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What happens if you eat gluten?

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If you've ever gone to dinner with a friend with celiac disease or gluten-sensitivity, you've probably wondered or even asked what will happen if they "cheat" or eat gluten. Celiac disease is an auto-immune disorder which causes the body to attack the small intestine upon the ingestion of gluten. Gluten sensitivity can yield the same symptoms as celiac disease minus the intestinal damage. Symptoms are not always gastro-intestinal. Instead, when someone with celiac disease or even gluten sensitivity "cheats" they often feel it from head to toe. What does this mean? If someone with gluten-sensitivity eats gluten.....

Here’s what can happen:

  • Migraine headaches that can last for days
  • Diarrhea that can last for days to weeks
  • Intense stomach cramping that can last for weeks 
  • Rashes- known as dermatitis herpetiformis
  • Extreme fatigue- lasting for days to weeks
  • Brain fog and forgetfulness- lasting days to weeks
  • Irritability- lasting days to weeks
  • Bloating- lasting days to weeks
  • Joint pain- lasting days to weeks
  • ADHD like behavior- lasting days to weeks
  • Anxiety- lasting days to weeks
  • Depression- lasting days to weeks
  • Ataxia- Lack of muscle coordination (again, lasting days to weeks)
  • Seizure
  • Arthritis
  • Acid reflux
  • Muscle pain


If you have celiac disease, any of the above can happen with the addition to the following:

  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Bone loss or osteoporosis
  • Irregular menstrual cycle
  • Infertility or recurrent miscarriage
  • Canker sores in the mouth
  • Delayed puberty in children
  • Delayed growth in children
  • Learning disability in children


If a person has celiac disease, the following are at an increased risk if undiagnosed or untreated by a gluten-free diet:

  • Intestinal cancer
  • Sjogren’s disease
  • Thyroid disease
  • Turner Syndrome
  • Type 1 Diabetes
  • Williams Syndrome
  • Damage to dental enamel
  • Lymphoma
  • Dementia

If you have any of the above symptoms, click HERE for more information on getting tested for celiac disease. 


Celiac Disease Foundation

National Foundation for Celiac Awareness

Mayo Clinic