Going Gluten-Free for 2 Weeks, Will I Feel Better?

Jenni askes:

I have not been tested for gluten allergy, but it is suspected. I am trying to avoid gluten to see if it helps me to feel better. I have found this to be very difficult. I never knew there was gluten in so many items (salad dressing, for example). Unless the above person really did his/her research, isn’t it possible that they may come across some gluten (or cross contamination) throughout that two week trial? This could account for there not being any change in symptoms.

I am finding that on the whole, I think I do feel better and have more energy. However, I still have episodes of diarrhea. I am guessing that I still am getting small traces of gluten somewhere. (That salad I had at McDonald’s, for instance). I did have one day in which I had almost normal bowel movements. It was wonderful. I was like, “So this is how the rest of the world feels 24/7? WOW!” But then, diarrhea the next day.

I’m still trying to stay hopeful. Looking for advice as to what I can cook for myself (and family of 4 children + husband) that will not be too shocking for them. I know it is a lifestyle change, and I need to learn how to cook differently. I guess I just am feeling overwhelmed and do not know where to begin.

Any suggestions you may have would be greatly appreciated.   


Let’s answer your questions/comments one at a time.  First, going gluten-free for 2 weeks may help you to feel better if gluten is the problem.  However, even if you do have a gluten intolerance or the more severe Celiac Disease, it will take your villi (tiny hair like protrusions in the intestines that absorb all the nutrients that the body needs) longer than 2 weeks to heal.

When you have a Celiac Disease, the villi in the intestine becomes flat and your intestines become like the inside of a garden hose, totally smooth.  Which means your body cannot absorb the nutrients it needs to stay healthy, and food just passes right through.  (The reason for the diarrhea.)

A Celiac needs to have gluten completely out of their body for at least 6 weeks for the villi to heal.  So even though you are eating gluten free, you may still have bouts of diarrhea, just because your villi is damaged.

You want to remember that if you are planning to be tested sometime in the future, you need to be eating gluten in order to have a correct positive or negative.  Check out my post here for more on that.

Cross contamination is a real concern, and not just when eating out.  I talk about it in my cookbook.  Basically, if it touched something with gluten in it, it’s contaminated.  If it’s something you can wash easily with soap and water, you can use it on both glutenous and gluten-free foods.  Example, a skillet yes, a toaster, no.  You can’t wash the toaster so you’ll need 2.

As for cooking for yourself and your family, don’t over think this.  There are so many foods that are naturally gluten free.  Potatoes, vegetables, meat, as long as they are fresh, or not processed, you’re good.  Watch out for the other ingredients, such as broth, or marinades and such.

Check out my list of right off the shelf products here.

I hope this helped.

Update:  August 22, 2011

The following comment was left on the same post as Jenni’s comment.  You can find that post here.  But Agnes’ comment had such good information I wanted to add it to this post.

I have been gluten free for over 2 years. The first year was bumpy, because I was not very careful about what I ate. I was mostly gluten free, but not absolutely. During that time I paid a heavy price for not being so careful, and I learned my lesson. I became a “Gluten Detective” which meant that I had to question everything I ate. I had to make sure I only put something in my mouth if I was absolutely sure that it wasn’t contaminated. I bought my own toaster, my own kitchen implements kept separately, and my own colander. I marked everything GF for my family to recognize and not to use them for “regular” cooking. I had to do regular updates and mini seminars on what can contaminate my diet: f.ex. bread crumbs flying everywhere from crusty bread.
I had also discovered (by going to all the major fast food sites) that all fastfood fries are coated with wheat flour. I can’t eat at any of these places now. I discovered many foods which have a disclaimer that “this product was manufactured in a facility that also produces wheat products”, so that was eliminated too from my diet. I couldn’t be sure if what I was eating was one of the first off the line, in which case it would be contaminated. It takes a lot of research to know the sources of gluten in your food, but now I can say, that all the work was worth it. I didn’t know for a long time, that soy sauce, the favorite ingredient in Chinese food also contains wheat! So, out went Chinese food!
I also didn’t know, that even without obvious symptoms, a person without overt symptoms is developing intestinal damage, unless they go on a gluten free diet for life. And it takes about a month to 6 weeks for the intestinal villi to regenerate themselves. And then, begin the job of properly absorbing the nutrients from food. This disease manifests itself in very underhanded way. A lot of people get treated for psychological diagnosis before the true cause is discovered.



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