BACKGROUND: Coeliac disease patients on a gluten-free diet experience reactions to gluten, but these are not well characterised or understood. Systemic cytokine release was recently linked to reactivation of gluten immunity in coeliac disease. AIM: To define the nature and time-course of symptoms and interleukin-2 changes specific for coeliac disease patients. METHODS: 25 coeliac disease patients on a gluten-free diet and 25 healthy volunteers consumed a standardised 6 gram gluten challenge. Coeliac Disease Patient-Reported Outcome survey and global digestive symptom assessment were completed hourly up to 6 hours after gluten. Adverse events over 48 hours were recorded. Serum interleukin-2 was measured at baseline, and 2, 4 and 6 hours. RESULTS: Serum interleukin-2 was always undetectable in healthy controls, whereas it was undetectable at baseline and elevated >0.5 pg/ml at 4 hours in 92% of coeliac disease patients. All patient-reported outcome severity scores increased significantly after gluten in coeliac disease patients (P < .001 Wilcoxon signed rank test), but not in controls. Symptoms began after 1 hour, and peaked in the third. Nausea and vomiting characterised severe reactions, but mild reactions were limited to headache and tiredness. Peak interleukin-2 correlated with symptom severity, particularly for nausea and vomiting. CONCLUSIONS: Serum interleukin-2 elevations correlate with timing and severity of symptoms after gluten in coeliac disease. Standardised bolus gluten food challenge and interleukin-2 assessment could provide a valuable clinical test to monitor and diagnose coeliac disease in patients established on a gluten-free diet.