How Long Does Gluten Stay in Your System?

Gluten stays in your system 1 to 2 days. After that, any undigested gluten that remains in your body is excreted along with other waste products.

Depending on your underlying condition, however, it may take time before your symptoms completely resolve after you've started a gluten-free diet. People with celiac disease, for example, experience damage to the small intestine that may take 3 to 6 months to heal.

This article looks at the symptoms of gluten exposure and how long it takes to start feeling better after you've adopted a gluten-free diet. It also offers some suggestions on how to spot hidden gluten in your food.

Who Should Avoid Gluten?

If you have a diagnosis of celiac disease, gluten intolerance, or a wheat allergy, you should avoid gluten. 

If you think you might have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, it is important to see a healthcare provider before you eliminate gluten from your diet. If you have celiac disease, adopting a gluten-free diet will reduce gluten antibodies and produce a false negative blood test. This can make it much harder for your healthcare provider to diagnose the condition.

If gluten intolerance is suspected, you will need to adopt a gluten-free diet under the guidance of your healthcare provider. During the first six weeks, your healthcare provider will perform blood and skin tests to rule out other health conditions that might be causing your symptoms.

What Are The Symptoms of a Gluten Reaction?

You may experience a number of different symptoms after you eat gluten, depending on your underlying condition. Some of these symptoms are similar, which is why it's important to see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

Gluten Intolerance

Gluten intolerance can cause digestive symptoms as well as whole-body symptoms. These symptoms occur a few hours or days after you've eaten gluten and may include:

  • Abdominal pain and bloating
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Anemia
  • Joint pain
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Skin rash
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Trouble concentrating

Gluten Allergy

Exposure to gluten when you have an allergy causes different symptoms from celiac disease or gluten intolerance, though there can be some overlap. These symptoms include:

  • Sneezing and congestion
  • Headache
  • Trouble breathing
  • Hives or a rash
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Indigestion
  • Diarrhea 
  • Stomach cramps
  • Less commonly, anaphylaxis, a whole-body reaction that can be life-threatening

Celiac Disease

Celiac disease can cause symptoms that are similar to symptoms of gluten intolerance. However, these symptoms tend to be much more severe. They include:

  • Gas and bloating
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stools that are greasy, bulky, and have a foul odor
  • Fatigue
  • Joint or bone pain
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Problems with balance

How Long Until Symptoms Improve?

Many people report digestive symptom improvement within a few days of dropping gluten.

Fatigue and brain fog often start getting better in the first week or two. This is a gradual process, though.

Feeling Hungry on a Gluten Free Diet

It's common to feel constantly hungry during your first several weeks without gluten. You may want to eat all the time. Your body hasn't been able to absorb food properly for a while. So once it can, it'll try to make up for the deficit. Your ravenous appetite should eventually calm down.

Other symptoms, such as the itchy rash dermatitis herpetiformis, may take much longer to clear up.

How to Spot Hidden Gluten

common sources of gluten

Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin

It's easy to make mistakes when first going gluten-free. Gluten is in many foods, some that you may not expect. So you have to get good at reading labels.

If you feel better after a few days but then symptoms come back, it could be from hidden gluten.

Unfortunately, it's normal for your reactions to gluten—even a tiny bit of it—to get worse once you've gone gluten-free. You'll need to guard against gluten cross-contamination at all times.

That may be difficult at first. But it should be second nature before long.

Gluten By Other Names

Unless a food is labeled gluten-free, be sure to read labels and check for the following sources of gluten:

  • Wheat
  • Wheat derivatives (wheatberries, spelt, farina, durum, graham, farro, emmer, semolina, khorasan wheat, einkorn wheat)
  • Rye
  • Barley
  • Malt
  • Brewer's yeast
  • Triticale
  • Wheat starch

Foods That Normally Contain Gluten

Common foods that contain gluten include:

  • Baked goods, such as muffins, banana bread, and cookies
  • Beer
  • Bread
  • Breading
  • Cereal
  • Crackers
  • Croutons
  • Flour tortillas
  • Granola
  • Pancakes, waffles, crepes, and biscuits
  • Pasta
  • Pastries, such as pie, donuts, and rolls


You'll need to learn how to spot gluten on a food label. It's in many common ingredients, including rye, barley, malt, and wheat starch. If you're not sure why your symptoms have come back, check labels for hidden sources.


Your celiac symptoms will likely resolve at different rates when you go gluten-free. Digestive symptoms usually get better first. Next are fatigue and thinking problems. A rash and other symptoms may last much longer.

Symptoms of gluten exposure vary depending on the underlying cause. You may experience a number of different symptoms from gastrointestinal problems to whole-body symptoms.

If you have celiac disease, gluten intolerance, or a wheat allergy, it is important to read labels for gluten-containing ingredients. These can go by many names.

A Word From Verywell

Although you should start to feel better soon, most people who were very sick before diagnosis take months to feel completely "normal." Don't get discouraged if you don't bounce back immediately.

As long as you keep seeing gradual improvement, you're going in the right direction. If you don't think you're making enough progress, talk to your healthcare provider.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does it take to see results from a gluten-free diet?

    Symptoms may start to improve in days or weeks after starting a gluten-free diet. If you have a dermatitis herpetiformis rash, it'll likely take longer to improve—about six months to two years. Until then, your healthcare provider may prescribe medicine to help with the rash.

  • Are there any side effects of starting a gluten-free diet?

    Yes, side effects are possible. If you're used to eating whole-wheat foods, a major source of fiber, one side effect may be constipation. Try eating other high-fiber foods, including fruits and vegetables, brown rice, and beans.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Celiac disease.

  2. Celiac Disease Foundation. Sources of gluten.

  3. Columbia University Medical Center, Celiac Disease Center. FAQs.

  4. National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Treatment for celiac disease.

  5. Harvard Medical School, Harvard Health Publishing. Going gluten-free just because? Here's what you need to know.

Additional Reading
  • Columbia University Medical Center, Celiac Disease Center. Diet.

By Jane Anderson
Jane Anderson is a medical journalist and an expert in celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and the gluten-free diet.