How long does it take to feel better eating gluten-free for celiac? That depends on your body and your path to diagnosis.
If you’re not seeing results after a celiac diagnosis there are a few things to consider. Things like gluten withdrawal, the celiac autoimmune response, amount of damage, how long it takes to adjust to a celiac diet, or perhaps something else entirely.
Before we dive into things that contribute to feeling better with celiac disease, let’s talk about the general timeline of healing for celiac (notice I said general, this will vary widely depending on the person).
Now that we have a general idea of when you should be feeling better, let’s dive into things that might play into how you’re feeling after going gluten-free with celiac.
If you’re feeling worse going gluten-free know that is normal. Some people report feeling withdrawal-like symptoms during the first few days or weeks of avoiding gluten. This is what people call Gluten Withdrawal.
This is not something that can be clinically proven or explained. However, enough anecdotal reports of gluten withdrawal have been collected that the celiac healthcare community largely accepts its existence.
Typically it takes a few days for gluten to “detox” out of the body. However, it can take your autoimmune system a few weeks to a few months to normalize.
If you’re concerned with how long your gluten withdrawal symptoms are lasting, let your health care team know. Feeling worse could be a sign of something more serious going on.
If you don’t feel better after eating gluten-free for celiac and it’s not gluten withdrawal, it could be a symptom of healing. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to feel better after going gluten-free.
This is because your body needs time to heal from the inflammation and damage from gluten. The time it takes to heal celiac damage depends on how severe the damage was, how quickly you adapt to a gluten-free diet, and how well your habits support healing.
And healing can cause a cascade of symptoms on its own. Symptoms like feeling super hungry, difficulty focusing, and more. In fact, as your body cues are no longer masked by bloating, constipation, nausea, pain, etc. you might find yourself frustrated.
You might feel hungry all the time, have trouble focusing, feel obsessed with food. This can be a normal response but it’s important you allow this reconnection with your body. A celiac dietitian can help with all of this.
Additionally, you might not be feeling better immediately after going gluten-free because you’re still adjusting to living gluten-free. Not only does your body need time to heal but you need time to adjust to a celiac diet (spoiler-alert, you won’t be perfect at it overnight).
This means you need time to master label reading, avoiding cross-contact, and cooking gluten-free. Not to mention adapt to all of the other ways that going gluten-free impacts you.
With label-reading, you have to get in the habit of reading labels every time before your buy. You have to get quick, efficient, and accurate in determining the safety of food.
Then comes mastering avoiding cross-contact. This means stopping gluten from touching your food at home, at restaurants, and in other people’s homes.
Lastly, you have to learn how to cook gluten-free. This can be exhausting because not only do many of your meals have to come from home, but you also have to re-learn how to cook everything.
Last by not least, you might not be feeling better after going gluten-free yet because something else is causing your symptoms.
This might be because you have unaddressed nutrient deficiencies, some other gastrointestinal conditions or you may have another autoimmune disease.
If you concerned about another autoimmune disease, check out this blog post on autoimmune diseases linked to celiac disease.
Ultimately, you’re not going to immediately feel better after going gluten-free for celiac and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you. It just means your body and you need time to adapt.
Another way to look at is that this damage and inflammation did not happen overnight, it’s built up over time. So naturally, it’s not going to go away without time.
And just like Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither will your gluten-free lifestyle skills be mastered in a day. You’ve been eating and living with gluten your whole life, it will take a minute to adapt. That’s also okay and completely normal.
I know it’s hard right now. I know you’re uncomfortable and you want to feel better. Know that time is coming. For now, keep doing your best to stay gluten-free.