No, I’m Not Hungover. Battling Dry Eyes and Celiac Disease

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No, I’m not hungover. Yes, I have slept recently.

One of the funny things about Celiac Disease is that a person can develop other disorders, intolerances, etc.

Ok, that’s not really funny, but I’m trying to find some humor in this 🙂

Since I’ve been diagnosed with Celiac Disease, I have had the worst dry eyes in my life. I am optically challenged, so I must wear contacts or glasses. If I wear contacts for more than 15 minutes, I feel as though there are shards of glass embedded in my eyes. Needless to say, I don’t wear contacts very often (well, for more than 15 minutes). I’ve been to the ophthalmologist several times and was prescribed Restasis for severe dry eye. What surprised me was that the doctor told me that many patients with Celiac Disease also suffer from various “eye issues” (my sad attempt at medical terminology).

I have noticed a common denominator while reading about and researching Celiac Disease… An auto-immune disorder such as ours commonly results in related issues such as depression, migraines, infertility, and bone density problems. The good news is that some of the symptoms are relieved once a person goes gluten free. Not so much with some of the other issues.

I’m one of those people who have developed other issues along with Celiac Disease.

In addition to my poor, parched eyes, let’s talk about MSG for a moment. MSG (or mono-sodium glutamate) is a flavor enhancer that makes the tasty food we eat even tastier. Yes, there is a huge controversy as to whether MSG is safe, but MSG-laden chips and onion dip every so often can’t be that bad, right? When I was first diagnosed with celiac disease, I immediately began eating gluten free. Buh-bye loathsome wheat, barley, oats, and rye. I’m proud to say that I have never, ever once cheated — I just can’t. So, I researched, read labels, and called manufacturers to find out what the heck I could safely eat. One glorious day, while doing my food inquest, I realized that Doritos and Cheetos were gluten free!! (I am not a junk food junkie, but I do like fluorescent orange fake cheese as much as the next person.) I remember that day like it was yesterday.

  • Scene 1 – I realized Doritos were gluten free.
  • Scene 2 – I was so excited I ate about half a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos.
  • Scenes 3, 4, and 5 – I pooped like nobody’s business for days afterwards. Not to mention the night sweats and lower back ache which were typical clues I’d “glutened” myself.

But these foods are gluten free, why am I having a reaction? In addition to Celiac, I now had an intolerance to MSG. Even if the food was gluten free, it needed to be MSG-free as well to be safe. Blast. Double Blast.

So, the message I’m sending here is listen to your body. Your body may have been sick for a few months or for several years. Your body will let you know what it can tolerate (and what it can’t). Sometimes we have to dig deeper to find the root of the problem. It’s not always a black or white answer we may find (which drives me batty because there is no gray in my world). Celiac Disease forces us to slow down and become educated in the dietary decisions we make each day.

In the grand scheme of things, fluorescent orange fake cheese stains your fingers anyway!

Post Update: Now that my body has had time to heal, I slowly introduced MSG back into my diet. I’ve been able to tolerate it with no reaction. With that said, it’s a personal decision to include foods with MSG in your meal plan. 

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Maureen Stanley was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in 2005. Way back before gluten-free was “mainstream“. Maureen created Hold The Gluten blog and podcast in 2008 as a way to connect members of the gluten-free community across the world.


  1. LOVE and TOTALLY AGREE with everything you’ve written! Was just diagnosed 5 months ago; never heard about the eye/celiac connection, but had pink eye the week after I was diagnosed and have been waking up quite frequently with red eyes (and assuming it was “allergies”).I, too, have been LIVING on “Cool Ranch” Doritos (but fortunately for me, they haven’t bothered me, I think 🙂 Keep up the good work!

  2. I was advised that if I took a time release vitamin B 100 complex every day it would help with mood and depression issues, and (for me at least) it works.

  3. I have a lot of food intolerances, too. I have a weird digestive system, the doctor says I have IBS (I feel like that’s a cheap diagnosis :P). I’ve definitely felt better after going gluten-free but still have to deal with not having a gallbladder :P! I know what you mean about the sensitivity to other chemicals; have you been tested for food allergies?

  4. MSG is gluten derived…I’m not certain exactly, but some type of grain, either wheat or barley is in MSG….so you’re not off base!

  5. Your recipes are excellent and your style is inviting. I really appreciate your generosity in sharing your life and the information you have been gathering. I was diagnosed in my mid-sixties and promptly had both my sons diagnosed too. I had been misdiagnosed with Crohns diease that now appears to be a common mistake. It is great to know what it is and what to do but label reading is still a great challenge. Thank you. Rose

  6. Can’t thank you enough for this post. My fifteen year old son has been struggling off and on with burning, painful, dry feeling eyes since he was six. He also took restasis with no results. The opthamologist said she was “stumped”. We walked out of the clinic knowing we had to figure it out on our own. We decided to start with eliminating gluten. In less than 48 hours his eyes felt normal! Thanks for verifying my first guess as to the culprit in the cause his misery.

  7. hmmm, i never associated my eye issues w/my gluten issues, but will have to pay attention. I have a hard time adhering to GF when I am away from home, tired, and hungry. do really well on my days off, while at home…
    anyway, doritos didn’t use to be gluten free…I am fairly certain on the nacho chz flavor there was wheat flour

  8. I too have been diagnosed with dry eye. Meanwhile , I have been suffering from a mysterious rash that fits the description I’ve been reading for DH which is one of the symptoms of Coeliac disease. Thank for connecting my seemingly unrelated ailments. I stopped gluten yesterday in hopes of ending this annoying rash. Though I’ve been prescribed Restasis. I look forward to some relief frm dry eyes with eliminating gluten.

  9. I was diagnosed with Sjogrens syndrome over 10 years ago, and was just diagnosed with Celiacs (blood work and biopsy) two months ago.

    There is a correlation between both autoimmune disorders.
    Sjogren’s is also genetic and is tested with blood work and sometimes biopsies. With Sjogrens’, your moisture producing glands are attacked, which effects your eyes, mouth, joints and the tissue around your organs. Besides the obvious dry eye and mouth symptoms, sjogrens shares celiacs symptoms of inflammation, fatigue, brain fog.

    If you are having dry eye symptoms, have your rheumatologist test for sjogren’s syndrome.

  10. Great blog…. so much to say about gluten intolerance and Celiac’s Disease. I followed a very similar path as yours. What happened to me next in this journey after I stopped eating gluten, was I continually was finding out I was ALSO intolerant of SOY, then HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, MSG, DAIRY, PEANUTS. As one becomes more cleaned out, the other sensitivities pop up ;-( Caramel coloring is also brutal; I suspect it contains gluten. Many prepared iced teas at restaurants are a concentrate and also contain carmel…. which led to me getting the whole cycle blast! grrrr~~ Read your food labels carefully, ask questions and look at everything you eat. I’d also suggest, eating small amounts of a new, supposedly SAFE item. test it out. Just this past week I got a severe attack from the potting soil I was using. After getting assaulted and breaking out, we went to the internet and found out there are ground up peanut shells in many potting soils & mulch!!! Dang. I’m still recovering and the inflammation is slowly getting out of my system.

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