Gluten Free Hell...

Why Does Going GF Feel So Bad
When It’s So Good For You?

Have you tried going gluten free to improve your health only to find you feel worse than ever? I did – and it was horrible.

When you go gluten free and end up feeling terrible, there's a very good reason. © Karen Alison

It’s a cruel slap in the face, isn’t it? Especially when so many people rave about the benefits of going wheat-free and gluten-free.

The thing is… when you say goodbye to cookies, bread, pasta and bagels, and end up feeling depressed, irritated, dopey, sick, headachey, driven wild by food cravings, or even a little bit crazy – there’s a very good reason.

But hardly anyone seems to talk about it…

The dark side of gluten

The reason you feel so awful is because gluten grains have a nasty secret. They have made you their bitch. Translation: wheat and other grains are hopelessly addictive.

It’s not your fault you’re craving that one little nibble. You don’t lack willpower. Heck, anyone who can stop eating chocolate chip cookies to deal with their gluten allergy symptoms has a ton of willpower!

Grains are drugging you. © Karen Alison

The real fault lies in the grains. Wheat, rye, spelt, kamut, and barley contain opioids – chemicals that lock into the same receptors in your brain where opium and heroin would go. Yep – grains are drugging you.

So when you go gluten free – wow! You’re in for big, fat withdrawal symptoms while your body and brain detoxify a lifetime of wheat and other grains – even those so-called healthy whole grains.

And the detox can last a few days or a few weeks.

There’s light at the end
of the gluten free tunnel

Personally, I found going gluten free was one of the hardest things I ever did. I had a constant headache and felt exhausted and depressed for two weeks. And talk about irritable! I’d have snapped people’s heads off, but I didn’t have the energy.

To tell you the truth, I was shocked by the withdrawal symptoms. I was one of those people who only ate organic kamut, spelt and quinoa, and I thought I had a pretty healthy diet. But no matter what quality the grains are, gluten is gluten. When I went gluten-free, the blowback was vicious.

Those rough withdrawal symptoms are your body’s way of letting you know that gluten really IS a problem.

What you can look forward to...

Here’s the good part… The withdrawal symptoms WILL end, as long as you stay completely off gluten. And once they’re over, you’re going to feel so much better than you did when you ate gluten that you won’t want to go back to it.

That’s what happened for me. Once I got through the detox and switched to the Paleo diet, some amazing changes happened…

  • My headache went away
  • My chronic digestive problems disappeared
  • I stopped craving carbs and feeling hungry every minute of every day – an irritating reality that had gone on for pretty much my whole life.
  • My energy level rose dramatically – in fact, it’s remained much higher than when I was eating wheat and grains. Obviously, fatigue was one of those gluten allergy symptoms I just didn’t notice before because I was so used to feeling tired.
  • I lost weight. I know lots of articles say you don't necessarily lose weight when you go gluten free, but it all depends on how many grams of carbohydrate you eat. If you're still chowing on sugar and non-gluten grains, you won't lose weight. Mark Sisson says to lose weight, you have to keep your carb intake between 50 and 100 grams.
  • My skin improved.
  • And strangest of all – I lost all interest in wheat, grains and anything made out of them. It’s like they became invisible. I no longer even thought of them as a food group.

In fact, getting rid of my gluten allergy symptoms changed everything for the better so drastically that I would NEVER consider going back. So there’s definitely a big, bright light at the end of the gluten free tunnel.

That will happen for you, too, once you get off the gluten and grain roller coaster.

How to prepare for gluten free hell

If at all possible, plan to go gluten-free at a time when your life isn’t too stressful. Don’t go gluten free right before a wedding or Christmas or an important business trip.

Ideally, if you can take a few days off to go gluten free during a slack time at work or school, that would make it easier on you. Or, at least start on a Friday so you have the weekend to relax during the first few days of withdrawal and detox. Sometimes the fourth or fifth day is the worst day, so you could also start going gluten-free on Wednesday, so the fourth and fifth days fall on the weekend.

Be strong when those days hit. If you feel depressed, remind yourself that it’s a chemical reaction inside your body that’s making you feel bad, it’s not that your whole life has suddenly become a disaster and nobody loves you. EFT Tapping can help with this.

Avoid stressful people and events for the first few days of gong gluten free. Go for walks in Nature. © Karen Alison

Avoid stressful people and events for the first few days. Instead, you could...

  • Watch funny movies
  • Read trashy novels,
  • Meditate
  • Go for walks in Nature
  • Do something that’s relaxing and/or entertaining
  • Sleep more and let your body relax 

When you go GF, it involves real discipline and effort, so cut yourself some slack in other areas. Don’t decide to clutter clear your entire house or do your taxes at the same time you’re going wheat-free. I’d even suggest you go dancing but you may not feel up to it.

Get your family on board. If you have a gluten intolerance or allergy, it’s highly likely that the other members of your blood family do, too. (Read this list of gluten allergy symptoms to see if family members have any gluten-related conditions.) Perhaps you could all go GF together.

