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The Gluten Free Whiplash Effect

Going gluten free can be a saving grace for many. However; a common clinical manifestation called Gluten Whiplash occurs for many who do not go TRUE gluten free. Gluten Whiplash typically occurs 3-6 months after starting a gluten free diet. Let me explain. When one initially goes gluten free, a state of dietary distress and confusion sets in. Many limit their diets to an extreme because they are not quite sure what to eat. The typical gluten free diet learning curve takes 8-12 weeks. This is because one must spend enough time educating themselves about acceptable products, restaurants, etc. During this time, the body starts to heal and most people do very well noticing dramatic improvements in their health. Once the learning curve is conquered, people tend to gravitate toward the processed, packaged “gluten free” food items. People tend to get lazy and make the choice of convenience over health. BIG MISTAKE! This is where Gluten Whiplash tends to set in.

Let’s take a look at why:

  • Processed and packaged food is not healthy. Eating unhealthy foods leads to poor health (I know, this should be a no brainer).
  • Many over the counter packaged foods contain cross contamination of gluten
  • Many “gluten free” products contain other types of grain based glutens that have not been adequately studied to be safe for those with gluten sensitivity (see video tutorial #1 for more on this).
  • Most processed “gluten free” products contain genetically modified grains, high amounts of sugar, and are devoid of any significant nutrient density.
I know that many of you reading this can relate. I have personally seen this phenomenon clinically in more than a thousand patients. If you happen to fit the profile above, or if you are just not responding to a classic gluten free diet, TRUE gluten free may be an answer to your prayers. In good health, Dr. O

46 Responses

  1. Could you explain ‘gluten free whiplash’ more thoroughly? You say it typically hits 3-6 months after going gluten free, but you do not state what those symptoms are. Are they the same as before going gluten free or are they different symptoms (thus the title ‘gluten free whiplash’ instead of ‘gluten symptoms’)?

    1. Dr. Osborne,
      I have recently gone on the total anti-inflammation diet, now my 5th week. I did this per my dermatologist. I was diagnosed with pustular psoriasis. I took Humira, Remick design and many pain meds, as I was misdiagnosed with Bechet’so disease. I have almost all symptoms of Celiac, but it was not found during an end scope or colonoscopy. Since ordering your book, I have refined my diet and my year long battle with psoriasis is getting better. It has decreased my osteoarthritis, by 85%. I am on a quest to be an example and influence others, toward better health. Thanks

  2. This happened to our son. He was traditionally GF for 1 year when all the sudden he was very sick again. I tried everything and thought everything I was buying was cross contaminated. I was blessed to see a bit by Dr. Peter Osborne who suggested taking rice and corn out of my son’s diet as well. This was the stepping stone to being totally healthy. Now I have my own blog and am writing a Grain Free cookbook. It takes time, but once you are in the pattern you will be so happy and healthy that you wont care!

  3. I have been gluten free for 6 months, at this point only cows milk makes me sick, so are making changes.
    Do all cealiacs get whiplash effect?

  4. I was determined to not buy processed, premade food. I make everything from scratch, with certified gluten free products. It is so worth it. My food tastes like NORMAL food. I’ve tried the ready made food and its aweful. I hope by being so diligent I don’t get this whiplash effect because going gluten free has been amazing!

  5. I dont believe I have a gluten intolerance, have never been diagnosed with one but have gone GF when I found out my daughter has a sensitivity to gluten, corn and oats through our holistic dr and I exclusively breastfeed her…it’s seemed to help her so far, I’ve been doing it for three weeks but all of a sudden I’ve been having lots of stomach aches, especially after I eat…could this be the whiplash effect?

    1. Sierra,
      If your daughter has a problem, then you most likely also have the same problem. Gluten sensitivity is genetic. Watch the Glutenology video #1 above. This may help clear things up for you.
      Have a great day!

  6. Avoid soy! That’s just another ingredient celiacs don’t need. I have also reduced rice, and it’s back to white instead of brown, was my go-to food.
    Eat sweet potatoes instead of regular
    Reduced beans, added plenty of fresh veggies and fruit only. Red cabbage braise is excellent, easy on my stomach and filling.

  7. I’ve been gluten free for just over a year now, and I think the whiplash is happening to me, too. I’m a college freshman, so staying completely gluten-free is really tough work in the cafeteria. Which leads me – just as you said – to the many frozen GF dinners. I’ve had many meetings with the cafeteria personnel and they are slowly getting better about offering me GF options, but it’s still a struggle, and many of the options they are providing are the prepackaged (not necessarily frozen) GF foods. During the times that I don’t have any options, what would you suggest for a dorm room for healthy, GF living?

    Thanks! Great article!

