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Mar 202015


As many of you know from my Facebook page, I decided a few weeks ago to try going Gluten Free. There wasn’t any particular motivation around this aside from the fact that a friend encouraged me to try it for a week just to see what happened, as she’s been gluten-free for a while. I thought it’d also be great to encourage me to think a bit more creatively about meals and to be more mindful about my food. If you’ve been following my newsletter as well, you’ll know that I felt so great after week one, that I decided to keep on going with it!


Image taken from MindBodyGreen

Many of you have probably heard or read things about gluten, and “Does Gluten Free Help CFS?” is one the questions I get asked on a regular basis? It seems as though in every article I’ve written recently (such as this one for MindBodyGreen), someone mentions the link between CFS and gluten. I must admit, I hadn’t really looked into it too much while I was ill, and many of you might be wondering why I’m bothering to write this in the first place if I’m completely healed, right?! Well, sometimes, it’s good just to mix things up a bit. I do sometimes experience digestive issues, especially when stressed, so I thought going gluten-free would be a good way to monitor my digestive system and general wellbeing.

What the hell is gluten?

Gluten is the substance found in cereal grains that basically makes bread doughy and elastic-y- the gluten is the protein part of the grain. Although gluten can very sneakily be found hiding in many unsuspecting things (seriously, this article is scary!), wheat (also in the form of rye, barley,bulgar, spelt and durum – pasta!) is probably the main culprit. It’s incredibly surprising if you actually look at labels to see how much gluten or gluten-containing things are hidden in things we eat- seriously, after a few weeks of cooking gluten-free, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about! Things like chocolate, soy sauce and even vitamin pills seem to be riddled with the stuff.

What are the symptoms?

Funnily enough, many of them seem to be exactly the same as those that CFS/Fibro sufferers get! (Lovely!) Often, there might be more skin rashes or digestive issues if you have gluten troubles, but this is why it’s so hard to recognise. Click here for more information on symptoms and complications.

What does the research say?

As it stands (as with so many things in the CFS/Fibro arena), the small amount of research done suggests that there isn’t any clear overlap between celiac disease – the autoimmune disorder caused by gluten- and CFS/Fibromyaglia. Some people have claimed that cutting out gluten alone was enough to get rid of their symptoms completely, whereas some people say it really didn’t make that much difference to them. However, only 1% of the population have an incredibly severe reaction to gluten, so you can probably breath easy.

The gluten thing on further research is all a bit complicated. Lots of people have food sensitivities which come with their own host of symptoms or which can make CFS/Fibro symptoms worse. Some people might even have been misdiagnosed as having CFS when they actually have a severe gluten intolerance.


Image taken from here

So, what can I do about it?

If you’re not sure whether you’re intolerant to gluten or whether it’s worth investigating further with your doctor, keep a food diary for about 3 weeks. Do you notice your symptoms flair up the morning after you’ve had pasta for your evening meal? Do you feel incredibly sleepy and dozy after eating bread? Do you have digestive issues or discomfort after eating gluten? (If you have IBS, then it’s possible than gluten might makes things a little worse for example. Also, consider whether or not your IBS is a possible gluten sensitivity.) Write it all down and play around with things a little bit. If you can see a clear pattern, maybe it’s worth requesting an allergy test from your doctor. Unfortunately, if you’re severely gluten-intolerant, you can’t just do it 95% of the time- it’s an all or nothing job, as your symptoms will return and you’ll feel ill again.

What can I eat if I’m going gluten-free?

There are actually a few options, but triple-check the labels on things! Anything with flour in it, such as cakes, sauces and dough/pastry bases, also contain gluten. As I mentioned in this article, things like quinoa are supposed to be gluten-free, but aren’t as squeaky clean as most people first thought! (Boo!) Also, I found that some of the gluten-free substitutes just tasted absolutely awful. I found going to health food shops to buy gluten free bread and pasta a lot better in terms of taste and nutrients. You can eat:

  • fruits and vegetables
  • lentils, rice, quinoa (in theory!) and legumes
  • nuts and seeds
  • dairy products and eggs
  • lean meat and fish

However, always make sure you look on the labels of things if they say ‘gluten-free’. Gluten-free is a huge health craze at the moment, and even though the products might be free from gluten, there are sometimes lots of nasty chemicals and additives thrown in instead!

The Results of my Gluten-Free Experiment

After about 2-3 days, I didn’t feel as bloated as I sometimes used to and my stomach felt a lot calmer, like it didn’t have a huge stone in it. I didn’t have many stomach upsets, but I once accidentally ate a wrap made from wheat, and I really felt the difference afterwards! Going GF makes my stomach feel a lot lighter and even though I’m not gluten-intolerant, I definitely think cutting back on gluten is going to benefit me. So…I’m sticking with it!

So, over to you! Have you heard the reports about CFS/Fibromyalgia and gluten? Have you tried going gluten-free yourself? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Love and light,

Katie    xx

  14 Responses to “Does Gluten Free Help CFS?”

  1. I don’t have celiac or any of its symptoms, but I do have many of the symptoms of Fibromyalgia. I’ve read about the possible link between Fibro and gluten (and also that there’s NO link between the two), but it won’t hurt (and could only help) to try going GF for a week or two like you did, just to see if any of my strange symptoms decrease or disappear. I’m going to give it a shot. Thanks for your report. It’s encouraging!

