Gluten withdrawal, feel awful! Is this normal?


I'm a week into gluten free diet. I'm trialling this on the advice of a nutrionalist, naturopath and many of you. Although I have never had any digestive issues, I do have thyroid antibodies. I've been trying to have another baby for quite a while now too and so thought it was worth a try to reduce inflammation in my body.

I'm feeling absolutely exhausted! Did anyone else experience this after giving up gluten? My TSH is really good, under 1, Other vitamins etc all good and I'm still supplementing with good quality stuff. Eating well, making sure I'm having plenty of protein, fresh fruit and veg as always. Trying not to eat "gluten free" products, bread etc, prefer to have whole foods such as brown rice.


18 Replies

  • In my experience we eat carbs when hungry and tired and I wonder if you're just finding more protein and lower gi stuff on your plate now. I have tried to eat lower carb and up to a point don't miss it at all then below a certain level I feel I can't function. The carbs you are eating are likely to be more complex and harder to digest (brown foods). Unless this is just a variation on your normal diet, in which case I have no explanation for it.

    Are you spending an unusual amount of time planning and preparing meals? Any diet adjustment takes up a lot of mental and emotional bandwidth until you're used to it.

    I hear people talk about having a physical adjustment period after going gf but that didn't happen to me. I was very tired at the time and missed the quick, easy energy of bread and cereals but brown rice, lentils etc made up for it.

  • Puncturedbicycle, I'm glad to hear the first part of this post, I also struggle if i go very low carb. I did read somewhere that it's difficult for hypos, but can't remember why :p

  • I am remembering something to do with possibly producing inadequate amounts of lipase and protease enzymes to digest fats and proteins properly and insufficient stomach acid? My protein intake certainly went up going GF and food sat like lead. Shortly after I tried HCL and digestive enzymes to try and ease a bad reflux problem, turns out didnt need the acid but the enzymes 'cured' both problems🤗🤗

  • I felt like I was bleeding to death - weak, poor cognition, a kind of haze over everything like I was greying out. I was also desperately hungry and eating constantly. I can't stomach the idea of eating loads of fat on its own so it is possible I just wasn't eating enough but I was eating constantly so it seems unlikely. When I get to a certain point it seems like eating all the low-carb food in the world won't help, it is a carb-specific feeling.

    I have failed at this more than once so it is very possible I don't give the fat thing a proper go because I know I'm going to eventually feel so bad I'm going to go back to eating normally.

    I suspect if you're right about hypo people struggling w this it is something to do w depleting your t3. I got that catatonic feeling you get when your thyroid levels are low and all you can do is sit around w your mouth hanging open.

    Over time I've been pretty successful controlling my weight w a Weight Watchers-style diet (I lost 3.5st on WW many years ago and largely kept it off). I don't need a lot of starch at mealtimes - for me the ideal diet is 2/3 green non-starchy veg - so my point is I don't live on cereal/potatoes/rice but I can't seem to get beyond a point w carbs.

  • When I was trying for lower carb it was a feeling I think is hypoglycemia. Light headed, confused, general feeling of discomfort, and when I needed to eat it quickly became desperate.

    I now eat a tiny piece of toast as Part of my breakfast, and maybe some oatcakes in the evening. I rarely have rice, pasta or that kind of thing.

    AlthoughI do love fat! Mackerel, avocados, lots of nuts, roast meats. I even have pork belly most weeks now :p

  • Yes, same here w the feeling of desperation. The first time I tried it I found myself chewing through a plastic packet of raw vegetarian sausages in the bus queue, panicking for something to eat. This was after spending the day eating nuts, prawns etc all blinking day.

    I like fat too, but what I mean is when the low-carb forums say if you feel hungry and you haven't eaten enough fat just add some coconut oil to your coffee, eat some fat bombs. Fat-loading is not for me. I don't want to eat like someone who is starving and has access only to discrete ingredients, eating straight coconut oil w a spoon, I want to eat more or less like a normal person who eats food. :-) I wouldn't be any happier being expected to eat a diet dominated by processed food or liquid nutrition shakes etc.

    So it sounds like you've sorted out your dietary issues. So do you just eat a diet that mainly consists of protein and veg and you slot in a little bit of carby food every 12hrs?

  • I am really happy with my breakfast, and then other things slot in around that. I have a small piece of long fermentation nice toast, with a fried egg and optional fried mushrooms or chilis if I have any. Then a salad of rocket, red onions, raw garlic, avocado, chia seeds and a spironella sprinkle (I have no thyroid, so don't worry about iodine). Then have it with a glass of water with apple cider vinegar, and a small glass of homemade kombucha.

    I know that if I have that I'll be safe food-wise for the first part of the day, but I often get unwell of I try anything else. Then I have a proper meal at lunchtime, usually meat with salad, or a stew, and then something small at bedtime like veg soup, or nuts, or often cheese and oatcakes. Both cheese and full fat milk seem to leave me feeling quite settled. I drink quite a lot of milk as it doesn't require any cooking :p

  • Well that all sounds like real food to me. Not a fat bomb in sight. :-)

  • Hehe! I had never heard of fat bombs before! I think I'm going to make some of those as they might fit in so I don't have to eat real food in the evening.

  • Bleurgh, no thank you. :-) I think your cheese and oatcakes are a decent sub.

  • Yes, it's very common. Gluten seems to have addictive properties and so giving it up makes people suffer what are effectively withdrawal symptoms.

    In my own case I felt as if I had really bad flu the first time I gave up gluten.

    One problem I had is that I simply didn't know how to eat gluten-free and so I didn't eat enough. I lost 7lbs. But I didn't understand why I felt so bad, so I gave up giving up, and went back to gluten.

    I tried again quite a while later but the second time I understood rather more about the effects I might get, and how to eat enough while being gluten-free.

    Symptoms lasted about a week then disappeared. If you have the same experience then you should be coming to the end of your symptoms in the next few days.

  • I found a lot depends on your previous diet, if you ate a lot of bread and pasta etc then you have not only cut out gluten but have also cut out a significant amount of carbs/calories. It takes the body a while to adjust, it is used to getting 'cheap' calories and is now having to make more digestive effort. I had a poor diet (white sandwiches at work etc) so when I went gluten free I felt dreadful (tired, hungry, headachey) but I persevered and do feel the benefits, apart from the odd longing for some fresh crusty bread I don't crave either.

  • When my husband first went gluten free, after about 3 days he starts to feel awful, had so little energy that he could barely walk. Then suddenly, after about 10 days he started to feel so much better. He said he never knew how ill he had been feeling until he suddenly felt well. He had been feeling so ill for so long that it had become normal for him. Clemmie

  • It is really common to get withdrawal symptoms.

  • You might like to join this community on HU - the Gluten Free Guerrillas

  • May not be gluten that's the issue. May be you have a yeast intolerance and by giving up gluten you have likely given up yeast by default. When you stop consuming yeast you can get something called 'die off' which makes you feel dreadful for a few days. Just a thought, worth researching.

  • Just a thought, are you maybe not eating enough fats (cheese, nuts, yogourt, milk, olive oil on salad, real butter on veggies, eggs, fatty ham or meat if you like it) to compensate for the loss of energy from the sugar in the GF carbs you have given up. Hope you feel better soon it could just be that it will take you a little longer as others here have said.

  • Thank you all for your replies, I'm feeling much better now - I think it must have been withdrawal and/or my body getting used to getting energy from a different source.

    I feel well now but not any different to when I was on gluten...slightly disappointing after such an effort!

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