free has numerous health benefits for your current health and your health in the future. But because eating gluten free is such a specific diet, this may leave some people wondering where they should start.
Eating completely gluten free is not easy, and when you are first starting, it can be helpful to have someone guide you through the process. You will also notice many changes happening to your body, some of which may confuse you.
Whether you are struggling with your first completely gluten-free diet or are considering starting to eat gluten-free, keep reading to find out more information that you should know before eating gluten-free.
What Does it Mean to Eat Gluten Free?
Eating a gluten free diet essentially means that you will eat a diet of foods that do not contain gluten. While there are several obvious foods, like breads and pastas, that you will need to avoid, there are also many other foods that you may not realize contain gluten that you will also have to stop eating.
First of all, all wheat grains or are associated with wheat need to be avoided. This does include Barley, Rye, and in some cases, Oats. But other ingredients might contain gluten, such as modified food starch or different types of yeast. This means that someone who is on a gluten free diet must learn to read labels carefully.
When someone has celiac disease, they will need to remove gluten from their diets in all shapes and forms. This will include anything that has traces of gluten or is processed on the same equipment as products containing gluten.
What Are the Side Effects of Eating Gluten Free Food?
Although transitioning to a gluten free diet is a positive thing for many people, there are a few changes or side effects that you may notice when you stop eating gluten. Most of these are things to look forward to, but there are a few things you may see that might concern you.
Your Weight Might Change
When someone has a gluten allergy or celiac and eats gluten, this prevents their body from getting the nutrients they need. This means that eating a gluten free diet may cause someone to gain weight rather than lose it. Not to mention that many gluten free diets can be higher in vegetable fats than other comparable diets—and this too can cause weight gain.
You’ll React More When You Do Have Gluten
Before you go gluten free, your body is used to having gluten, which means that it is better able to tolerate it. Once you go completely gluten free, your body will lose this tolerance, and you will find that even the smallest amounts of gluten can have a huge effect on you.
You Might Be Less Lactose Intolerant
Your intestines are responsible for digesting dairy. So when they are destroyed because gluten is causing damage to your intestines, you might notice an improvement when you stop eating gluten. Of course, you should still be cautious, however, and don’t add dairy back into your diet without consulting a doctor first.
Your Diet Might Be Lacking Fiber
Breads, and other gluten-containing products, are a major source of fiber in your diet. This means that when you cut out the gluten, you might find some unpleasant side effects indicating you have not had enough fiber. Remedy this by upping your intake of non-gluten fibers when you go gluten free.
You Might Still Have a Nutritional Imbalance
Although going gluten free will help correct any nutritional balance from malabsorption of nutrients when you drastically change your diet, you may end up missing key nutrients without noticing it. If you suspect you are missing any key nutrients or may be suffering from an unbalance of nutrients, it’s important to talk to your doctor.
If I Have a Gluten Allergy What Happens if I Eat a Bit of Gluten?
When you have a gluten allergy, the side effects you may experience when you eat gluten will vary based on your personal experience. Some people experience serious side effects with even just a small bit of gluten, while others only have problems over time.
People who are very sensitive to gluten will likely notice a stomach upset when they have a small amount of gluten while on a gluten free diet. You may feel nauseated, or you may vomit or experience diarrhea. Other people experience constipation. The effects can last for a single day or an extended period after ingesting the gluten.
Other people don’t have digestive symptoms but instead feel tired, lethargic, anxious, or depressed. They may also get a rash on their skin or experience numbness or tingling in various places around their body. You may experience both mental and physical effects when you eat gluten.
Even if you don’t experience immediate effects when you eat gluten, it is highly likely that you will experience long-term side effects. These include conditions like inflammation, anemia, osteoporosis, and issues with infertility. You may also develop or experience a worsening of an auto-immune disease.
What Happens to Your Body When You Quit Gluten?
Many people associate a gluten free diet with weight loss, but as mentioned above, this isn’t always the case. There are several changes you will notice in your body when you decide to quit gluten. The exact changes you will experience will vary based on your lifestyle and body.
You Might Be Constipated
Gluten-containing foods like bread often also provide important fiber in your diet. This means that when you quit eating gluten, you may notice that your bowels go through a change. This can be uncomfortable for some people, so be sure you are getting enough fiber from other sources.
You May Suffer Withdrawal Symptoms
Not only do many gluten-containing foods have fiber, but many of them are processed and contain excess amounts of sugar and fat. These three ingredients combined can create addiction in some people. And when these people cut gluten out of their diets, they will have symptoms of withdrawal.
Symptoms of withdrawal include nausea, fatigue, muscle cramps, and even headaches. If you find yourself needing to detox from gluten, you should be sure you are drinking plenty of water and avoiding strenuous activity, as these activities will make this period more difficult.
Your Weight Could Go Back and Forth
As previously mentioned, you should not expect to lose weight on a gluten free diet. You may lose weight, but you also may gain weight when you change how you are eating. What is even more common is weight that goes back and forth—as you will gain and lose a few pounds as your body (and you!) adjusts to the new foods it is taking in.
You Will Have More Energy
If you are always feeling lethargic now, you will be shocked by how much better you feel when you stop eating gluten. This is because digestion requires a lot of energy, especially when you are constantly eating something your body can’t process. When you remove the thing it can’t process from the equation, this means you will have extra energy to put towards other activities.
You May Feel Hungrier
One of the reasons that people commonly gain weight when they first embark on a gluten free diet is because they typically feel hungrier at first. This isn’t because bread filled you up, so to say, but rather because wheat was making you nauseous before, and you didn’t notice. Suddenly you will be able to eat much more than before.
Not to mention that several gluten free foods have a large amount of sugar in them. Be sure to keep an eye on how much you are eating various foods and when.
You Will Have Mental Clarity
The number one change that people report when they quit gluten is that they have more mental clarity. This is because their body is wasting less energy fighting your food, and you will finally be getting the proper nutrition that they need. So don’t be surprised when you can suddenly focus better and think more clearly than ever before.
How Long Does it Take to Detox From Gluten?
Perhaps you’ve already begun your gluten free journey and already noticed that you are suffering from withdrawal symptoms. This may leave you wondering just how long you can expect to detox before you feel normal not eating gluten.
The truth is, how long it will take you to detox from eating gluten will depend on several factors. The main ones are how much gluten you’ve been eating and how frequent you’ve been eating it. Those who consume large amounts of gluten every day will have a more difficult time quitting gluten than those who only eat it occasionally.
And don’t forget that genetics also play a factor in how easy it is or is not to quit eating gluten. For most people, the detox stage only lasts a week or two. But for some people, it can take almost a month before they stop experiencing the withdrawal symptoms.
If you are struggling to quit eating gluten, it may be worthwhile to give tapering a try. This is where you eliminate gluten from your diet bit by bit instead of going cold turkey. The only problem with this tactic is that you won’t experience any of the benefits of a gluten free diet while you are tapering.
If you’ve been on a gluten-free diet for an extended period of time, and you have found that you have accidentally consumed gluten, it will not take near as long to re-detox as it takes the first time around. This is because once your body is used to not having gluten, it is much easier to get it back to that state.
Eating gluten free means you no longer eat any foods that contain gluten. Changing to a gluten free diet is not an easy task. You will likely notice some withdrawal symptoms, as well as your body changing in ways that you wouldn’t expect. But despite all the negative aspects of going gluten free, there are still several positive side effects that are worth quitting gluten for.
If you have just gone gluten free and are struggling, remember that your symptoms are only for a brief period of time before you will start to feel better. And once you get through the initial detox, if you accidentally eat gluten again, it will not be near as bad as your first time transitioning to your new diet.