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Diarrhea, runny noses, and rage: Poll results

Posted Feb 05 2011 7:44pm
Here are the results of the week-long poll asking the question
Have you experienced a wheat re-exposure syndrome?
Yes, undesirable gastrointestinal effects 223 (41%)
Yes, asthma or sinus problems 51 (9%)
Yes, joint pains and/or swelling 85 (15%)
Yes, emotional or other nervous system effects 59 (10%)
No, nothing, nada  107 (19%)
No. Wheat is sacred and you're all nuts  13 (2%)


There are several interesting observations to make from this informal poll. First, as I have observed, the most common wheat re-exposure syndrome is gastrointestinal, usually involving cramps, diarrhea, and lame explanations to your dinner partner.

Second most common: joint pains and/or swelling.

Third: asthma or sinus congestion.

The incidence of emotional or nervous system effects surprised me a bit. I didn't expect 10% of people to share this effect. This is an effect I also experience personally, along with the gastrointestinal consequences.

To be sure, this is a skewed poll, since many people likely come to this blog in the first place because of such issues. But I was nonetheless impressed with the relatively modest proportion of people who did not share such a re-exposure syndrome: only 19%.

Beyond the interesting numbers provided by readers, a good many also provided some fascinating and graphic comments. Here's a sample



Sassy said:

Reflux -- starts a day later and goes for up to a week. And Bloat:2-5 inches on my waistline in a day, lasting up to three. Miserable. And why, having experienced this once, have I done it often enough to verify the connection with certainty? I am working on that one.



Anonymous said:
Wheat increased hunger with even with only a small amount. Crackers in soup was enough to set it off.

Also, when I was trying to get off wheat, I noticed that 2 eggs and 2 bacon and I could go 5 hours before hunger, or 2 eggs and 2 bacon and toast was good for three hours before hunger. That was the final step to giving up wheat. Now three years and 59 Kg [130 lbs!] loss later, there is no doubt in my mind that wheat is evil, and I do not regard it as suitable for human food. I speculate that it increases ghrelin or cortisol.

Anna said:For me, in the two years since I began eating Gluten-Free (Low Carb for 6 years), the few times I've had re-exposure to wheat, I've experienced fast onset and intense abdominal pain (known exposure during the daytime) and heartburn, indigestion, intense nausea, and disrupted sleep (exposures during evening meal not discovered until the next day).

My husband wants to think he's fine with wheat (though I know that he has at least one gene that predisposes to celiac), but IMO, he isn't. He eats no wheat at home because that's the default, and he's OK with that. But if he goes out to dinner at a restaurant that serves "good" artisan bread, he will indulge in a few bites (he does restrict his carb intake, so it's still a limited amount). More often than not, he will sleep fitfully on those nights, snore more, and wake in the night with indigestion. He wants to bury his head in the sand and will only acknowledge the discomfort being due to eating too many carbs, not the wheat itself. I notice he sleeps fine if he eats a small amount of potato or rice. Go figure.

Our 12 yo son has been eating GF for two years also. About 6 months into GF, he unknowingly ate wheat a number of times (licorice candy laces at a friend's house), which resulted in outbreaks of canker sores in his mouth each time. He also exhibits mood and behavior changes when he eats wheat, which is what prompted me to test him for gluten intolerance in the first place.

Mark said:If I go for 3-4 days without wheat, grains or sugar and then go out and binge on a pizza and ice cream or something like that I become explosive within 20 minutes to an hour. It's like a wheat and sugar rage.(I'm not saying this is an excuse for rage, I'm saying it has happened to me and I believe partly do to re-exposure) It seems the combination of the wheat plus sugar can be the worst.

I get red rashes around my neck sometimes right away and sometimes up to a day or later and sometimes get bad diarrhea. 
I think it can be almost dangerous to cut things like gluten and sugar suddenly out of the diet without being very serious about keeping them out. I have found it very hard to cut out wheat without binging on it later after 4 or 5 days. I don't believe that my symptoms are just psychological either.

I was also diagnosed with ADHD as a young kid and then rediagnosed with adult ADHD by 3 different doctors. I also have bouts of mania at times too. I am considering trying to go completely gluten/refined carbohydrate free to see if it helps with the symptoms and gives me some relief.
I have never been tested for celiac or gluten intolerance but I would like to be. I think it would help explain to my girlfriend, family and friends why I can't go out and eat pizza or have a beer or ice cream. Right now they all think I'm a hypochondriac. At times I have experienced an intense fatigue the next day like I can't wake up and also sharp pains in my body and headaches.

Anonymous said:I ditched wheat a year ago after my wife was diagnosed celiac. I immediately experienced a number of health improvements (blood lipids, sleep, allergies, etc.).

Fast forward: We all suffered some inadvertent wheat exposure yesterday via some chocolate covered Brazil nuts (of all things). This accidental A-B-A experimental design resulted in the following
1. My celiac wife experienced what she calls "the flip" within an hour of exposure (i.e., intense GI distress).
2. My five-year old son went to bed with some wicked reflux.
3. I woke up with some twinges in my lower back and an ache in my football-weary left shoulder. I was also complaining to my wife about fuzzy-headedness that refused to respond to caffeine or hydration. I could only describe it as "carb flu"...

