How Long Does Gluten Stay In Your System

About gluten 

What is it and what are its health benefits?

As defined by the U.S Food and Drug Administration, gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye. These grains are common ingredients in bread, cakes, and pasta. They are added for the purpose of helping food retain its structure.2 The Gluten Free Society also categorises oat, corn, and rice grains as gluten foods due to the small amount of gluten protein that naturally occurs in them. 

Those who avoid gluten for their health, such as people with coeliac disease or non-coeliac gluten sensitivity, should also be careful of processed foods that may either contain gluten or be cross-contaminated.1 Many people can, however, eat gluten as part of a healthy diet. One study even suggests that avoiding gluten unnecessarily could be detrimental to your health.3

Diets containing gluten tend to be high in fibre, iron and other nutrients, providing some health benefits, such as:

  • A lowered risk of developing type 2 diabetes4 
  • A lowered risk of developing heart disease3
  • A maintenance of gut health by supporting ‘good’ gut bacteria5
  • A maintenance of a nutritional balance, as gluten foods may contain less salt and fat than some gluten-free alternatives

How long does gluten stay in our system

Gluten takes an average of 2 days to move all the way through the digestive system and exit the body. For those with coeliac disease, the immune reaction provoked by gluten exposure prolongs the total recovery time, causing it to take on average 4 months for immune system antibodies to stop attacking gut cells.1

The amount of time gluten will stay in our system, therefore causing damage to the gut, also varies from person to person and is influenced by a few uncontrollable factors, including:

  • Biological sex - men have a quicker digestive process and get rid of gluten faster than women7 
  • Age - a young person's gut should take a maximum of 6 months to heal, but an older person’s gut may take 4 times as long8 

What happens if it stays too long in our system?

Gluten exposure is problematic for those with some form of gluten intolerance, and unregulated or repeated gluten intake can lead to increased health problems over time.9

Coeliac disease 

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes the immune system to attack cells in the small intestine after gluten ingestion. The immune system's antibodies damage gut cells' structure, or villi, affecting their function of absorbing nutrients.9 According to the Coeliac Disease Foundation if coeliac disease is not treated by switching to a gluten-free diet, reduced villi function may cause patients to develop key nutritional deficiencies, such as anaemia and osteoporosis.10 

Symptoms of coeliac disease also include gastrointestinal symptoms such as gas, bloating, vomiting, diarrhoea, and constipation. Damage to the gut also leads to inflammation in other areas of the body such as the joints, causing pain, and also the skin, which causes a rash known as dermatitis herpetiformis.10

Mayo Clinic also lists that long-term gluten-induced gut damage increases the risk of developing other food sensitivities, some forms of intestinal cancer, nervous system disorders, and fertility problems.11 

Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity 

Coeliac UK defines non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) as a condition similar to coeliac disease, as it causes the same digestive complaints. However, as it is not an autoimmune disease, NCGS patients do not suffer from gut damage. Nevertheless, you should still see your healthcare practitioner if you believe you are suffering from NCGS.12  

Wheat allergy

As gluten is one of the proteins present in wheat, ingestion of wheat products can cause an allergic reaction in some. Wheat allergy activates a part of the immune system resulting in symptoms such as:

  • Gastrointestinal symptoms 
  • Inflammation of the skin and mouth 
  • Laboured breathing
  • Anaphylactic shock13

Rheumatoid arthritis 

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition closely linked to coeliac disease, which can cause gluten-sensitive individuals diagnosed with arthritis to experience more severe joint pain.14 

Ways and tips to remove gluten faster

The first step after gluten exposure should be to flush the protein from your system to minimise the immune reaction against gut cells.1

Constipated bowel movements can be remedied by:

  • Pharmaceutical laxatives1
  • Natural laxative remedies like prunes or pears15 
  • Digestive enzymes - these help the gut break down gluten for quicker expulsion in stool1
  • Water - can help the bowel contents flow more freely15 
  • Light exercise - remaining active can help the bowels move and aid stool in passing more regularly15 

There are also some things you can do to help your gut heal after gluten initially leaves your body:

