Am I experiencing gluten detox?

Commented on January 30, 2015
Created January 30, 2015 at 1:20 AM

  • Hi guys.

I've been off gluten for almost two weeks now. I was sure that the first week was working as my acne almost completely cleared up and a bad patch of eczema on my arm almost disappeared fully. 

However, just over a week in to being gluten free I started to breakout with really bad acne. I had mild acne before, but these spots were bigger and more angry than usual and in kind of random places on my face.

The rash on my arm has also started to flare up a little, and I've been a little achy and fatigued. My lips and hands are also very dry.

After Googling for a number of hours, it seems these symptoms could be attributed to a gluten detox (the toxins leaving the body). However, I've been reading that the symptoms will normally show as soon as you give up gluten. For me, it took a week or so for these symptoms to show.

Do you think this is a gluten detox that I am experiencing or am I just ill (maybe a bug or something)? Could the toxins kick in a week after giving up gluten?

Also, I'm worried about becoming completely intolerant to gluten if I stay off it too long. What's the average length you can stay off gluten without your body "forgetting" how to deal with it?

Thank you for your time in advance!

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4 Answers



on January 30, 2015
at 11:38 AM

Gluten generally causes autoimmune issues.  It signals zonulin in the gut lining and causes it to open, allowing large molecules from partially undigested food to enter the blood stream.  The immune system then sees these as invaders and builds antibodies to them.  It is possible for these molecules to stick to various parts of the body, including skin cells, where the immune system will start to attack them, and thus you may see skin inflammation.


For example, say you eat eggs and toast for breakfast every day.  The more gluten, the more likely it is that your gut lining will start to open up, and at some point, like winning a bad lottery, egg proteins will enter the blood stream and become tagged by the immune system as an invader.  From that point on, your body may have all sorts of various reactions to egg whites.


It takes several months, sometimes more, of absolutely zero gluten exposure for the antibodies to go away, and in some cases, they won't.  Which means that once you heal your gut lining, the egg proteins won't be able to enter your blood stream and won't cause a reaction.


However, this doesn't mean the symptoms you see are caused by autoimmunity or gluten.  There's no magical detox symptoms.  It is possible that when bacteria are killed off that the toxins they release into the gut cause all sorts of malaise, this is usually in the form of a Herxheimer reaction.  But the absence gluten itself cannot cause this.


Gluten isn't the only molecule that can do this, and many grains have gluen analogues that to some extent can cause a similar problem.  For example, it's common knowledge that oats are gluten free, and are tolerated by many people, however, there have been studies that show that even oats that have not been processed on the same equipment as wheat can prevent those with celiac disease from healing, and in some, cause an active reaction.  Similar issues can be found with all grains, even corn.  Pretty much the only safe grain is white rice since the endosperm where the proteins are has been removed (so brown rice is problematic obviously). 


But things like certain beans, if uncooked properly (soaked for over 24h with the water discarded, cooked for a very long time), and also quinoa have other problems. For example quinoa has saponins which are known to be able to punch holes in the gut lining causing similar issues as gluten.  While it's possible to cook the toxins out of quinoa and beans, it is not possible to do so with wheat.  Fermented doughs such as sourdough can have less gluten, but they do not have zero gluten.  So they're still problematic...


So the important thing is to allow lots of absolutely zero gluten exposure for a long time (along with removing any other gut damaging foods) to allow the barrier to heal.  You can do some things to speed it up, such as consume lots of collagen/gelatin (i.e. make and consume bone broths often, or use unflavored gelatin).  L-Glutamine, in powdered form can also be used to help heal the gut lining.  Something like 5-10g/day.


Generally acne isn't cause by wheat exposure, but rather dairy. Are you consuming any dairy?  Anything other than just butter or ghee?  (Milk and many fermented milk foods cause problems with hormones which cause the acne.)


It's certainly possible to see all sorts of skin effects when your body is disposing of toxins, i.e. detoxing, but generally these don't happen from gluten, these happen mostly when your liver cannot dispose of the toxins safely, either it lacks the enzymes to do so, or you're not eating enough fat, so it cannot wrap the toxic molecules in a layer of fat and dispose of it in your digestive tract.  So perhaps you could increase your intake of saturated fats (coconut, lard, beef fat, butter, etc.) to help this process out, and increase your intake of B vitamins (egg yolks, liver, or outright supplements) and sulfur containing plants: alums, such as onions, leeks, scallions, garlic.  These support phase I and phase II of the liver detox.  Certain other plants such as ginger, and milk thistle can help as well.  And certainly drink lots of water, but add in some seasalt and potassium (coconut water, cucumbers, and the occasional banana.)