  8. I went GF almost a year ago and within three months my eczema was completely healed ( from my thighs to my scalp….covered), but I started to have joint pains and became hypothyroid ( although tests showed “normal”). Taking kelp (iodine) healed most of the thyroid problems but the joint pain is autoimmune….my dr says non-connective tissue disorder, which to me means he really doesn’t know. No eggs, dairy, beans, rice, peppers, tomatoes and gluten. I have lost 70 pounds, but No improvement with joints. I haven’t been able to play tennis for about 9 mos….so frustrated:(

  9. FYI if anyone wants a diet idea, I do mainly Paleo G-F. I do best with carbos 2 xs a month like sweet potatoes or brown rice pasta. I only eat egg yolks as most are allergic to the whites. I eat 77% dark green veggies and the rest grass-fed beef, bison, and/or new Zealand lamb once a week No sugar, wild berries once a week, no dairy except raw goat or sheep cheese 2 xs a week, NO SUGAR— use Stevia or Xyla brand ylitol as a sweetener, lots of dried and fresh herbs. no white or brown rice, corn, or soy. Very few processed and packaged foods. I love the stevia Lily’s dark chocolate and ZOT sugar-free stevia licorice bits for treats. lots of coconut butter and cream, ghee, and olive oil, coconut flakes seasoned myself instead of popcorn, and 1/2 Granny Smith apple a day. Have been on this diet for 5 years and doing well.

  10. So many people going only gluten free still have many problems and in my opinion if you need to avoid gluten, do yourself a favor and avoid all grains period. Also, avoid all common allergens such as eggs, dairy, soy; and this includes yolks of eggs and tofu, etc. Also, get a list of foods containing lectins and see if you react to any of those foods as well, such as watermelon, peas, beans and especially all foods in the nightshade family. I have eliminated all of the above foods and rarely have any of the old symptoms such as brain fog, stomach upset, bloating and arthritis. Accidental exposure to corn starch, high fructose corn syrup etc. as well as chocolate that hase milk in it are my worst frequent problems.

  11. I am a diabetic controlled by diet. About ten years ago I went gluten free after reading the symptoms. I was grossly overweight and had no luck losing weight with diets. After I went gluten free the weight literally feel off my body. So my M.D. told me to continue the diet. I did experience gluten free whiplash, as you described it. Am so grateful that the grain free option along with gluten free dieting has given my life a whole new perspective.

  12. Ten years ago, I found out I have Celiac Disease. Even after combing through my diet to eliminate all gluten, I still felt unwell and suffered from severe malabsorption and malnutrition. Then I accidentally came across a story about foods that produce gluten mimicry and rushed to take Cyrex Laboratories’ Gluten-Associated Cross-Reactive Foods and Foods Sensitivity test as soon as it became available to the public. When the test results arrived, it became clear the foods I thought were safe to eat were actually keeping me sick, and after eliminating them from my diet, my health improved. I entered a campaign of trying to educate others (including doctors) of the dangers beyond wheat, barley, rye and oats. No one listened – – especially doctors, so I moved on. This is the first time I have mentioned this in several years.

    1. i am interested in that special test you mentioned you took at Cyrex laboratories,a gluten associated cross-reactive foods and food sensitivity test.

      I took an ancient food sensitivity test years ago, that took my blood and saw how it reacted , or not…..,to 150 types of common foods,fruits, and vegetables.& I was allergic to 88 of them, that’s half!!!

      If that’s one of the tests, i don’t need to re-take that one, and… i already
      recently took the new one at Dr. Osbourn’s website….(THANKS DOC) after getting TERRIBLY sick from freshly baked bread….I finally decided to be tested….It’s an expensive cheek swab DNA test that DR Osborne provides, and it gave a positive result,

      but i still take a little organic milk from cows that eat grass with puffed rice since there’s so little in my diet I can eat.

      the puffed rice is a grain, but if i don’t take too much of it… it appears I might get away with it. I have so much weakness from my severe Addisons Disease, that I’m almost dead from it, can only walk holding onto a wheeled walker, and have old age to boot, and the cortisol I used to take for about 30 years finally I got too used to it….. AND I finally had to switch to a longer acting steroid which is holding, to the present, to about one dose, every 8 hours in the daytime, and less time between doses during the nights. and I am truly allergic to gluten via my DNA and I only have one only half of my children are, or can be, affected per the test results. My daughter died this last year at age 55, and it’s possible my thyroid and Addisons disease and her bi-polar and schizophrenia may have been somewhat caused by having this gluten allergy for so many years….unrecognized and untreated.

      Perhaps this lab can provide me further insight to my condition. Please contact me at my e mail address, which is;

    2. I had the same thing happen to me! So glad to hear I am not the only one out there with this issues. I have been grain free for almost 4?years now.