And then I read your post!

Anne said:Depression, agitation and brain fog if I get glutened. Some times this comes with abdominal pain and a rash on my back - I think it is dose dependent. Cross contamination with wheat is a big issue when eating out. Needless to say, I eat out infrequently and then try to stick with the restaurants that are the most aware of gluten issues.
Terrence said:Several weeks ago, I started Robb Wolf's 30 day challenge.

The first two weeks were brutal - calling it a withdrawal flu was a massive understatement. So, I thought I would try some wheat and see what happened (could not be worse, I thought). Well, it was.

I still felt extremely crappy, but I was now MASSIVELY GASSY - AMAZINGLY GASSY, for about 48 hours - flatulence on wheels, in spades. I did not go out at all in those 48 hours - when the gas came on, it went out, LONG, and QUICKLY and LOUDLY.

I am easing back into wheat and grain free. I am gluten free today and tomorrow (Sunday and Monday). I expect to try a small amount of wheat on Thursday, then maybe a little more the following Thursday.

Donald said:I have limited wheat consumption severely over the last 8 months. I have lost 120 pounds, no longer have bouts of illness, asthma, depression, or low energy. I also take vitamin D and other supplements that have helped (many are from your blog recommendations).

Last week I ate a small piece of cake and dessert pizza. Shortly thereafter I started sneezing, had a scratchy throat, and runny nose. I called off sick the next day for fear of being contagious. My symptoms subsided quickly and I am now attributing them to the processed flour eaten at my work luncheon. I think it was an allergic reaction since I recall having much more severe symptoms fairly regularly in my wheat eating days. Those were attributed to an "allergy" of unknown origin back then.

John said:I suffered from Ankylosing Spondylitis, Iritis, Plantar Fasciits, etc for a number of years. I restricted carbs, especially wheat and I've been symptom free for the past two years now.
Lori said:I found wheat to be one of the worst things for giving me gas bloating and acid reflux, and I'd had sinus and nasal congestion my whole life. When I ate that cookie, it just re-introduced old problems. I can occasionally eat a gluten-free, grainy goody at my party place without any side effects. I also have a little sprouted rice protein powder every day.

Another odd thing about wheat: it was hard for me to stop eating it once I started. I could go through a whole box of cookies in one sitting, even though I wasn't a binge eater. But I can have a couple of gluten-free cookies and stop.

Paul said:Except for one slip up this recently past holiday season, I've been sugar-grain-starch free since July 2008. Mental fog was the most noticable re-exposure symptom I had.

My mom has had the worst acid-reflux for 40-plus years. It had become so bad that she was on three medications just to deal with the symptoms. After much training and coaxing, I finally got across to her 
how to totally get off wheat. Not at all to my surprise, after being wheat free for a few weeks, she lost weight and her acid reflux was GONE!

But she had been addicted to wheat for so long, she relapsed, and the reflux fire soon returned. Wheat must be akin to heroin with some people. Even though they know it's very bad for them, they can't help themselves.

Onschedule said:Re-exposure often leads to diarrhea for me, or such a heavy feeling of tiredness that all I can do is lay down and pass out. A local pizzeria makes a darn good pie, but since I started practicing wheat-avoidance, I can't keep my eyes open after eating there. I can't say for sure that it's the wheat causing it, but definitely something in the crust. Diarrhea, on the other hand, is definitely triggered by the wheat for me.

My mom complained of gastric reflux for years, but never filled the prescriptions that her doctors would give her. I suggested wheat-avoidance- gastric reflux disappeared within 3 days and hasn't returned (has been 6 months now). I've already commented elsewhere on this blog about how much weight and bloating she has lost...

Steve said:Interesting that I should sit down, turn on my computer and find your poll. Having gone several weeks, maybe months, avoiding gluten, I took my daughter and her boyfriend out to eat because my wife has been working late at the office lately. Although I was thinking I would just eat my steak and chicken, I succumbed to the temptation of eating about a dozen greasy, breaded shrimp that my daughter and her boyfriend ordered. It's 1:39am and I still do not feel sleepy. My left nostril is completely blocked, my stomach feels bloated, really, really full and I've been burping. In your poll I checked sinus problems but could have chose gastrointestinal or nervous problems just as well. 


A few weeks ago my daughter brought home a pizza and, once again, despite my knowing that I shouldn't, I ate a couple of pieces. I was sick for two days. The pain in what I think was my transverse colon was so bad I thought I might have to go to ther emergency room. Before I ate the pizza I had never gone grain-free that long before. I did this after reading Robb Wolf's book. 


I AM CONVINCED. No more wheat for me! Please, Lord, give me strength.
LV said:What don't I experience! I typically avoid wheat (and gluten for that matter) as I'm pretty sure it makes me sick, but when I slip (or someone else slips me some) I end up with massive amounts of joint swelling and tenderness, diarhea, cramping, gas, bloating and brain fog. I'm absolutely miserable. Just that alone is enough to keep me off gluten. I have RA, so if I have repeated exposures I'll have a flare which SUCKS!


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