While “gluten free” was once a rare phrase to hear, it has become quite common in recent years to eliminate gluten from the diet. Some people choose to exclude gluten as a test to see if it helps resolve symptoms like bloating, headaches, fatigue, or skin issues. Others are required to avoid gluten as a result of a diagnosis like celiac disease.
In other words, adopting a gluten free diet for some is a medical necessity while for others it is a personal choice. And as elimination diets are rising in popularity, many people often wonder if they can reintroduce gluten into their diets? This article will explore that question.
Do I Have to Be Gluten Free Forever?
Whether or not you must be gluten free forever depends primarily on the reason you chose to become gluten free. Those with celiac disease do need to be gluten free forever. Reintroducing gluten would not only cause short term symptoms, it would also cause long term damage to the small intestine, as well as resulting nutrient deficiencies and other potentially serious complications.
If you do not have a diagnosed medical condition like celiac disease or autoimmunity, you may choose to attempt to reintroduce gluten. However, those who choose to decide to reintroduce gluten should keep a close watch on symptoms of any kind – from gastrointestinal symptoms, to skin issues, mood imbalances, headaches, other food sensitivities, and more. And of course, think back to why you stopped eating gluten to begin with. If that reason still exists, it might be best to remain gluten free.
Why Did I Feel So Much Better After Going Gluten Free?
Most people feel far better once they have eliminated gluten from their diet. Symptoms that resolve may include gas, bloating, loose stools, brain fog, headaches, skin concerns, and more. But these effects are not always just due to the gluten itself. Adopting a gluten free diet often causes people to closely evaluate the foods that they are eating, by reading labels, asking questions, and preparing more meals themselves at home. This means that the diet generally becomes richer in fresh whole foods and contains less processed foods that are high in refined carbohydrates and sugars.
In addition, by avoiding gluten, you are naturally limiting exposure to many other substances found on wheat and grains like pesticides and mycotoxins. Reducing exposure to these toxins generally makes people feel much better, as less burden is placed on their body to detoxify.
Should You Reintroduce Gluten In Your Diet?
The decision to reintroduce gluten into your diet is a personal choice. However, the decision should be guided by the reason that you chose to eliminate gluten in the first place.
If you have celiac disease, then you need to be gluten free forever and should not attempt to reintroduce gluten. Reintroducing gluten would not only cause short term symptoms, it would also cause long term damage to the small intestine, as well as resulting nutrient deficiencies and other potentially serious complications. In fact, one study followed over 20,000 people over a 45 year period and found that undiagnosed celiac disease was associated with a nearly 4-fold increased risk of death.
Avoiding gluten has been shown to help support those with autoimmune conditions. While it might not seem as necessary as with celiac disease, it is not recommended to reintroduce gluten if you have any autoimmune condition.
If you do not have a diagnosed medical condition like celiac disease or autoimmunity, you may choose to attempt to reintroduce gluten once your gut has healed enough to tolerate gluten again.
This may be the case for people who have developed an intolerance to gluten due to leaky gut. Leaky gut may be caused by microbiome imbalances (e.g., small intestine bacterial overgrowth, candida, etc.), medications, stress, toxin exposure (e.g., heavy metals, mold, etc.), or other causes.
It is important to go through the process of healing your gut alongside the support of an experienced practitioner who can establish a protocol of appropriate herbal and nutritional supplements, and who can perform testing (e.g., stool, urine, and blood) to confirm.
That said, those who choose to decide to reintroduce gluten should keep a close watch on symptoms of any kind – from gastrointestinal symptoms, to skin issues, mood imbalances, headaches, other food sensitivities, and more. And of course, think back to why you stopped eating gluten to begin with. If that reason still exists, it is probably best to remain gluten free.
How to Reintroduce Gluten In Your Diet
If you decide to attempt to reintroduce gluten, it should be done very slowly so that you can monitor your reactions to the gluten. We recommend consuming something small at first, like a few crackers. Wait a couple days to see how you feel. Monitor yourself carefully and don’t introduce anything else new or different during that time. If you have no symptoms, try increasing the amount of gluten that you eat in one serving and then observe again. If you have no symptoms, you may decide that you want to introduce small amounts of gluten into your diet.
Choosing to reintroduce gluten is a personal choice, and it is important to remember that you may see any range of symptoms occur. They can even present differently than before and may include diarrhea, bloating, gas, brain fog, headaches, skin issues, and more.
Note that some people may want to reintroduce gluten if they feel like they don’t feel much different on a gluten free diet. However, symptoms can take awhile to clear as gluten works its way out of your system and your gut heals. In addition, you may also initially feel worse after eliminating gluten – this can be misleading as gluten can mask it’s own toxicity and cause symptoms of gluten withdrawal.
Remember that your body is your best guide. If you are feeling better now that you have eliminated gluten from your diet, your body is sending a valuable message – it is happier without gluten! And if you need clear confirmation that staying gluten free is the right thing to do, consider doing genetic testing for gluten sensitivity.