Can gluten give a feeling of a heart attack? (+2 effects)

In this article, we will discuss if gluten intake can give a feeling of heart attack. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, oats, barley and other related species. In some individuals, gluten can cause gluten intolerance, gluten allergy, and celiac disease.

Can gluten give a feeling of a heart attack?

Yes, gluten can give a feeling of a heart attack. Celiac disease is a systemic condition caused by an abnormal immune response to the intake of gluten. This is connected with a 30% greater risk of cardiovascular diseases including heart attack (1). 

Many research studies have found an increased risk of morbidity and mortality in celiac disease patients due to a higher incidence of heart issues. Cardiovascular problems can persist several years after starting a gluten-free diet, however, the occurrence rate decreases.

The list of cardiovascular disorders includes irregular and fast heartbeats, cardiac muscle dystrophy, heart attacks, and heart failure. If you experience a feeling of a heart attack while taking a gluten-rich diet, you should immediately contact your healthcare provider.

Patients with celiac disease and gluten intolerance are at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases as compared to the normal population. Even in the absence of the characteristic gastrointestinal signs of celiac disease, you should take itching as an essential initial symptom (2).

What does research suggest?

In a cohort study, 941 patients (2918 reference population) with celiac disease developed arterial fibrillation during a median follow-up of 9 years. Even after correcting type 1 diabetes, thyroid disease, and rheumatoid arthritis, the risk of arterial fibrillation remained unchanged (1).

In another cohort study, the clinicians found a link between celiac disease and ischemic heart disease that was independent of the small intestine’s histological appearance. During a follow-up, 991 patients were diagnosed with ischemic heart disease.

In individuals with celiac disease, inflammation, or latent coeliac disease, the absolute risk of developing ischemic heart disease was 375, 808, and 256/10,00,000 individuals respectively. The risk estimates remained unchanged even after correcting education, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and anaemia (3).

In another population-based study, 3790 adults with celiac disease were studied for possible cardiovascular disorders. They were most likely to develop arterial fibrillation (2.1%) as compared to the normal population (1.7%). The hazard ratio for myocardial infarction and stroke was 0.85 and 1.29, respectively (4).

According to another study, 166 patients with dilated cardiomyopathy and concomitant celiac disease had an increased risk of valvular failure and other systemic disorders (5). 

A 53-year-old man experienced myocardial infarction, ST-segment elevation, and interactable itching. After dermatitis herpetiform was discovered during a biopsy of the lesions, the patient was eventually diagnosed with celiac disorder by the duodenal biopsy (2). 

Which signs of gluten intolerance feel like a heart attack?

The following signs and symptoms of gluten intolerance might feel like a heart attack:

  • Heartburn: Gluten can irritate the lining of the small intestine, causing inflammation. This can upset the balance of the normal flora of the gut and cause acid reflux.

Acid reflux causes heartburn that is often mistaken for a mini heart attack (6). Acid reflux can also cause hoarse voice, bloating, hiccups and bad breath. The symptoms become worse when the patient bends over or lies down.

  • Anxiety and depression: gluten can promote inflammation in those who have gluten-related diseases. This inflammation can impact any part of the body, including the brain.

This can manifest as psychiatric abnormalities like mood disorders or a ‘foggy’ brain. The sign of a foggy brain includes forgetfulness, a state of confusion, and a lack of mental clarity. Anxiety disorder can elevate blood pressure, and cause heart palpitations.

What are the other common signs of gluten intolerance?

The common signs of gluten intolerance are sometimes confused with celiac disease. It is important to work with the healthcare provider to diagnose the underlying condition. The symptoms of glucose intolerance might include:

  • Diarrhoea and constipation: Gluten intolerance can either make the stool watery and loose (diarrhoea) or make it dry and hard (constipation).
  • Bloating: In bloating the patient feels that his stomach is full, however, it is accompanied by a buildup of gas and discomfort.
  • Abdominal cramps: The patient might feel excruciating pain in the abdomen while taking a gluten diet.
  • Joint pain: Sometimes gluten intolerance can cause joint pain, mainly due to malabsorption of other nutrients from the diet.
  • Fatigue: The patient with gluten intolerance feels tired more than usual.
  • Headache: Having frequent headaches while taking a gluten diet can indicate gluten intolerance.
  • Bad breath and burping: Gas produced by gluten fermentation in the small intestine can cause frequent burping which can result in bad breath.

How long do gluten symptoms last?

Gluten itself remain in the body for one or two days. After that, the undigested gluten is expelled from the body together with other waste items. However, the symptoms associated with gluten intolerance or allergy can last longer than that.

Fatigue and bloating can take days or weeks to overcome. More serious effects, such as small intestine damage, might take months to resolve. Brain fog usually improves during the first week or two. However, it is a slow process.

Once the patient develops a cardiovascular disorder due to gluten, proper treatment and clinical intervention will be required to correct the disease. A routine follow-up and detailed consultation with the cardiologist would be required to rectify the damage.

As gluten intolerant myself, I always check the ingredients on the box before taking a food item. Sometimes some dosage forms can also contain gluten as an excipient. You should always talk to your doctor before taking any medication that contains gluten. 

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Emilsson L, Smith JG, West J, Melander O, Ludvigsson JF. Increased risk of atrial fibrillation in patients with coeliac disease: a nationwide cohort study. European heart journal. 2011 Oct 1;32(19):2430-7.


Yalım SA, Dumanoğlu B, Poyraz M, Alpagat G, Baççıoğlu A, Kalpaklioglu AF. A Rare Presentation of Coeliac Disease; Intractable Itching with Recurrent Heart Attack and Dermatitis Herpetiformis. Asthma Allergy Immunology. 2021 Aug 13;19(3):186-90.


Ludvigsson JF, James S, Askling J, Stenestrand U, Ingelsson E. Nationwide cohort study of risk of ischemic heart disease in patients with celiac disease. Circulation. 2011 Feb 8;123(5):483-90.


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