Gluten and Pregnancy: My Personal Experience

In my former life (pre-nutrition freak), I was a bread addict. I could seriously eat a whole loaf of cheesy jalapeno bread by myself in one day. Just thinking about cheesy jalapeno bread would make my head swoon. It took me a long time to finally come to grips with the fact that me and gluten just don’t get along. I suspected it in high school when I went on an elimination diet to figure out why I was having headaches and why my skin was so bad. The difference in how I felt wasn’t dramatic enough for me to say goodbye to this life long friend.

When my oldest was diagnosed with autism just before turning 3, I knew enough about gluten to know that removing it from his diet could help him. So all my kids were gluten free from that point on but I just couldn’t get myself off of it.  For about 8 years I would go on and off wheat and it wasn’t until my 5th pregnancy that I figured it out. Yes, I have 4 kids on earth and 2 in heaven. This was the baby I lost at 16 weeks. I figured out around the 10th week that my horrible morning sickness symptoms seemed a lot like my sister’s reaction to wheat (she is much more sensitive than I am to it). It was tricky because these symptoms are so much like regular old pregnancy symptoms. Tired, irritable, throwing up, headache and foggy headed. When I feel so bad with morning sickness, I tend to go to my comfort foods which meant lots and lots of wheat. Little did I know wheat was making it worse. I finally cut it out completely and within 4 days felt spectacular, utterly wonderful! Sure enough, when I was accidentally (or not so accidentally) glutenized, the morning sickness symptoms came back with a vengeance.  I would be bedridden for 2-4 days depending on how much wheat I got.
With my 6th pregnancy (4th live birth), I was diligent from the start.  I actually hadn’t purposefully eaten wheat since the last pregnancy.  I was finally able to see the link between gluten and how I felt.  This was the first pregnancy that I enjoyed.  Scratched that, I loved being pregnant.  The only time I threw up was if I accidentally got wheat.  I wasn’t as tired and my mood was so much more stable.  About 3 years later and I’m still gluten free.  I’ll never go back.

Now while I’m not pregnant, my gluten intolerance symptoms are not so bad but if it made me that sick while pregnant, it couldn’t be good for me even while not pregnant. Something like throwing up is so much more tangible than being “foggy headed”. Now that I’ve been off wheat long enough to know what it feels like to be normal, it’s much easier for me to just say no.  If I get wheat, I get what my husband calls a “wheat coma”. I’m just spacey, have a hard time concentrating or following conversations, I’m moody and irritable and just plain tired. Occasionally I’ll get a headache if I get a big dose of it. I also no longer have a nervous stomach. I never thought I had digestive symptoms of a gluten sensitivity until I realized I no longer get nervous stomach aches like I used to. I was the kid who would puke when something exciting happened. I ruined many birthday parties and vacations that way

I did go to the doctor at one point to be tested for Celiac Disease but I had been off wheat long enough that the blood test would be inconclusive.  I knew how I felt on and off wheat so I felt further testing was unnecessary and there was no way I was going back on wheat just for the test.

So, pregnancy induced gluten sensitivity.  Has anyone else heard of or experienced this?

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20 comments to Gluten and Pregnancy: My Personal Experience

  • Yes, absolutely! My celiac disease first showed up in the form of hyperemesis while carrying my son. It calmed down after his birth, then flared when I became pregnant again. That time, it didn’t go away despite loosing the twins in the first trimester. I was finally diagnosed six months after the miscarriage.

  • After the birth of my first child, I experienced digestive distress. I couldn’t figure out why. It got better, but never really disappeared. 6 years and an elimination diet later, I think I developed a dairy issue. Or one I never knew I had got worse. Not quite the same thing, but similar.

  • Lindsay

    I know this is kind of an old post- but I am 15 weeks pregnant right now. I have known for the past couple of years that I do not tolerate gluten well and have been fighting candida along with it. I was able to get away with eating gluten about once a week with no severe consequences. Since I became pregnant, I cannot tolerate it at all. And it is so hard. I really want to eat bread or just a simple sandwich but I know if I do, the next day I will be so lethargic and sick feeling, I can barely function. I did break down and eat a chicken biscuit. Big mistake. I just worry about the baby I am carrying. How is this affecting her? This is my second pregnancy and I did not experience any of this the first time.

