“I’m Starting A Gluten Free Diet. When Will I Feel Better?”

One of the more frequent questions that I see in my email runs something like this:

“I’m about to start a gluten free trial because I think it may help with some of the symptoms I’ve been suffering with for years. What I don’t know, and I don’t know who else to ask, is when I should expect to see improvements. How long should I do a trial? A couple of weeks? A couple of months?”

I don’t have a great answer to this question. I’m not a medical expert of any sort, so all I can offer is my personal experience which won’t be all that helpful unless you have a wheat allergy that manifests in your gut (in which case, I felt better in three days). What I do have is an email list of thousands of people who for one reason or another are interested in a gluten free diet. So, I’m going to throw this question out to all of you. I’m sure that collectively we can answer this question.

So, if you’d like to help this person (and many others) out, add a comment to this post describing your symptoms, your diagnosis (if you have one) and how long it took you to see relief of your symptoms. I’d love to get a ton of answers from all of you and then compile it into one post, or a small free e-booklet full of anecdotal evidence of a gluten free (or gluten-free plus) diet making you feel better.


  1. Hi, Diane. The thing about the ‘cheating’ is that it takes weeks/months to really heal from damage done by gluten, if you’re allergic or intolerant. That’s why just a little cheating is so undermining to the GF diet. I’ve never heard of acid reflux as being a symptom of gluten intolerance/allergy. It’s so awful to have a chronic issue affecting your life and no one knows how to help you. I’m assuming you already do stuff like raising the head of your bed and using some kind of acid blocker. Best of luck to you…………..

  2. Hi Joey and Jeanne, Thanks for your sound advice etc. It certainly helps to read about other people’s experiences and symptoms. At least it’s makes it a bit better to tolerate if you understand what’s causing the problems knowing that other people have felt the same. As far as the detoxing symptoms go I certainly had a “brain fog” a few days ago. I was in Dr’s surgery and couldn’t remember my address when the receptionist asked me. My mind was a total blank. I will keep looking into this forum and will maybe be able to give some advice to someone at some point.

  3. My best advice is “don’t ever give up”. Research and learn all you can about ways you can take care of yourself. I am convinced that I’m doing as well as I am because I keep learning and can take my questions to other patients or support groups or sites such as this. The medical community is important, but they have limited knowledge of how you feel, how your daily life is impacted, and practical solutions to coping. I use them for what they are best at but don’t count on them for everyday practical advice.

  4. Oh, no. Last night I started feeling bad. Today I’ve felt awful. Bad cramping/bloating/gas, nausea, migraine, brain fog. Trouble sleeping last night. It was my husband who said, ‘maybe you’ve been glutened’. First time it’s happened since I went GF a few months ago and had such a dramatic improvement in my health. And I’ve been so careful! I think I actually know what happened. Ate in our friend’s restaurant—he’s very determined to make sure I get no gluten. I hadn’t the last time I ate there. But this time I think they fried my pakoras in the same oil that they fried the samosas–that’s my best guess. Besides that, I’ve eaten at home, so I know all the other foods I’ve eaten recently were safe. But this really shows me that, yes, in case there was still any doubt, that is what my problem was/is, and that I really do need to be as careful as I have been being. Next time I’ll skip the pakora. I can make them at home myself. My question for all of you is: when will I feel better? Is there anything I can do to speed the process of feeling better? Worked this morning (whole morning of piano students) while feeling dreadful. Need to work tomorrow morning too (choir director, etc.) I’d love your advice, friends!

    • Kimberly says:

      I hope you’r starting to feel a little better! Being “poisoned” is horrible!! For me, it can be 2 to 7 days. The only advice I have is to drink as much water as you can stand, and drink ginger tea. Traditional Medicinals makes a digestive tea that soothes tummys. Or grate some fresh ginger and pour boiling water over it. Good luck!!

  5. My house manager developed rheumatoid arthritis, and during her internet research, she kept coming across references made by others with this horrible autoimmune disease that they’d been allergic to dairy as kids. She was allergic to dairy as a child as well. I called an elderly aunt of mine with RA, the worst case I’ve ever seen, and she, too, was deathly allergic to dairy as a child. Definitely a probable connection, at least in my opinion, so people with food allergies may be unwittingly inviting life threatening autoimmune conditions if they continue to eat the offenders.