  13. It was recommended to me at my doctors appointment yesterday to follow a FODmap diet. I looked it up and today I feel like screaming and crying I’m so frustrated with don’t eat this don’t eat that. My desperation makes me vulnerable to false hope. Has anyone done the MRT blood test for food sensitivities? Insurance won’t pay for it because there has been no double blind study. It is expensive so I’m very hesitant.

  14. I felt better going gluten free but only when I discovered the problems with Fodmaps didn’t I start feeling great. There are many FODMAPS I can eat just fine such as dairy since lactose doesn’t bother me, but give me wheat, onions or inulin ((fructans) and I am miserable.

  15. I am allergic to wheat and oat, but still follow a wheat/oat/gluten free diet. But I am curious why peoole in this blog recommend to avoid brown/white rice, because I like it very much, and as far as I know it has no gluten in it. Thanks.

  16. Did anyone experience an increase in migraines within the first couple weeks of going gluten free? Wondering if my body is trying to adjust to the changes?

  17. When I was growing up I remember my mother rubbing her eyes all the time and saying that the Dr told her she had an allergy to wheat . So she avoided touching grasses and her beloved plants . Coming from an ethnic background she never really understood the implications of that diagnosis. My grandmother always looked bloated around the tummy area with skinny legs as did my mum and now myself . I have noticed since I turned 40 that my memory was starting to come and go . Not until I started cutting just the basic bread out did I notice a little improvement and now having a fuller understanding of what is going on I have incorporated a nil grain lifestyle . Yes its challenging to start with but gets easier as I saw results. The Drs I saw to date all just shrugged of , or offered the suggest that if I know whats causing it to not eat it . without any proper tests . I suppose that was one step up from giving me amy form of medication . Thank you DR Osborne for your videos and awesome information . I have recently ordered your book and so looking forward to it arriving .

    1. I discovered that after being wheat free a few months that I had less protein buildup on my contact lenses (bifocal, -10 diopters +3). I had been taking them out for cleaning every other week when they got uncomfortable, mostly itching in the morning. Now they only come out every other month and there is no protein to clean. At my last eye doctor appointment, she told me that my retina looks too good for a man of my prescription. She’s been my doctor for 10 years, so that was an exciting moment. I’ve also noticed that my night vision has improved quite a bit. Cataract in my right eye also seems to be getting clearer, I think with the help of 1% N-Acetylcarnosine eye drops.
      For fibromyalgia, I was on 800mg ibuprophen 3 times a day and still bedridden 22 hours a day. I had to stop the ibuprophen and take oral prednisone to treat gout in by big toe. After a week back on the ibuprophen I realized that during those ten days I was pain free, and now I am in pain again. By the way I have a very high pain threshold, but this was just sucking the life out of me. So I went off ibuprophen. I started at 5mg APO-Prednisone, added 5 mg every 2 hours until at 20mg the pain just disappeared. Then I went wheat free. 18 months later and by removing all wheat and lactose from my diet I only need 5mg pred a day. Also I supplemented idodine and vitamin D3. I had a ruptured sebaceous cyst that would not start healing until I added iodine. The 6000 iu per day of D3 definitely raised my mood from always depressed to I’ve caught myself smiling again.
      A short list of what’s improved since Thanksgiving 2014:
      snoring, mouth breathing, sleep apnea, benign prostate hypertrophy (needed prostate supplement, now I don’t. Went from 185 pounds to 160. belly at maximum circumference was 42 inches, now 37. reflux disease, alcohol addiction (craving just went away miraculously after just one week of wheat free),thinning Hair growing back in, foot neuropathy improving, blood pressure down 20 points systolic, 5 points diastolic, skin appearance improving, night vision improved, mood stabilized, fibromyalgia improved, no waking every two hours, extended contact lens wear.
      Some things improved immediately (alcohol addiction and sleep apnea) others are taking time. Remember that you are removing a poison from your body that you’ve been eating your whole life, some things take more time to repair and you’ll have ups and downs while you figure out what else is affecting you.

  18. I did this – tried gluten free pasta made from quinoa, corn and amarinth…it nailed me. It’s now been 4 days and still not feeling well.

    1. Being T2D, I avoid grains in general for their (high) glycemic value. Every “gluten-free” alternative I’ve found to be even higher glycemic. If you like vegetables in general, forsake the standard pastas, get a spiralizer & make zoodles. Zucchini, carrot, yam/sweet, any semi-firm vegetable. Just make sure you’re going for organic, as close to 100℅ of zukes are GMO. I don’t advocate eating much soy, but did find some nonGMO Edamame noodles at Costco that are the bomb. Good mouth feel and minimal flavor, so will absorb your sauces well.

