You may choose to remove gluten from your diet in hopes that it will clear up some of your digestive complaints or even your neurological symptoms. Other people may choose to remove all grains from their diet to improve digestion during a complete detoxification. And yet others may be under medical orders to remove gluten indefinitely, because of a diagnosis of celiac disease. Regardless of why and how long gluten is removed, you may experience a range of symptoms---positive and negative. No collection and intensity of symptoms will be exactly the same. As with any major dietary changes, consult your health care provider first.
Consumption of gluten triggers production of exorphins, which are opiate chemicals with similar results as endorphins—promoting feelings of calm. Pamela Compart and Dana Laake explain how in some people, gluten and/or casein can mimic opiates, such as morphine and heroin. When these foods are removed, intense cravings and even drug withdrawal-like symptoms can result. According to Julia Ross in the “Diet Cure,” “going without one or more of the big-three allergy foods could land you in an unbearable withdrawal state, causing your body to start screaming like any addict’s body does without its drugs…Even one allergy-addiction can easily become a nightmare of cravings, overeating, weight gain, mood swings, and guilt.”
Weight gain or loss may result from removing gluten. Consuming allergenic food can result in water weight gain or edema as the body utilizes fluid as a protective barrier to the allergen. However, in others gluten induces weight loss from malabsorption of nutrients as a result of damage to the villi of the intestine.
Toxic Release and Skin Conditions
The worsening or development of a skin condition, such as rashes, hives, and acne signal that toxins are coming out through the skin as part of detoxification. As the burden on the liver diminishes and digestive capabilities improve by removing food allergens/sensitivities, the body may start to release and eliminate other toxins. Elizabeth Lipski writes in “Digestive Wellness” that the first four days of detoxification may result in headaches, bad breath, skin outbreaks, and other symptoms that signal that toxins are flushing out.
Additionally, acne, psoriasis, rosacea, rashes, hives, and eczema have all been correlated to food allergies and sensitivities. Elimination of problematic foods may eliminate or improve the skin condition.
Muscle and Joint Pain
When gluten is consumed with an allergy or sensitivity present, immune complexes are formed that get deposited in the joints, which results in painful inflammation, achy joints or arthralgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and other forms of arthritis such as episodic, inflammatory polyarthropathy, and Behcet’s syndrome.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs include some of the most common over-the-counter and prescription pain killers commonly used for arthritis and other pain. This group of drugs blocks production of prostaglandins, which repair the intestinal walls. According to Lipski, without prostaglandin production, a “leaky gut” may develop, which allows for undigested food particles to escape into the blood stream resulting in more pain and inflammation, as the immune system attacks the foreign particles. This discomfort may result in the use of more pain killers, which makes for an even “leakier gut” and creates a cycle of pain, inflammation and intestinal permeability.
Headaches are a common symptom from food sensitivities that commonly disappear with elimination of gluten. Brostoff and Gamlin report that 70 percent of patients with migraine headaches stop getting them with removal of allergenic foods. In fact, Jean Munro, MD found that of 282 patients with migraine headaches, all of them had food allergies or sensitivities and for over seventy percent, the food triggers were to wheat and/or dairy. Once the trigger foods were removed, the migraines stopped. Consuming nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for the pain of headaches will result in the same cycle of pain, inflammation, and intestinal permeability as explained in the muscle and joint pain section.
According to Dr. Maios Hadjivassiliou, an internationally recognized gluten researcher, gluten intolerance is manifesting as neurological symptoms instead of digestive complaints in more and more patients. Brostoff and Gamlin indicate that the most common neurological symptoms associated with food sensitivities are anxiety, depression, dizziness, confusion, hyperactivity, tension, nervousness, insomnia, emotional instability, mental exhaustion, sleepiness, lack of concentration, and memory lapses. Just as with physical symptoms, these may clear up with removal of the suspect food/s.
Infants may have a food allergy or sensitivity and according to Brostoff and Gamlin, breastfeeding mothers that eliminate gluten may diminish or eliminate colic, insomnia, and diarrhea in their infants, especially if dairy, eggs, chocolate, nuts, and fish are also removed from the diet of the mother while breastfeeding.
Bed-wetting and Incontinence
Consuming problematic foods induces smooth muscle contractions, including those on the wall of the bladder. Therefore, Brostoff and Gamlin contend that eliminating problematic foods may eliminate bed-wetting and incontinence.
Removing allergenic foods frees up the immune system to fight other attackers, such as unwanted bacteria, viruses, mold and parasites. Eliminating gluten may improve the body’s ability to deal with environmental allergens and get rid of or prevent colds.
Brostoff and Gamlin note that fatigue may be one of the most common and earliest symptoms to develop from food intolerances. Fatigue can be a result of an overextended immune system draining the adrenals.
Hot and Cold Flashes
According to Brostoff and Gamlin, food intolerances may hurt the body’s ability to self-regulate temperature, resulting in chills, sweating, and skin flushing.
Eliminating gluten may decrease or eliminate indigestion, gas, abdominal pain or cramping, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, and gastro-esophageal reflux—aka “heartburn." According to Lipski, one-third of Americans experience “heartburn” frequently, but food allergies and sensitivities are rarely considered.
- “Food Allergies and Food Intolerance: The Complete Guide to Their Identification and Treatment”; Jonathan Brostoff, MD, Linda Gamlin; 2000
- “The Diet Cure”; Julia Ross, MA; 2000
- “The Kid-Friendly ADHD & Autism Cookbook: The Ultimate Guide to the Gluten-Free, Cassein-Free Diet”; Pamela Compart, MD, Dana Laake, RDH, MS, LDN; 2009
- “Digestive Wellness”; Elizabeth Lipski, PhD, CCN; 2005
- “Lancet” journal; Treatment of Active Crohn’s Disease by Exclusion Diet: an East Anglian Multicentre Controlled Trial; Riordan AM et al.; 1993
- “The Lancet Neurology” journal; Gluten Sensitivity: From Gut to Brain; Marios Hadjivassiliou MD, David S Sanders MD, Richard A Grünewald phD, Phil, Nicola Woodroofe PhD, Sabrina Boscolo PhD, Daniel Aeschlimann PhD; March 2010