    • Brooke Adams

      Hi Lindsay, I read your post from 2012 and I am currently 15 weeks and going through the same thing. How did everything turn out? Any advice? I feel so lost and helpless at times, and doctors seem to not care at all.

  • Sarah

    I’m so happy I found this article! I’m 8 weeks pregnant and I was getting increasingly severe morning sickness, to the point I just wanted to sleep all day next to the toilet, until I accidentally discovered that if I didn’t eat wheat, I stopped feeling sick. I was a complete omnivore before I got pregnant and it didn’t even occur to me that I might be intolerant to something. Everyone tells you to eat water crackers or dry toast to stop the nausea, so everytime I felt sick, that’s what I do would do. But I just kept getting sicker and sicker. Until one morning I’d run out of crackers and toast so I ate spoonfuls of dry oat museli instead. By lunchtime I felt almost normal. The next time I tried to eat toast I couldn’t even get it down and started feeling sick straightaway. So I’ve been wheat free for nearly a week and I still feel nauseous every so often, but I’m back at work and doing okay. I haven’t been able to find really any literature on pregnancy induced wheat/gluten intolerance though. Now I think of it, I realise pre-pregnancy I used to avoid eating lots of bread because it made me feel “heavy” so maybe this has been a dormant thing for me for a while.

  • miriah twitchell

    my gosh, this is exactly what i am going through – both with my first baby, and now with this pregnancy. i’m 17 weeks, and having a tough time going back to the diet i used to feel better with my first baby. and i’m completely paying the price for it. i know better than to start with gluten in the morning (greek yogurt and almonds), but this morning i had a small bag of triscuits after my protein punch and literally couldn’t keep my head upright. it gets so heavy, and all i want to do is lay it down. i overhead, get headachy, nauseous, and foggy-headed – great way to describe it! i pretty much have no option but to sleep these attacks off – it usually takes at least an hour to do so. please help me re-embrace this lifestyle with delicious cooking that the three other men in my household won’t complain about. i can’t do this to myself and my baby much longer.

  • miriah twitchell

    that is supposed to say ‘overheated’ above…its crazy – i get flushed, and am hot to the point of nausea. the best way i can describe it is like a ‘hot flash’, although i haven’t actually had one of those before – just these weird gluten ‘spikes!’.

  • I’m 34 weeks pregnant and just had my first night without throwing up, and I suspect it is because I have started eliminating gluten from my diet. I was feeling so tired I felt like my legs couldn’t support me, and throwing up between 2 and 6 times every day/night. I’m excited to think I may (at last, in 3rd trimester of 2nd pregnancy!) have found something that can help me… but research needs to be done on this, because doctors/midwives should be able to recommend to pregnant women suffering from hyperemesis that they try gluten elimination to see if it can help!

  • Michelle

    I am just in my second trimester and have had the worst stomach pain since day one. It just occurred to me to consider giving up gluten because the abdominal pain and gas was instant after eating. I have never really had any big issues with wheat but did notice most of my adult life that I would become lethargic after eating breads or cereals for breakfast. Lasting an hour or two. I started looking at the Internet to see if gluten intolerance could be amplified with pregnancy and if others experienced similar symptoms. My morning (all day) sickness was usually manageable , I never threw up, but I would eat to try feel better. The nausea would go away but the lethargy and abdominal pain is horrible. Headaches too. I will definitely remove gluten from my diet to see if symptoms improve. Thank you!

