Gluten Diet Cheating

Answers from a Gluten Doctor – Part 5: Gluten Symptoms & Diet Cheating

Dr Vikki PetersenWith a holiday weekend coming up some of us may be tempted to stray from our gluten-free diets.  What is it about holidays that make us think we can do or eat things we would not ordinarily do or eat?

Read what Dr. Vikki Petersen has to say about how this affects us and answers a puzzling question as to why some of us notice symptoms from gluten so much more AFTER taking gluten out of our diet.

Ok so here’s a question particularly dear to me. Before I knew I was gluten intolerant I ate a diet that consisted of mainly wheat products – bagels, pasta, bread, etc. I didn’t really notice any symptoms immediately after eating gluten back then but now if I have the tiniest bit of it I can tell, I immediately get bloated, headachy and what I can only think of as allergy symptoms like sneezing, runny eyes, etc. I remember you telling me long ago that when it came to eating “the better you are the better you have to be” can you explain?

Here’s an analogy: If you had a tub of muddy water and you added more mud would it make a big difference? What if you had a tub of pristinely clean and clear water? Now add some mud. You would notice that mud more in the second example, right?

Similarly when you have been eating gluten your intestine (or another system such as your nervous system) is typically inflamed. Adding more inflammation isn’t necessarily noticed. It’s difficult to “feel” malabsorption or nervous system inflammation. You just know that you’re tired or you get headaches or PMS. But because those symptoms aren’t a tummy ache or instant bloating you don’t associate them with food.

Once you remove gluten from your diet your body begins to heal. It becomes more like that clean, clear tub of water. After many months of being off gluten, ingestion of it can cause quite a dramatic response. Why? Because now that your body has healed somewhat it can give you feedback of what it “thinks” about this substance gluten. Inflaming healthy tissue often gives a more noticeable response.

We see this time and time again and it always results in the same question as you have posed: “Now that I’m behaving why does my body have such a dramatic response when I have just a little gluten?”

The good news is that it shows you have been diligent staying away from it and you ARE healing.

Unfortunately the counter is true as well. If you were to continue eating gluten again despite that initial intense response, those symptoms would abate, giving you a very false sense of security. The waters have once again become so muddy that you cannot discern the addition of more mud!

To your good health,

Dr Vikki Petersen

Founder of Root Cause Medical Clinic
Co-author of “The Gluten Effect”

OK, so that answers my question and it is personally good to know that the symptoms I get when I accidentally eat something with gluten in it are actually a good sign.

So for the sake of your body, resist the urge to break your gluten-free diet this weekend (or ever for that matter) and have a GREAT holiday!

Don’t forget, if you have a specific question you would like answered by Dr. Vikki about gluten free diet, leave it in the comments section.

Tags: Answers Celiac Diet Doctor Dr. Vikki Petersen Gluten Sensitivity Healing
  1. Deanna
    April 3, 2010

    When I did my 2 week gluten challenge before my celiac test, I completely noticed this. The first week sucked – every time I ate gluten I was miserable. By the end of the second week, I was functional and couldn't really notice a huge change after my daily dose of gluten. It's scary to think how quickly we learn to just live with feeling like crud.

  2. 3 Peanuts
    April 4, 2010

    I love these posts….I am still wondering if it is okay for someone who is sensitive to gluten to cheat occasionally. I do not have celiac (have had the genetic testing) but definitely have a sensitivity. I generally eat gf and dairy free but have the occasional gluten at a restaurant or party.

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