What Happens If You Eat Gluten When You Have a Gluten Intolerance?

What Happens If You Eat Gluten When You Have a Gluten Intolerance?

If you’ve been diagnosed with gluten intolerance, you’re in good company. This sensitivity to the protein gluten, found in wheat, barley, and rye, affects about 6% of Americans. 

This makes it more common than celiac disease, an autoimmune condition that causes the body to damage the digestive tract in response to gluten, which affects about 1% of Americans.  

Gluten intolerance and celiac disease are different, but they can cause similar reactions. The board-certified gastroenterologists at Digestive Disease Care in Long Island and Queens, New York, specialize in diagnosing and treating gluten intolerance. 

When you’re diagnosed with gluten intolerance, it’s important to avoid eating foods that contain this protein. Many of our patients with the condition wonder what happens if they eat something with gluten.

All about gluten intolerance

Gluten intolerance, or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) is a condition that causes unpleasant digestive symptoms after consuming gluten. Unlike celiac disease, you don’t develop an autoimmune response, specific antibodies, and intestinal damage. 

There’s no simple test to determine whether you have NCGS, making it challenging to diagnose. Your Digestive Disease Care provider evaluates your symptoms, reviews your medical history, conducts an exam, and orders testing to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms. 

Typically, patients must eliminate all gluten from their diet and see if their symptoms improve or resolve completely when on a gluten-free diet. 

Managing NCGS

There’s no cure for non-celiac gluten sensitivity. As such, the best treatment is to adopt a gluten-free (GF) diet. The good news is that because of increased awareness around celiac disease and NCGS, many more gluten-free foods options are now available. 

You can also substitute other grains and starches for those containing gluten, including different rices, quinoa, millet, tapioca, and oats. Be sure to look for gluten-free certified oats. Your Digestive Disease Care provider can provide personalized GF diet recommendations

Gluten is added to many things, so always read labels. Some “tricky” foods that often contain gluten include beers and ales, pre-packaged deli meats, soy sauce, flavored chips and snacks, bouillon, salad dressings, tea, and many desserts and candies. 

You’ll also need to avoid some non-food products that contain gluten, like certain supplements and medications.  

Eating gluten with NCGS — what happens

Some people struggle to follow a GF diet and slip up now and again. Even if you strive to follow a strict GF diet, you might inadvertently eat something with gluten in it. So what happens if you eat gluten with NCGS? 

Typically, people experience unpleasant symptoms within a few hours or days after eating gluten. The longer you’re without gluten, the more severe your body’s reaction can be. 

These symptoms might involve both physical and mental reactions and may include:

You can help your body process the gluten faster by drinking lots of water, eating small, easy-to-digest snacks and meals, and drinking fennel, ginger, peppermint or another stomach-friendly tea to try to soothe your belly. Call your Digestive Disease Care provider if you have severe vomiting or diarrhea. 

Have more questions about gluten intolerance? Get answers by scheduling an appointment online or on the phone at the Digestive Disease Care location in New York nearest you. 

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