Celiac Brain Fog + 10 Ways to Cope

Celiac brain fog is something many with celiac disease complain of. Personally, it’s one of the biggest symptoms I struggle with when I’ve been glutened.

Because it’s such a challenge, I decided to combine my personal experience as a fellow celiac and my professional experience as a dietitian specializing in celiac to bring you a guide on celiac brain fog. Here’s why this mental fog happens and 10 ways to cope with it.

Table of Contents

Celiac Brain Fog + 10 Ways to Cope​ - Tayler Silfverduk, celiac dietitian - what celiac brain fog feels like, symptoms of celiac brain fog, symptoms of gluten braing fog, signs of celiac brain fog, celiac brain fog research, what to do about brain fog

What is Celiac?

Before we get into the link between ADHD and celiac, we need to understand what celiac is.

Celiac is a serious autoimmune disease that occurs in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. When people with celiac disease eat gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and contaminated foods like oats), their body mounts an immune response that attacks the small intestine.

These attacks lead to damage to the villi, small fingerlike projections that line the small intestine, that promote nutrient absorption. When the villi get damaged, nutrients cannot be absorbed properly into the body.

This inflammatory response to gluten and related nutrient deficiencies can cause a wide variety of symptoms in people with celiac. From bloating, headaches, constipation, joint pain, bone health complications, infertility, weight gain, weight loss, and more.

This can start at any age, and occur in any body, as long as someone is eating gluten and has the celiac genes. If left untreated, celiac disease can lead to additional serious health problems.

What is Brain Fog?

Before we can get into celiac brain fog, we need to know what brain fog in general is. Generally, brain fog is used to describe symptoms that make it feel hard to concentrate or remember things quickly. Overall, things just feel harder than they should.

Brain fog can be attributed to celiac (as we will discuss further into this post), and it can be attributed to other conditions too. Not only has it been linked to celiac, but it’s been linked to other conditions like menopause, ADHD, and also long-covid.

What is Celiac Brain Fog?

As opposed to regular mental fog, celiac brain fog is a reaction to eating gluten in people with celiac. Essentially, it’s brain fog but celiac-related.

It’s not a widely accepted symptom and is generally poorly understood with celiac. Despite this, it remains one of the 300+ reported symptoms of celiac. Other symptoms include constipation, fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, bloating, headaches, and more.

While not widely accepted, it impacts many celiacs. In fact, a survey by Beyond Celiac reported that 89% of celiacs surveyed reported brain fog after eating gluten.

What Does it Feel Like?

In that same survey by Beyond Celiac on the prevalence of brain fog in celiacs, they also polled respondents on how they’d describe it. Many described their brain fog as difficulty concentrating, mental confusion, forgetfulness, detachment, and grogginess.

As a celiac who gets brains fog after eating gluten, I would describe it as everything taking more mental energy to do. Even simple tasks feel 10x harder to manage with it.

How Long Does Brain Fog Last After Eating Gluten?

It’s reported that celiac brain fog starts as soon as 30 minutes after eating gluten. It’s then reported to last anywhere from a few days to almost a week. Again, researchers don’t understand why the mental fog happens but that doesn’t discredit the fact that so many of us experience it.

It’s important to note that if your brain fog persists as you heal celiac, than it’s likely related to something else. You should feel better after healing celiac. Symptoms should only appear as you’re exposed to gluten. If you need help with self-soothing, check out this post on what to do when you’ve been glutened.

Celiac Brain Fog + 10 Ways to Cope​ - Tayler Silfverduk, celiac dietitian - what celiac brain fog feels like, symptoms of celiac brain fog, symptoms of gluten braing fog, signs of celiac brain fog, celiac brain fog research, what to do about brain fog

How to Cope With Celiac Brain Fog

Perhaps the most important part of this discussion is how do you cope with mental fog? How do you cope with everything feeling so much harder?

Here’s a list of things that I do care for myself when I have brain fog:

  • Keep a running to-do list of tasks that don’t require a lot of mental energy to do when you’re experiencing brain fog. For me, this looks like submitting blog posts into google for indexing, scrolling Pinterest for dinner ideas, responding to Instagram dms etc.
  • Prioritize – now is not the time to try to do it all. If you ever needed an excuse to take things off your to-do list, here it is. Focus on what absolutely has to get done only. For me, this might look like cooking a quick easy meal that might not be perfectly balanced but is helping make sure I’m fed when I might not otherwise be eating.
  • Try to make time for rest whenever possible. If I can schedule more frequent breaks in my workday or squeeze in a few more hours of sleep a day, I do it. Often this looks like laying bed to rest for an extra hour in the middle of the day  (when I can).
  • Move your body to wake it up. While it doesn’t completely eliminate my brain fog, doing physical activity does help me think clearer. I usually will take my dog for a walk in order to do this. But a few jumping jacks will also sometimes do the trick for me.
  • Keep your space tidy. As someone who gets easily distracted, this is essential for brain fog as my ability to get distracted increases 10 fold with it. For me, this looks like trying to take a misplaced item with me every time I leave my desk (when applicable).
  • Maintain basic self-care practices. It’s easy to let self-care habits go with brain fog but they are the most important to carry you through. Do things that fill your cup as you deal with the constant emptying of it with brain fog. For me this looks like snuggling the dogs, going for walks, taking longer showers than usual, making cozy drinks and staring out the window, etc.
  • Do a brain dump to let go of all the unnecessary information floating around in your mind. It doesn’t always work but sometimes it can help me feel more clear-minded to get everything off my chest.
  • Make sure you’re eating enough. Not only does your body need energy to heal but it needs energy to function. Make sure you’re giving your brain every chance you can to work by nourishing yourself. This looks like ensuring I have 3 meals plus snacks throughout the day
  • Keep convenience meal or freezer meals available for times like this. Times where you just don’t have the energy or the mental space to figure out what to eat. I always have gluten-free chicken tenders and gluten-free pizza in my freezer.
  • Be gentle with yourself. Things are harder and your brain power is low. Remember to show yourself some grace as you go about your day.

Those are the tips I have for managing brain fog with celiac. I want to acknowledge that many of these require a decent amount of privilege and I’m holding space for any option that might seem inaccessible. It’s hard living in a capitalistic society with chronic illness.


Celiac brain fog is common with celiacs. However, it should resolve within 2-3 weeks of gluten exposure. And if it’s a symptom of your intestinal damage, it should improve as you heal. If it’s not getting better, it might be time to talk to a celiac specialist about what else could be going on.

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