Gluten withdrawal is primarily indicated for patients diagnosed with Celiac disease, which is often called gluten-sensitive enteropathy or nontropical sprue. The mucosa of the small intestine in these people cannot tolerate gluten, which is a substance found in wheat, oats, rye, and barley. Gluten withdrawal is particularly a difficult mode of treatment, as most of the products that need to be avoided are staple foods.
- Abdominal distention
- Fat malabsorption
- Weight loss
- Nutritional deficiencies. These can result in osteopenia, oesteoporosis, inadequate blood coagulation, easy bruising of the skin, iron deficiency anemia, and macrocytic anemia.
Gluten Withdrawal Symptoms
Because substances containing gluten are considered staple foods, removing them from the diet can cause temporary withdrawal symptoms.
- Increased irritability and change in mood and behavior. Gluten contains peptides which are theorized to bind to opiate receptors in the brain. Withdrawal from gluten can cause symptoms similar to withdrawal from addictive substances.
- Intense food cravings. A shift from carbohydrate to fat as fuel source propels intense cravings for products such as breads and cakes.
- Fatigue, insomnia, and brain fog. The opioids compounds found in gluten lower serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which are essential for increased brain function.
How Long Does Gluten Withdrawal Last
Once gluten is removed from the diet, symptoms gradually improve during the following weeks and months. The shortest period reported was about 2 weeks. A long period of time is needed for the intestinal mucosa to return to its near normal condition. If gluten is not eliminated from these patients’ diets, malabsorption of essential nutrients will continue to occur. Unfortunately, medical nutrition therapy requires lifelong avoidance of gluten for those who desire to maintain their asymptomatic state.
Gluten Withdrawal Treatment
Patients may find it particularly difficult to avoid gluten-containing grains and products. These are used as emulsifiers, thickeners, and as other additives in commercially processed foods. Patients must become ardent label readers. Food products have nutrition labels that can help patients keep away from unintentional recurrence of symptoms. The following sources of gluten must be avoided:
- Commercially breaded meats, fish, and poultry
- Grain and grain products
- Commercially breaded vegetables
- Commercial gravies, white and cream sauces
- Canned soups, dried soup mixes, and soup bases
- Commercial cakes, cookies, pastries, and ice cream cones
- Milk beverages that contain malt, beer, ale, and lager
- Soy sauce