Get your gluten-free foods ready
ahead of time

  • Do your food shopping before you start.
  • Prepare some anti-gluten-allergy snacks, treats and meal ideas so you won’t have to scramble when you’re not feeling good.
Plan to eat a little protein with fat every 2-3 hours to keep your blood sugar stable. A few bites of meat or chicken, a handful of nuts or a hard-boiled egg. © Karen Alison
  • Plan to eat a little protein with fat every 2-3 hours to keep your blood sugar stable while you’re detoxing. A few bites of chicken or meat (but not processed or deli meats, which may contain gluten), a handful of nuts, nut butter on celery sticks or apple slices, a hard-boiled egg or devilled egg – made with olive oil or home-made mayonnaise, or some fish.

By the way, ginseng is supposed to help ease the symptoms of cocaine withdrawal, so perhaps it would also help when you go gluten free. I haven’t tried ginseng for relief of gluten withdrawal symptoms, but if you’ve tried it and it helped, please let me know!

What about gluten free grains?

There are thousands of gluten free recipes and products. Some people do fine on them. Not me.

Even non-gluten grains have problems. Corn contains mould, quinoa can worsen leaky gut syndrome, and oats are not always gluten free.

Rice – even when it’s organically grown – often contains unacceptably high levels of arsenic, a carcinogen. Brown rice proved to have more arsenic than white.

My policy in going gluten free is to avoid all grains, regardless of how safe they’re supposed to be. You’ll have to judge this for yourself. I eat a Paleo diet – no grains, no sugar, no dairy. But every body is different. You may be fine with quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat. Or you may live in a country where the rice is less contaminated.

Test yourself

One way to determine if you can tolerate the non-gluten grains is to go off ALL grains when you go gluten free. Once your withdrawal symptoms and wheat allergy symptoms have completely cleared and you start to feel good again, try ONE gluten-free item, like quinoa.

If you have any symptoms at all – tiredness, digestive upset, depression, feeling hyper, runny nose, skin rash, headache, etc. – that food is not for you.

The symptoms may not show up until the following day or two, so pay close attention to your body and emotions. Before trying another non-gluten grain, wait 5-7 days for the first one to clear out of your body.

Get professional testing

You can also be professionally tested for food sensitivities – which can be very revealing and worthwhile (although there is some controversy about this!)

When I was tested, I was surprised to learn I reacted badly to foods I thought were fine for me, not just gluten. Dropping those foods made an enormous difference to my health.

Types of tests for gluten and other food sensitivities…

  • Scratch tests – Dr. James LaValle says that while these are fine for testing environmental allergies, they’re not very accurate for food allergies.
  • Blood tests – for IgE- and/or IgG-mediated antibodies, or changes in white blood cells in the presence of antigens (ALCAT.) IgE shows allergies and IgG shows the more delayed reactions of food intolerances.
  • Electro-dermal testing is where you hold a probe against your finger – this is probably the quickest type of testing and can rank your reactions to many different allergens.
  • Applied kinesiology – you can learn to do this yourself so you can test yourself on a food in the store and check if it’s a problem.
  • Food elimination and rotation diet – Self-administered so it’s free, but requires a bit of time and patience.

If you have life-threatening food allergies or a serious medical condition, please do NOT self-test! Dr. LaValle recommends that children be tested by a qualified health professional rather than at home, in case of a severe reaction.

Can you eat gluten grains ever again?

You can, but would you want to?

Here’s my warning from painful experience…

When I made the mistake of eating wheat just once after going gluten free, the next day I had a splitting headache that felt like the world’s worst migraine. It turned me into a total zombie. I lost the whole day while the wheat cleared out of my body.

And no, I did not have any alcohol, so there was no question that the wheat caused it. I’ve spoken to other people who’ve had similar experiences with wheat.

So, sadly, if you eat gluten grains again after you have cleared your gluten allergy symptoms, you are probably going to pay for it with serious pain.

When you're in gluten withdrawal,
remember that gluten free hell DOES end!

When you go gluten free and end up in GF hell, take heart! You’re going in the right direction. The bad part is only temporary.

It may get worse before it gets better.

But if you’re anything like me, once you leave wheat and grains behind, your body frees itself from gluten opioid addiction, and your gut heals, you’re going to feel fantastic! And you will save yourself from a lifetime of dangerous gluten- and grain-related health problems.

Related Articles

Gluten Allergy Symptoms - If you thought that gluten allergy symptoms show up mostly as digestive issues, you’re in for a shock. Gluten is linked to an astonishing list of health problems that range from asthma to diabetes to cancer.

Is your Leaky Gut causing your chronic health problem? Gluten causes leaky gut syndrome. Find out what it is and how to fix it.

What is the Paleo Diet? This simple and delicious way to eat is the easiest way I've found to go gluten free.

Healthy Smoothie Recipes – Smoothies are a great choice for a fast, easy, nutritious. filling, yummy meal when you’re going gluten-free.

What is EFT Tapping? Tapping is a simple technique that helps with the emotional and physical symptoms of gluten withdrawal. How to Tap.

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