  • Ashley

    I’m pregnant with baby #2. Both pregnancies I was sick and throwing up daily until about week 20. I never noticed myself having any sensitivity to gluten but the other morning I was feeling pretty good with a decent amount of energy (unusual for being in my third trimester) but then I ate a nice big piece of cinnamon roll bread (which is delicious and usually doesn’t affect me like that at all) and within ten minutes I was feeling ill and utterly exhausted. Like, could barely function exhausted. I mentioned this to some women on my pregnancy group and one of them mentioned becoming sensitive to gluten while pregnant. The last two days I’ve been gluten free and felt fine. Today I tested it again and had some bread after feeling fine. Sure enough, within ten minutes again I was feeling horrible. I couldn’t believe it! I am now putting my 2 year old son on a gluten free diet to see if it helps his dry and eczema-prone skin.

    • Crazy, huh? I keep meeting more and more women who have had the same experience. Now whenever a friend complains of morning sickness, I tell them to at least give it try. No one has taken me up on it yet, lol!

      I’m glad you’re feeling better and hope it continues!

  • […] was never so miserable and depressed as I was pregnant and I don’t think that’s normal. This post gave me some food for […]

  • Brittany

    It’s too bad I didnt find this while suffering with HG with my daughter. My HG is so awful that I had to be hospitalized for dehydration after a week of vomiting every waking hour. I had lost 8 lbs in one week. The only thing that got me through the first 5 months of pregnancy was medication: zofran. Once my daughter was born she became super colicky and developed eczema at around the 2 month mark. I researched and decided to remove dairy from my diet. Her colic subsided as well as the mastitis I had been suffering with every couple of days for about 3 weeks. Yet her eczema was still occurring. Through more research and reading other testimonials I decided to remove gluten as well. Her eczema started to heal almost immediately, though it would flare up occasionally and I figured it was because I had accidentally consumed dairy or gluten. We are both gluten and dairy free and ahe is almost 16 months. I’ve been thinking about never having another child because of how much my last pregnancy took out of me but after reading this blog and hearing that mothers how once had HG while eating gluten when pregnant, can have a normal pregnancy with no HG and feel good gluten free, I may reconsider eventually! I just think there are some nutritional ad supplemental restoring that needs to be done first for myself.

  • Staci

    Thank you for sharing your experience! I am 9 weeks pregnant with my 2nd, and have discovered I can no longer handle dairy or wheat. The wheat thing reared it’s ugly head this morning when I had a piece of toast this morning and became super nauseated and crampy and weak on my way in to work.

    When I weighed in at my most recent appointment I had lost 2 pounds. My doctor asked if I was having trouble keeping things down – I can keep things down, I just don’t want to put anything in!

    Reading these experiences here has encouraged me that pregnancy doesn’t have to be as miserable as it has been. Here’s hoping things improve as I adjust my diet. 🙂

  • Claudine

    Having eaten very little apart from toast and crackers for the last 6 weeks due to severe MS, I’m now (11 weeks) starting to find that bread is now making me sick, makes me bloated, and generally feel ‘rough’. Started doing some research on gluten, and remembered back to about 5 years ago when I realized I felt better due to dietary changes caused by moving to Asia (less bread and dairy, more rice). I think increased wheat intake in last few weeks is starting to take its toll. Can’t eat milk or yoghurt without throwing up either.
    Would be great to find some MS friendly alternatives to bread products, because I feel I can’t eat anything at the moment. Roll on 2nd trimester…..

  • kim

    After my second pregnancy my digestion was so off I had a colonoscopy. I eliminated most dairy and gluten just to feel normal. I lost 15 lbs watching calories and felt amazing. I actually felt like doing things! Now pregnant with 3rd and every time I eat gluten my throat hurts and tongue feels fuzzy. I get a migraine for hours and lay down all day. I never believed that more than 2% had celiac disease but now I am firmly convinced there is non-celiac gluten sensitivity. My dad has type 1 diabetes and sister had 2 genes associated with celiac. My sister has

  • kim

    My twin sister has thyroid issues. I haven’t had any genetic testing myself but for the sake of my lifestyle I’m attempting to go gf just to avoid body aches and joint pain. I just wish there was more support in the medical profession and that they knee more about gluten sensitivity. Sometimes I want a true diagnosis so that I don’t feel like I’m self-diagnosing my symptoms.

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