Does Gluten or Gluten Intolerance Cause Weight Gain?

Does Gluten or Gluten Intolerance Cause Weight Gain?

There's a lot of talk and confusion about gluten, a substance people have been eating for a long time. Some people think it's bad for our health and make us gain weight, but the truth is, it depends on each person.


People with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease are usually told to avoid gluten. For most people, gluten itself doesn't cause weight gain. But it's often found in unhealthy, processed foods that are high in calories, which can make us gain weight if we overeat. So, it's not really about gluten alone. It's more about the types of foods that contain gluten and how much of them we eat.


This article will explain gluten, where it's found, who should avoid it, why, and how gluten might affect inflammation and weight gain.

What is Gluten? Does Gluten Cause Weight Gain?

Did you know that gluten is a kind of protein? It's the main protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Foods like bread, pasta, cereal, crackers, and beer have a lot of gluten unless labelled "gluten-free." Sometimes oats can also have gluten if they're made near other foods with gluten, even though oats don't naturally have it. Gluten is a natural ingredient, but it can also be added to food to make it more protein-packed and flavorful and give it a particular texture. It's like a sticky glue that holds foods together and helps them keep their shape, like fluffy bread or stretchy pizza dough.


Many people who follow a gluten-free diet get confused when they still gain weight or have changes in their blood sugar levels. One reason for this is that they often replace gluten-containing foods with gluten-free alternatives that have lots of sugar, salt, and other additives that aren't very healthy or helpful for losing weight. These extra ingredients are added to make the gluten-free foods taste better and feel nicer in the mouth. The packaged gluten-free foods that people commonly eat are often high in carbs and fat but low in essential nutrients like iron, folate, and protein compared to regular products. These packaged foods are less nutritious than whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and lean protein.


Despite the increasing popularity of gluten-free foods for weight loss and managing medical conditions, there is very little research to support using a gluten-free diet for weight loss. A study in 2013 used mice and suggested that exposure to gluten might be linked to weight gain, but it didn't explain why. Further studies also couldn't come to a clear conclusion. So far, no studies have been conducted on humans to understand how consuming gluten affects our health.



People with undiagnosed or untreated celiac disease may unintentionally lose weight over time because they have trouble absorbing nutrients due to damage and inflammation in the intestine and other organs. However, when they start a gluten-free diet and their intestine heals, they might regain the lost weight, and weight gain can continue.

Gluten Sensitivity and Weight Gain

A person may be diagnosed with gluten sensitivity or intolerance if they experience negative symptoms like fatigue, nausea, or bloating after eating gluten. Sometimes, a medical professional will first check for celiac disease or a wheat allergy before diagnosing gluten sensitivity. Although gluten sensitivity and celiac disease cause similar symptoms, people with gluten sensitivity do not have abnormal genes or specific antibodies in their blood like those with celiac disease.


In simple terms, a diagnosis of gluten sensitivity is made when celiac disease and allergies are ruled out, and positive results are observed during an elimination diet. During an elimination diet, problem foods are identified and removed from the diet. As a result, the negative symptoms associated with those foods decrease or go away. It's important to do an elimination diet under the guidance of a Registered Dietitian who can ensure that you still get all the necessary nutrients during the trial, especially if there are concerns about weight. They will carefully evaluate your calorie intake and food quality.

Celiac Disease and Weight Gain

When someone has celiac disease, their immune system reacts negatively to gluten, treating it as a harmful substance. This causes the immune cells to become overly active and send inflammatory cells and antibodies to attack the gluten molecules. As a result, inflammation and damage occur in the finger-like projections called villi that line the small intestine.


When the villi get damaged, they can't absorb essential nutrients properly. This leads to uncomfortable symptoms like fatigue, bloating, constipation and/or diarrhoea, unintentional weight loss, and malnutrition.


The only way to treat celiac disease is to follow a gluten-free diet. This means avoiding all foods that contain gluten. It can be challenging to adjust to this new way of eating, and sometimes people gradually regain the healthy weight that was unintentionally lost. However, if a balanced intake of nutrients isn't maintained, even with gluten-free foods, unwanted weight gain can occur. People with celiac disease can benefit from working with a Registered Dietitian who can help them navigate these challenges and ensure they get the right nutrients.

The Gluten Sensitivity or Gluten-Induced Weight Gain: How to Deal with It

If you think gluten might affect your weight or health, you must talk to your doctor or a dietitian. Your doctor might suggest doing a blood test or other tests to check if you have celiac disease, a wheat allergy, or another health condition. A dietitian can help you by looking closely at your food and any symptoms you have. They can create an eating plan that suits and makes you feel good. The dietitian might also recommend keeping a journal where you write down the foods you eat and any symptoms you experience. This can help identify any foods that might be causing problems. It's also important to consider how well you sleep, manage stress, and are active when talking to your doctor about losing weight.

Gluten: Friend or Foe?

Weight gain is complex. Far more often than not, gluten is not the only culprit for weight gain. For centuries, gluten-free foods have provided people with valuable nutrients: protein, soluble fibre, and B vitamins. Gluten, especially gluten found in whole grains, is not bad for healthy people whose bodies can tolerate it.


Gaining weight is a complicated issue. Most of the time, gluten is not the only reason for weight gain. Gluten-free foods have been helpful to people for many years because they provide important nutrients like protein, soluble fibre, and B vitamins. Gluten itself, especially the kind found in whole grains, is not harmful to people who are healthy and can tolerate it.


If you've been trying to lose weight on your own but haven't been successful, Weight Loss Coach can assist you! Our team of experts will thoroughly examine your nutrition, sleep, stress, family and medical history, lifestyle, and physical activity. We can support your weight loss efforts by improving your eating habits and physical activity.


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