  19. Help! My 18yo daughter went gluten free in November and although her joint pain and depression have improved she now suffers from bloating and reflux which are new symptoms, we hoped they would have passed by now 7 months on. Not sure what has caused this or what to do about it. Digestive enzymes help a bit but haven’t solved it. She’s now angry with me for suggesting going gluten free :-/

  20. Hi,

    I don’t have any stomach issues besides a little gas. I do have gluten sensitivity and Celiac Gene. My functional put on a grain free FODMAP diet which I did for 3 months with no improvements from the symptoms I did have which are chest pressure, brain fog, Chest and upper back pain, rib-cage pain and lack of air which 50% is anxiety. Actually, my symptoms got worse during this time. So I decided to stay on a Gluten free but not grain free. 3 of my Doctors including GI and Allergist suggested that I have no need to be gluten free if I have no bad symptoms from it even if I mention to them I have the celiac gene and gluten sensitivity (showed all labs reports) They said why go on a diet if have no symptoms from it. My function insisted that all my pains are from what I eat which I disagree with her. btw, 1 in 35 with the celiac gene gets the celiac disease. I do keep the grain to once daily. But I find funny how a functional will say it could take up to 4 years to feel better and
    even some the rest of your life which defeats any reason to go on this diet. I also lost 25 pounds which I did not want to lose because now I’m under weight. ;-(

  21. Hi, I was officially diagnosed coeliac a couple of weeks ago. Prior to that for a month I was having pins and needles and numbness mainly in my upper body, on and off, also experiencing weakness in my right leg. After getting confirmation, I decided to go cold turkey gluten free to try and improve these tingles and symptoms. The muscle weakness still comes and goes, however, the tingling seems to be more intense, to the point that I’m worried it won’t go away. Has anyone experienced similar?

  22. I’m a 36 yr old female, found out last year I have colon cancer, but prior to diagnosis I felt like breads and grains were messing with my digestion, so started going gluten free. Right after, my gp did a celiac blood test on me and it came back a “possible positive” which I took as a yes and continued to wean myself off grains. I noticed an immediate change, no bloating and better energy etc. I lost weight immediately. My sister at the same time was diagnosed with what the doctor thought was RA. After hearing about the bad side effects and being a new mom she decided to try to manage her joint pain with diet and immediately noticed grains were making her ache. Because all three of us girls in my family were lactose intolerant growing up, I started putting the pieces together about gluten. But it’s been a year since the cancer diagnosis- I’m eating vegan and in place of grains I began eating a lot of brown rice. I figured out my body HATES oats, even the supposed gluten free sprouted kind- which my naturopath recommended. Now I’m experiencing increased constipation, bloating, brain fog, candida overgrowth once again and feeling so frustrated that I’m eating “clean” and yet gaining weight and not feeling well any longer. I know with cancer many things can come into play but because my body responded so well those first few months and I lost 30 lbs I am just wondering if I am allergic to rice? Rice flour, brown rice, rice crackers…I didn’t realize these could pose a problem. Quinoa doesn’t seem to bother me. I do eat some corn, but have been limiting that and have tried tofu but my body did not like the soy. What can I eat? What kind of test can I ask for with this? I feel like people think I’m being paranoid or overreacting but because I feel like my gut is just not functioning I need some answers. I even heard that cancer can result from years of undetected celiac. Is this true?

  23. I’ve been gluten free about eight years. Made a huge difference! I did no bread and no crackers for awhile because I read the gluten-free ones taste so bad, it’s best just to do without them until you kind of forget what they taste like. I did do a bit of gluten free desserts to help myself into some of the restrictions. I eat those now maybe twice a year.

    I have slipped and not read ingredients on supplements on occasion. Also finding out that breakfast places that serve scrambled eggs sometimes put pancake batter in them to make them fluffy! Or that french fries that should be gluten-free or not. So many restaurants have no clue. And sometimes I say what the heck.

    I have mostly done no bread for 7 years. Then my brother-in-law who now lives with us was recently diagnosed with Hashimoto’s. He must be gluten free. I felt bad for him so started buying gf bread because he likes sandwiches. And then I decided what the heck I’ll do toast. Been doing it a bunch for the past 3 weeks and I can tell a big difference and am back to IBS-C. Back to quiting gf bread now.

    I also know that added sugar is a big trigger for inflammation for me. Peppers are hard and I suspect other Nightshade are a problem too.

    We have a bit of extra money and I’ve decided to see a functional medicine doctor and do a complete DNA allergy work up. I know it’s $$$ but that’s what I want for my Bday. Elimination Diet is just really hard and I think it needs to be done for three months to really tell what the problems are.

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