What Are Gluten Withdrawal Symptoms and What Causes Them?

Gluten has not always been an essential part of the human diet, but that has changed in recent generations with the influx of high-carbohydrate food options and diets. As consumption has increased, the development of adverse reactions has occurred, including gluten sensitivity, celiac disease and leaky gut along with wheat allergies. As a result of these health concerns, it only makes sense to remove gluten from the diets of those who suffer from symptoms caused by this problematic protein.

Although many people find success in removing gluten from their diets, others experience withdrawal symptoms that are so severe that it becomes difficult to remain gluten free. Many people feel defeated by their symptoms and end up giving up their gluten-free lifestyle. What causes this reaction in some people, and what symptoms are associated with gluten withdrawal?

What Can Cause Gluten Withdrawal?

Several causes may influence gluten withdrawal, one being due to the fact that gluten breaks down into “exorphins” when digested. Exorphins can mimic endorphins, causing opioid stimulation and as a result may cause you to feel calmer or to experience sensations of pleasure. They are essentially particles of protein that develop from an external source (such as food or drugs), in this case being gluten. When you eat gluten, you get A5, B5, B4 and C exorphins. When cutting out these stimulants, the withdrawal process can be more difficult for some people.

Gluten withdrawal can be influenced by certain factors including how much gluten is consumed on a regular basis in your diet, your individual physiology and how quickly you eliminated gluten from your diet.

The more gluten-filled products you eat on a regular basis, the more difficult it will be to cut it out of your diet due to the increased stimulation of the opioid receptors in your brain. People with a higher gluten intake to begin with are more likely to develop more severe reactions when eliminating gluten.

Some people simply just have bad luck. You may have more severe and longer lasting withdrawal symptoms based on factors that may be out of your control, from genetics to physiology and general lifestyle factors. Furthermore, individuals do not typically respond the same to the removal of gluten from the diet, even if they are in the same family and have eaten the same foods for their entire lives. Individual variation plays a large part in the way gluten withdrawal may affect you.

If you do not slowly remove gluten from your diet, symptoms may also be more severe. Going cold turkey by tossing every gluten-filled item in your kitchen into the trash at once may cause severe withdrawal symptoms— especially if you had a high intake before removing it from your diet.

What Symptoms are Associated with Gluten Withdrawal?

Although some people experience minimal symptoms when eliminating gluten from their diets, others may experience debilitating symptoms that can last weeks or months before improving. Below are some of the symptoms you or your child may experience when cutting out gluten:

  • Anxiety

  • Bloating

  • Headaches

  • Stomach discomfort

  • Irritability or anger

  • Cravings (typically in the early stages of elimination)

  • Constipation

  • Hot flashes

  • Joint Pain

  • Nausea

  • Mood Swings

  • Depression

  • Brain fog

  • Dizziness

  • Diarrhea

  • Fatigue

  • Weight gain or loss

  • Vomiting


The only proven treatment that is effective for individuals with gluten sensitivity, celiac disease and gluten allergy is the adherence to a gluten-free diet. If you or your child experience what you suspect to be withdrawal symptoms, talk to your doctor or nutritionist to determine if there is any way you can alleviate discomfort without adding gluten back.