    To support my dear friend, I encouraged her to give up dairy by giving up dairy with her. Please note that I had no idea I had a dairy sensitivity. I’d had diarrhea for years and thought it was just “normal” for me. I also had other symptoms, which I’ll list in a moment. Anyway, long story short, I’d ordered a new diet plan, and in the book, the symptoms of gluten intolerance were listed. I was like, what? I could be a poster person for gluten intolerance! I had every symptom. So I essentially gave up both dairy and gluten at about the same time. Symptoms: horrific leg cramps, leg muscle weakness, severe itchy skin with no visible rash (I’d wake up to find I’d scratched myself bloody, and the itching moved to my back, which was miserable), diarrhea, abdominal cramping, flatulence, heart irregularity, headaches, brain fog, and on and on. To my surprise, after I gave up dairy and gluten, the symptoms all went away. I cannot recall now how long it took, but I believe I saw a huge difference in a week. The diarrhea left. The itching stopped. The leg cramps that awakened me at night and left me limping the next day vanished. I have been totally gluten and dairy free for over a year, except for a couple of exposures, both times because someone cooked for me and I didn’t want to offend the person by refusing to eat. And, oh, boy did I ever pay for it! Once was at a friend’s house who made risotto, which I can usually have without a problem because parmesan cheese doesn’t seem to bother me as other dairy products do. Problem was, my friend made the risotto with barley. I ate a small amount and filled my plate around it with safe foods. But that small amount still got me. About two hours later, I was doubled over with abdominal cramps, awakened in the middle of the night to leg cramps, and just generally felt sick all over. Not worth it. The other time, I’d had surgery on my shoulder, and my dear son came to cook dinner for us. He made a fabulous nacho/cheese dish. The chips weren’t gluten free, and the cheddar cheese was thick. I ate it. I mean, how can you not eat something when someone makes such a special effort, driving for an hour and then hitting the kitchen to feed you? In about thirty minutes, I could feel my heart bouncing all over the place. Later, stomach complaints. Leg cramps that night. Diarrhea the following day.

    I have read that most people who are intolerant to dairy are also intolerant to gluten, and vice versa. I believe that is true in many cases. I am extremely sensitive to both dairy and gluten, yet I lived to the age of 62 without realizing I was. I wish now that I’d given up dairy for many weeks before cutting out the gluten because to this day, I’m not certain which one causes what. I think many of my symptoms occur with both of them.

    One night I woke up hungry and decided to have some cereal. My rice milk was out in the garage and our security system was set, so I stupidly decided to have my cereal with regular milk. Hello, I indulged for years. It couldn’t be that bad. Right? The cereal was gluten free. I awakened in the night with a cramp in my thigh that left me limping for days, and in the morning, I had projectile diarrhea. But slips into gluten land can produce similar reactions. I just need to avoid both of them. Since my two slips with gluten, which produced horrid reactions, I have never indulged again. I will never eat gluten simply to avoid hurting someone’s feelings again!

    An interesting note: My cholesterol last September was over the top at 319. I blamed the cholesterol medication for my leg cramps, so I had stopped taking it. Shortly thereafter, I removed gluten and dairy from my diet. In doing so, I find that I indulge in more high-fat things than I ever did prior–mayonnaise instead of fat-free sour cream, homemade coconut yogurt, and other things. My cholestorol as of this last week has, despite my sins, dropped an amazing amount, down to 261. It still needs to drop more, but hello, what have I done differently? I got online and did some research. Food sensitivites cause inflammation in the body, and the body reacts by producing LDL to heal the inflammations. When the inflammation goes away, the bad cholesterol usually drops. If you believe you may be sensitive to gluten, dairy, or whatever else, do you have high cholesterol? I found this perk of lowering mine without medication amazing. And, now that I’m dairy and gluten free, I am trying Crestor again. We’ll see if my muscle pain and weakness returns, but I don’t believe it will. I think most of my symptoms were from the foods I ate.

    To the lady who got sick from a gluten slip, I think you’ll feel better within five days. I usually do. But every body is different–reacting either more quickly to slips or reacting a bit more slowly, and depending on how your body deals with the poisoning, it can take varying periods of time to recover.

    A word to the wise: If you suspect you may be sensitive to a food, you probably are. I didn’t suspect, and I am now so glad I experimented with dietary changes! What a difference it has made in my life!

  6. My GI symptoms went away almost immediately. I started noticing increased energy in the gym after about two months and now at three months I’m noticing more definition in my muscles despite not changing my diet much, not changing my work outs and not losing any weight. I’ve also seen an increase in libido.

    My sensitivity isn’t as bad as most. The low concentration of gluten in dressings and other condiments doesn’t bother me.

  7. I’ve been GF for just about a month now. I had abdominal cramping and pain, bloating, gas, migraines, brain fog, leg pain, joint pain, muscle weakness, migraines, extreme fatigue, and the list goes on. I have been diligent in making sure I’m not eating gluten but I have yet to see any improvement at all in my health. I started this challenge because I thought that I may have had a sensitivity to gluten, but since I’ve been doing it a month and have seen no results whatsoever, apparently i was wrong, so I’m thinking about re-introducing it back into my diet.

    • Hi Christina, thanks for writing that. I am in a similar situation. I have all the symptoms but after 2.5 weeks of no gluten, I don’t feel like its made any difference. Its so frustrating as even though the gluten free life isn’t as easy as just eating whatever is available, the slight inconvenience would be well worthwhile if it made the symptoms go away. I’m going to stick it out for the month then if still nothing, reintroduce a bit at a time to see if maybe it has done something but its the case of only noticing when things get worse, not better. I’d love to hear how you go. Good luck.

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