June 14, 2022

Can You Get Celiac Disease From Eating Too Much Gluten?

Discover the connection between eating gluten and developing celiac disease

Woman eating noodles gluten celiac disease

Gluten — a protein found in wheat, barley and rye — is enemy No. 1 for people with celiac disease. When you have celiac, eating even a tiny amount of gluten triggers an immune response that can damage your small intestine and lead to health problems.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

But is gluten a bad thing if you don’t have celiac disease? And could eating a lot of gluten increase your risk of getting celiac disease later? Gastroenterologist Alberto Rubio Tapia, MD, explains what causes celiac disease and whether eating gluten plays a role.

What causes celiac disease?

Eating gluten triggers celiac disease in some people, but gluten alone isn’t to blame. The causes of celiac disease are complex and involve many risk factors, including genetics.

“Nearly everyone with celiac disease has one of two specific gene variants, known as DQ2 and DQ8,” explains Dr. Rubio Tapia. “But there are other risk factors for celiac disease, too, such as environmental factors and previous infections. Some studies have found that your race or gut bacteria also affect your celiac disease risk.”

Can you ‘suddenly’ develop celiac disease?

Eating a plate of pasta won’t make you develop celiac disease if you don’t have other risk factors. But you can develop celiac disease as an adult, even if you ate gluten your whole life without a problem.

“Experts used to think people were born with the risk of celiac disease and would develop it as soon as they ate gluten,” says Dr. Rubio Tapia. “But now we know you can develop celiac disease at any age.”

Gluten sensitivity: Going gluten-free without celiac disease

Certain tests can help diagnose celiac disease. But what if those tests are negative, and you don’t have celiac disease — but eating gluten still makes you feel awful?


You could have non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or gluten intolerance. People with this condition have trouble digesting gluten, but gluten doesn’t cause intestinal damage. Symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain.
  • Bloating.
  • Constipation or diarrhea.
  • Fatigue and brain fog.
  • Headaches.
  • Nausea or vomiting.

“People with non-celiac gluten sensitivity feel unwell when they eat gluten but test negative for celiac,” says Dr. Rubio Tapia. “When they remove gluten from their diet, their symptoms go away.”

Even if you think you’re gluten intolerant, don’t go gluten-free just yet. “Your provider may want to test you for celiac to rule it out,” Dr. Rubio Tapia adds. “But for an accurate result, you need gluten in your system before your test.”

Should I eat gluten-free foods if I don’t have celiac disease?

If you don’t have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, you may be considering a gluten-free lifestyle anyway because it seems healthier. But not so fast. Gluten-free foods aren’t necessarily healthier than their gluten-containing counterparts. And eating gluten regularly doesn’t cause celiac, unless you have other risk factors.

“Foods with gluten offer many nutritional benefits,” notes Dr. Rubio Tapia. “If you don’t have celiac disease, include gluten as part of a healthy diet. Eat a variety of foods: fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes and lean protein.”

Spotting symptoms of celiac disease

A common myth about celiac disease is that it always causes diarrhea. “Celiac disease affects the whole body, not just your digestive system,” explains Dr. Rubio Tapia. “Even if you don’t have diarrhea, you can still have celiac disease. Many people with celiac never have this symptom.”


People with celiac disease experience digestive problems like bloating, constipation, diarrhea and vomiting, as well as:

  • Bone or joint pain.
  • Fatigue.
  • Headaches.
  • Infertility.
  • Mental health issues like depression or anxiety.
  • Skin rash.

When to see a healthcare provider

If you think you may have celiac disease, talk with a healthcare provider before changing your diet or excluding certain foods. You should also discuss your risk for celiac disease if you have:

  • A close family member, such as a parent or sibling, with celiac disease.
  • Other health conditions, such as Type 1 diabetes, liver disease, an autoimmune condition or thyroid disease.
  • Symptoms of celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

“Celiac disease affects millions of Americans, and many people don’t know they have it,” says Dr. Rubio Tapia. “See your provider regularly so you can discuss your health and risk of developing conditions like celiac. Treating celiac early lowers the risk of future health problems and keeps you feeling your best.”

Related Articles

Balls of dough in a bowl.
August 30, 2022
Celiac Disease vs. Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity vs. Food Allergy

The symptoms are similar, but the conditions are very different

Sicilian Cauliflower ready to eat
October 14, 2021
Recipe: Sicilian Cauliflower

A flavorful take on your favorite fall and winter vegetable

Small boy with upset stomach on couch with mother
December 4, 2019
What Are Some Red Flags That My Child Might Have Celiac Disease?

The short answer from a gastroenterologist

Hand holding an artichoke over a basket of artichokes
February 23, 2024
10 Health Benefits of Artichokes

This unique-looking veggie is fiber-dense and antioxidant-rich, and can improve the health of your gut, liver and heart

overhead photograph of open and empty energy drinks
February 19, 2024
Are Energy Drinks Bad for You?

Regularly drinking these sugar-fueled, stimulant-laden beverages can increase your risk of adverse health effects

Pouring a homemade spinach and banana smoothie into a glass
February 16, 2024
7 Reasons You Should Eat More Spinach

Vitamin-packed and antioxidant-rich, spinach can benefit your brain, eyes, blood and more

Older couple eating lunch on outdoor patio
February 15, 2024
Calories and Aging: Cutting Back Can Slow Age’s Creep

Calorie reduction can do more than just help you lose weight — it can also lower age-related inflammation

Trending Topics

close up of keto gummies
Do Keto Gummies Work for Weight Loss? Are They Safe?

Research is inconclusive whether or not these supplements are helpful

Person in yellow tshirt and blue jeans relaxing on green couch in living room reading texts on their phone.
Here’s How Many Calories You Naturally Burn in a Day

Your metabolism may torch 1,300 to 2,000 calories daily with no activity

Older person postioned sideways showing dowager hump.
Dowager’s Hump: What It Is and How To Get Rid of It

The hump at the base of your neck may be caused by osteoporosis or poor posture