How Long It Takes to Feel Better After Gluten-Free Diet

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A gluten-free diet may start easing celiac disease symptoms within a few days. But don't expect to get back to normal right away.

A compete recovery takes time. That's especially true if you had severe symptoms before diagnosis.

This article looks at when you can expect symptoms to improve, why you may feel extra hungry, how to spot hidden gluten, and what to do about nutritional deficiencies.

Symptom Improvement

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.

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

Feeling Hungry

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.

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

Recap

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.

Gluten-Free Nutrition

You may need to address celiac-caused malnutrition. Lots of people with celiac disease have vitamin and mineral deficiencies when they're diagnosed.

Those can interfere with your overall health. Symptoms depend on what nutrients you're lacking.

Talk to your healthcare provider about whether you should take supplements. If so, make sure they're gluten-free.

Summary

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.

It's normal to feel really hungry as your body tries to compensate for nutritional deficiencies. This will go away.

Read labels for gluten-containing ingredients, which go by many names.

If you have vitamin or mineral deficiencies, ask your healthcare provider whether you should take supplements.

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.

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4 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. Celiac Disease Foundation. Sources of gluten.

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

  3. National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Treatment for celiac disease. Updated October 2020.

  4. Harvard Medical School, Harvard Health Publishing. Going gluten-free just because? Here's what you need to know. Updated January 29, 2020.

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