There are a lot of sham cleanses and detoxes which wtfgod is trying to refer to (i.e. juice cleanses, shakes, etc.).  Indeed, don't pay for any of those things, whatever they promise, they are nonsense.  The best detox you can do is to fast.  Just drink water and don't eat for one day a month, or such.  But even that's unnecessary.  It's best for your body to have the nutrients it needs to remove whatever toxins it must.


It's also possible that if you're burning off a lot of fast very quickly that you're releasing toxins stored in your fat cells - again if the liver can't detox something, it will try to move it somewhere where it won't cause harm, in this case, fat cells could store them.  So when you burn off fat quickly, these can be released and now your liver has a lot of extra work to do, which it couldn't do when it originally stored them.


Another thing that helps is sweating. So work out until you work up a good sweat, or take a sauna, or hot showers or better yet contrast showers.


Medium avatar


on January 30, 2015
at 04:25 PM

Thank you for this in-depth reply! There is much here for me to study and read over again.


I don't consume much dairy. I don't drink milk anymore or add it to anything I eat. I eat olive oil margarine and hardly any butter. What's the difference between consuming milk and butter? Is it the way it's produced? I eat some cheese, too, but not a large amount.


Personally, I'm wary about dairy as a whole - I've read that the human body isn't yet fully adapated to consuming dairy (much like wheat). I've been trying to research milk and whether it's truly safe for human consumption. It just seems weird to me that we'd consume something that is meant to turn a baby cow into an 1500 pound animal.


Again, thanks for your detailed reply. It's appreciated. 

Medium avatar


on January 30, 2015
at 04:56 AM

Gluten is a plant protein and some people have trouble digesting it. Eczema and skin problems can result from a lot of things other than eating or not eating gluten.

If you have cut this plant protein out of your diet, eat extra meat protein to replace it. An extra can of tuna a day would replace the gluten protein you used to get from several slices of bread or bowls of cereal. See if that helps your skin. Sardines would probably work better than tuna.

Medium avatar


on January 30, 2015
at 04:26 PM

Thanks. I usually consume around one tin of sardines a week. Maybe I should up this amount...



on January 30, 2015
at 01:57 AM

Toxins are a woo word with no meaning.


Detox is also a woo concept with pretty much no truth to it.


If you think your body is reacting negatievly to gluten then it apparently has no clue how to deal with it now...so how would it forget how to deal with something that it could never deal with?


TL:DR- Rethink what you want to say and formulate a less nonsensical question.

TL:DR- You may want to look into other potential allergens if you still have skin issues. The common ones are: Dairy first and foremost, eggs, nuts, nightshades, soy.



on January 30, 2015
at 11:15 AM

While many advertised detox cleanses are snake oil, the word toxin does have a precise meaning:  http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/toxin



 noun \??täk-s??n\

: a poisonous substance and especially one that is produced by a living thing

l Definition of TOXIN

:  a poisonous substance that is a specific product of the metabolic activities of a living organism and is usually very unstable, notably toxic when introduced into the tissues, and typically capable of inducing antibody formation



on January 30, 2015
at 11:03 PM

Yes I understand that 'toxin' is a word in the english langauge and does have a definition.




In the context in which it is used, it has no meaning. Noone ever defines which 'toxin' it is that is being removed or neutralized. It's just the malicious 'toxins' which are causing all your problems and if you do something it will remove the 'toxin' and when the 'toxin' is being removed it will cause whatever symptom you are having. Unless you define what the 'toxin' is then it has no meaning to the reader.


Imagine if your car came with instructions to put 'fuel' in it rather than 'gasoline', fuel would he meaningless as you would not know whether to put coal, or gasoline or deisel or electricity...ect.


TL:DR- Toxin has no meaning....in the context in which it used as it relates to detoxing.


Why did that even need to be said??

Medium avatar

on January 30, 2015
at 04:49 AM

As you suggested with other food types, I cut gluten out of my diet as a test to see whether it's causing my skin problems. I was wondering if anyone knew how long it I could stay off gluten before my body forgets how to deal with it. Obviously, that's assuming that gluten *isn't* causing my skin problems and can deal with it already, though that has yet to be determined and is the reasoning behind this test. 

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