  2. Going gluten-free has completely cured my CFIDS. Interestingly enough I still eat a gluten-type bread called “spelt bread”, it just doesnt have the modified gluten in it like whole wheat. Read a book call Wheat Belly if you wanna learn more

  3. I’ve noticed a big difference when I go GF! (exactly similar to what you describe with the stomach) and from what I’ve read, it’s not really the gluten I’m sensitive to – its all the GMO-crap that has been added to and modifies good food, that I’m sensitive to (which I’m pretty sure that’s what John Wilson is referencing above) … & then I’m not so surprised, as high fructose corn syrup pushed me into pre-diabetes; half a Coca-Cola affects my urinary output; and even “oh Jean its just real sugar!”, creates yeast overgrowth problems, especially with my skin that becomes more resistant to any type of topical treatments the older I get!

  4. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia over two years ago due to pins and needles and muscle aches.I had seen 3 neurologists before this
    So was relieved to have a diagnosis by my rheumatologist.Anyhow I decided to take gluten out of my diet. I also had a series of colonics to clear my system of any remaining. The difference was remarkable
    I was grip tested 6 months after and the difference was unbelievable
    So for me it has made all the difference

    • Wow- thanks for commenting, Polly. Colonics sounds like a good way to reset the system as well. So glad it worked for you! xx

  5. I had CFS for almost 2 years after I got mono when I was 26. Nothing seemed to help until I went gluten free and stopped taking an antibiotic I was on for acne. After reading a book about healing your immune system through food, and at the suggestion of friends, I decided to try going gluten free for 6 weeks. Turns out I am gluten intolerant. My twin sister is also gluten intolerant, so I probably should have made the connection sooner, but what can you do. Now I avoid gluten at all costs and I got my life back. If I accidentally eat gluten, I get incredibly tired with brain fog and headaches, trouble concentrating, my throat gets scratchy, and when I wake up in the morning, my body hurts (plus constipation); so it is really obvious if I make a mistake and accidentally eat it. These are all symptoms I had during my CFS. Sorry for the gory details, but if my account helps someone else, I would be so happy. I went to so many doctors to no avail; no one could help me and I was beginning to think I would never get better. None of my doctors suggested trying gluten free, and it made a world of difference for me. Good luck everyone!

    • Sarah, thank you so, so much for sharing- it will really help a lot of people. I’m so glad you’re feeling better. Gluten is incredible sneaky and can often be present in things we wouldn’t expect it to be like sauces. A lot of my coaching clients have also found that reducing gluten makes their brain fog better as well.

      Thanks so much Sarah- you’re a star! xx

  6. One more thing – after going gluten free, I also got rid of my acne which I had almost my whole life! :)

  7. woops. this may post twice.

    I don’t think gluten free makes a huge difference with my cfs but i may give it another try.

    Do you know anything about grain free diets? I think it’s also called a Paleo diet. (Or, would that effectively be the same as gluten free?)

    • No worries my lovely!

      I’m not the biggest expert on the Paleo diet, although I have to say, I have become interested in finding out more about it. This article breaks it down quite well (although it’s worth bearing in mind that the author is an advocate of the paleo diet) and also Chef Pete Evans is doing some fantastic work in this area.

      Sorry I can’t be of more help my darling, but I hope these links are useful- xxx

  8. I’m looking at gluten free being the last piece of the 2 year ‘Glandular Fever/CFS’ puzzle. I’m just waiting on food testing results next week but getting in early on this Gluten free bandwagon.

    I’ve been having japanese acupuncture to heal my cfs for a bit over a year now – after desperately looking for answers. In their terms I was seriously Spleen defficient causing the aches, pain, headaches and the epic crashouts we have come to fear. But now I’ve made it to my natural ‘Kidney defficient’ constitution and I’m doing exceptionally well.. But the aches and sensitivities in my shins and forearms, swelling on my forehead and abdominal sensitivities are still there from time to time! And frustrating me!

    I had fish and chips at the pub the other night. And a beer. At the end of eating the fatty fish batter the ache in my shines increased… hmmm.. So my I was on the phone to my previous practitioner and dear friend who said the symptoms I described are linked to digestion…perhaps we need to consider food sensitivities?! So I booked in with a natropath for testing against 55foods and she seems quietly confident.

    From what I’ve read and different people I’ve consulted with in the past 4 days – the body can develop these sensitivities after dealing with severe prolonged illness usually caused by viral infections. It starts to think the gluten is a pathogen and releases antibodies and cortisol to fight it. But it’s not actually fighting anything so you get inflammation and pain. They are sneaky too because the symptoms align with other illnesses and from my understanding GPs go with the all or nothing approach – either your small intestine is falling out and you have coeliac disease. Or it’s not. And you won’t always have stomach issues as people may think. Although they are the only authority when it comes to diagnosis and any other method such as igg testing isn’t backed or endorsed by the medical council so I understand… just like acupuncture for chronic fatigue has no place in the scientific community…

    Gluten is in absolutely everything. Tomato sauce, salad dressing, cooking oils, cakes, biscuits, ice Icreams, beer, oats, museli,weetbix, sausages, pasta, lollies. And be careful eating out on ‘gluten free’ options because people want to cash in on the latest ‘Hollywood diet trend’.

    Prior to illness I prided myself on my healthy diet and intense regime of sport, fitness and gym. Now I’m thinking 99.5% of what I eat is having adverse affects and preventing me from reaching the next level in my recovery and returning to all those things I took for granted once. For me I’m counting on it to be the last piece of the puzzle, so a total diet overhaul will be in order if true which will be a challenge. But even when I was fit and healthy pre illness I always wanted to get advice on diet and meal prep – so this might be the kick up the bum I needed!

    I also downloaded the BUPA Food Switch app where you can take a photo of the barcode on food labels and it tells you if there is gluten in the product or not.

    Thanks Katie for your site and postings I’ve been following this from time to time over the past year and usually been in pretty desperate places reading some of your articles. Usually I’d go to post on something then decide against posting… but I’m deciding to post now! I think it’s a stubborn trait on not reaching out that a lot of us have.

    Best wishes,

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