  • Alter your intake of food for a short term to speed up recovery of gut cells16 
  • Take a probiotic to aid healthy gut bacteria1 
  • Add gluten-free sources of fibre to your diet to aid digestion and regular bowel movements15 
  • Get more hours of sleep to create vital time for damaged gut tissue to repair and renew itself17  
  • Reduce your stress levels to avoid worsening symptoms that may lengthen recovery time18  


Ingesting gluten may not be completely unavoidable, but being armed with the knowledge of where it could be lurking in your food and how you can overcome an exposure if the worst does happen, allows you to take some power back when it comes to managing your gluten intolerance and overall health.  


  1. How long does it take for gluten to leave your system [Internet]. Gluten Free Society. 2022 [cited 2022 Dec 28]. Available from: 
  2. Nutrition C for FS and A. Gluten and food labeling. FDA [Internet]. 2022 Jan 10 [cited 2022 Dec 28]; Available from: 
  3. Lebwohl B, Cao Y, Zong G, Hu FB, Green PHR, Neugut AI, et al. Long term gluten consumption in adults without celiac disease and risk of coronary heart disease: prospective cohort study. BMJ [Internet]. 2017 May 2 [cited 2022 Dec 28];j1892. Available from: 
  4. Low gluten diets linked to higher risk of type 2 diabetes [Internet]. ScienceDaily. [cited 2022 Dec 29]. Available from: 
  5. Sanz Y. Effects of a gluten-free diet on gut microbiota and immune function in healthy adult humans. Gut Microbes [Internet]. 2010 [cited 2022 Dec 29];1(3):135–7. Available from: 
  6. Niland B, Cash BD. Health benefits and adverse effects of a gluten-free diet in non–celiac disease patients. Gastroenterol Hepatol (N Y) [Internet]. 2018 Feb [cited 2022 Dec 29];14(2):82–91. Available from: 
  7. Degen LP, Phillips SF. Variability of gastrointestinal transit in healthy women and men. Gut. 1996 Aug;39(2):299–305.
  8. Celiac disease [Internet]. [cited 2022 Dec 30]. Available from: 
  9. What is celiac disease? [Internet]. Celiac Disease Foundation. [cited 2022 Dec 30]. Available from: 
  10. Symptoms of celiac disease [Internet]. Celiac Disease Foundation. [cited 2022 Dec 30]. Available from: 
  11. Celiac disease - Symptoms and causes [Internet]. Mayo Clinic. [cited 2022 Dec 30]. Available from: 
  12. Gluten sensitivity [Internet]. Coeliac UK. [cited 2022 Dec 30]. Available from: 
  13. Wheat allergy - Symptoms and causes [Internet]. Mayo Clinic. [cited 2022 Dec 30]. Available from: 
  14. Castillo-Ortiz JD, Durán-Barragán S, Sánchez-Ortíz A, Ramos-Remus C. [Anti-transglutaminase, antigladin and ultra purified anti-gladin antibodies in patients with a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis]. Reumatol Clin. 2011;7(1):27–9. 
  15. Eating fiber to manage constipation while on a gluten-free diet [Internet]. Massachusetts General Hospital. [cited 2022 Dec 30]. Available from: 
  16. 9 health benefits of fasting for celiacs [Internet]. Gluten Free Society. 2021 [cited 2022 Dec 30]. Available from: 
  17. Oswald I. Sleep as a restorative process: human clues. In: McConnell PS, Boer GJ, Romijn HJ, Van De Poll NE, Corner MA, editors. Progress in Brain Research [Internet]. Elsevier; 1980 [cited 2022 Dec 30]. p. 279–88. Available from: 
  18. nicholc. Managing the stress of getting “glutened” [Internet]. GIG® Gluten Intolerance Group®. 2022 [cited 2022 Dec 30]. Available from: 
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Amy Murtagh

BSc Veterinary Bioscience - Bachelors of Science, University of Glasgow

Amy is a recent graduate from Glasgow's School of Biodiversity, One Health and Veterinary Medicine with a particular interest in science communication in these subject areas.

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