Healthy Living

How Long Does It Take for the Gut to Repair Itself After Gluten Exposure?

How Long Does It Take for the Gut to Repair Itself After Gluten Exposure?

After exposure to gluten, it isn’t unusual for people to feel sluggish and beaten down. When someone has celiac disease and is exposed to gluten, this ingestion of gluten can cause a severe reaction.

The inside of the stomach is lined entirely with cells called “enterocytes” or “gut epithelial cells.” In order to maximize surface space within the gut, the cells form themselves into adjacent columns. Imagine a hand: the columns look essentially like fingers all connected to the same mass. These finger-like cells are called “villi” and are separated by valleys called “crypts.” The individual enterocyte cells are perpetually regenerating themselves in addition to a pool or resident stem cells, which supply the new cells.

As these cells age, they migrate north up the villi and eventually the cells are shed into the gut and wait to be re-digested, which then starts the whole cycle over again. This process is called the “turnover” of the gut epithelium. In the average healthy gut, all of these enterocyte cells travel to the very top of the villi in 1-4 days. All of the cells that make up the villi are totally replaced with brand new cells every 3-5 days, although the process slows down as we continue to get older. The cells that don’t travel up the villi, but down to the bottom of the crypts have lifespans of 2-3 weeks. This means that the average healthy person has a whole new intestinal lining every 2-3 weeks.

Fixing one’s intestine after an injury is really complex and detailed process. There is no set healing timeline because it varies from injury to injury. There are some studies that have found that the crypt and villi cells can take anywhere between 2 and 12 weeks to heal, depending on the degree of damage done to the stem cells themselves.

Great, but what does this mean? For a healthy person who does not have celiac disease or any gluten intolerance sensitivities, the damage done to the individual cells and the areas between them that can be triggered by gluten intake is quick to heal, the estimated time spanning anywhere from a few days to three weeks. 

For people who are healthy, most of the healing time would be relatively unnoticeable as there will be minimal symptoms. Most of the reported symptoms from people only had a duration of a couple of hours to a couple of days after being exposed to gluten. Additionally, this indicates that healthy people should theoretically be able to heal their stomach completely with a totally paleo diet plan for thirty days. Think of it as a type of cleanse to help reset the stomach.

But those with celiac disease and gluten sensitivities have a bigger problem. How long does the gut take to fully recover from the damage these conditions cause? Read on to find out.