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What Does It Feel Like To Be 'Glutened'?

Erica Dermer
5 minutes
Published:
Updated:
September 14, 2020
September 11, 2020

There are many terms that those with celiac disease call an incident of accidentally consuming gluten. Most call this “getting glutened,” a “gluten attack”, or “gluten poisoning”. Many even call this a “gluten hangover”.

What are some common symptoms after being 'glutened'?

In fact, there can be over 300 symptoms of celiac disease. Everyone has a different experience, so it’s no wonder that it can be confusing when trying to pin-point what’s going on with your body.

Symptoms are often widely varied, but for the most part, include gastrointestinal symptoms, neurological symptoms, and emotional problems. Common complaints after a gluten exposure include:

  • Diarrhea 
  • Constipation
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Mood swings/feeling mean 
  • Numbness
  • Fatigue
  • Skin issues/rashes/ulcers
  • Headache/migraine
  • Joint pain
  • Inflammation 

We asked an online group of those with celiac disease to describe what it’s like to be glutened:

Gastrointestinal

“Instant bloating and stomach cramping” - Kristin
“It feels like crunching glass in my stomach” - Kari
“My daughter gets flu-like symptoms with lots of nauseousness and vomiting, a fever, and totally taken out for several days. When this happens we typically go to urgent care to get her anti-nausea medication and it totally helps, thankfully.” - Karie
“Within an hour I feel like the exorcist with uncontrolled vomiting then the diarrhea and pain that causes you to curl up in a fetal position.” - Stephanie


Emotional

“I become a very mean person” - Kristin
“I sometimes get really really grumpy, almost mean. It’s an awful feeling and I have to put myself in timeout when that happens” - Cathleen
“Brain fog, then descends into a severe suicidal depression for about a day.” - Wendy


Neurological

“It's scratching your skin raw and bloody in your sleep to stop the itchy rashes.” - Kirsten 
“Within a half hour I lose motor function. I can't walk or sit up straight. It's as if my spine turns to jello. I slur my words.” - Bethany


Headache

“Within 30 minutes of being glutened, I start with a headache that progressively turns into a full blown migraine. I also start vomiting. My head typically feels like it’s going to explode. On a particularly bad night, I woke up my mother because I wanted her to know that if I died in my sleep it’s because my head felt like it was literally going to burst. I was that scared.” - Jacqueline
“Feels like my head is being clamped in a white-hot vice” - Wendy


Brain Fog

“Within two hours I get a headache and major stomach issues along with brain fog. I hate the fog, it lasts at least a month and I become forgetful and zoned [out].” - Stephanie
“Extreme vertigo and brain fog. I have to go immediately to bed to try to sleep it off. Usually feel better, but feel hung over the next day. It’s scary. I am always scared I’m having a stroke.” - Linda


Fatigue

“So tired that I lay there thinking I want to lift your arm, but not being able to do it.” - Olena
“Symptoms take a full 24 hours to dissipate and then I feel hungover and exhausted for another 24 hours. It’s terrible.” - Jacqueline


Joint Pain

“Entire body joint pain is the worst thing ever. I can feel it roll down my body and I know I’m in for several miserable days.” - Phyllis
“For about five days after the inflammation in my joints is so bad and so painful walking is difficult to impossible. Everything hurts. Even my hair follicles.” - Jen
“I often sleep for 18 hours straight with brief wake ups from what feels like a hot dagger being driven into my joints where my leg and hip connect.” - Lori


Mouth Ulcers

“Seven days after I eat gluten, I get huge mouth ulcers all over my mouth and tongue. They make it hard to talk and eat.” - Erica 
“...Later comes the break out of eczema, mouth ulcers, fatigue, general not feeling well at all.” - Kelli

Summary of common gluten exposure symptoms

How long after eating gluten will I get sick?

The timing of gluten exposure can be varied. Some may have more immediate, allergy-like reactions as soon as gluten is ingested. Others may have delayed reactions, up to weeks after the exposure. Some may not have any reaction at all - and those are asymptomatic or “silent” celiacs.


If I don’t have any symptoms after eating gluten, is it safe? 

As a celiac, you should never cheat. Even if you have minimal symptoms, consistently eating gluten can cause long-term damage. While you may think that you’re free from symptoms, some celiacs are affected days, weeks, and even months later. Whatever the timeline, it’s encouraged to keep an eye out for ongoing patterns to give you clues that you may have consumed something questionable.


The Bottom Line

While every celiac has a unique reaction to gluten, they tend to be grouped into gastrointestinal, neurological and inflammatory issues. These issues can eventually lead to long-term damage in the intestinal villi and lead to severe health consequences. Regardless of reaction, those with celiac disease should avoid consuming gluten and cross contact when possible.

If you think that you have an issue with gluten and you have not been tested for celiac disease, consider the imaware™ at-home screening test for celiac disease.

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Erica Dermer

Consumer & Patient Engagement at imaware™

Erica is as a food & wellness expert with an established reputation as a celiac & autoimmune disease influencer. Writing, editing, appearing on TV and publishing her own book, Erica campaigns and supports those with autoimmune diseases using everything she has learned through her career and living life with celiac disease.