What To Do When You’ve Been Glutened

One of the biggest fears for someone with celiac disease is getting glutened, which occurs when someone has been accidentally exposed to gluten. There are a variety of symptoms associated with gluten exposure and it’s very frustrating when it happens! It can happen due to cross-contamination when eating out, a mistake made by a chef or other staff member at a restaurant, accidentally eating a product that isn’t gluten free, and so many other ways. In this post, I’m talking about my recommendations to help you better manage the symptoms you experience from gluten exposure. Getting glutened is inevitable at some point in your life so let’s make sure you’re prepared for when it happens! 

Symptoms of Gluten Exposure

There are a wide variety of possible symptoms that can occur when a person gets glutened and it will be slightly different for everyone. Some people will have severe symptoms immediately after ingestion of gluten, while others might not notice the symptoms for a few hours or until the next day. It really depends on your body and how it reacts to gluten. Symptoms you might experience include:

  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain and body aches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Bloating
  • Headaches
  • Mood changes, such as anxiety, depression, or irritability

But it can be confusing…

Once you’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease, it can be easy to assume that all the symptoms you experience are due to gluten exposure. However, it’s important to remember that you can still be affected by a variety of other possible causes that have similar symptoms! The above symptoms could be related to lactose intolerance or another food sensitivity, food poisoning, panic attacks/anxiety, gastroenteritis, the flu, and so much more. They can also be related to irritable bowel syndrome, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, and other underlying symptoms that might still be present after a celiac diagnosis and treatment. Consider these as alternative diagnoses if your symptoms feel different than what you’ve previously experienced from getting glutened.

Managing Your Symptoms After Getting Glutened

Drink LOTS of Fluids.

Aim for at least 2L of water daily. This is what you should be aiming for all the time but it is especially important after a gluten exposure. If you experience diarrhea or vomiting, ensure you’re drinking additional electrolytes. An easy way to get extra electrolytes to replenish those that are lost with diarrhea and vomiting is to use an electrolyte powder that can be added to water. It’s also a great idea to have bone broth on hand. You can make a large batch and keep it in your freezer to pull out and drink as needed. It’s naturally full of minerals and electrolytes and also contains gut-healing collagen and glutamine. You can find my bone broth recipe in my Fight The Flu February blog post.

water

Find Your Favourite “Tummy Tea”

As another way to increase your fluid intake with added benefits, drink herbal teas. I find that everyone has a different digestive tea that they prefer and that works most effectively for your specific set of symptoms. Here are some great options:

  • Peppermint: especially if you’re experiencing gas, bloating, and stomach pain.
  • Chamomile: especially if you’re experiencing stomach cramps and any anxiety/mood disturbances.
  • Ginger: especially if you’re experiencing nausea or diarrhea.
  • Fennel: especially if you’re experiencing bloating, gas, or indigestion.
Peppermint tea

Use HEAT

Heat is very soothing when you’re experiencing pain anywhere in your body and this is true for your digestive system too. A great way to apply heat to your abdomen after getting glutened is using a hot water bottle. Apply the hot water bottle to your abdomen for 10-20min as needed to soothe your pain. This has the added benefit of being a relaxing treatment. Grab your hot water bottle, your favourite blanket, a cup of your favourite tummy tea, and relax on your couch/in your bed in front of your favourite TV show or with your favourite book. Does it get any better than that??

hot water bottle
gluten exposure

Choose Herbal Remedies For Your Specific Symptoms

There are a variety of herbs that can be helpful to support your digestion. It is best to work with a naturopathic doctor to discuss your symptoms and find the right herbal products for you. Some of these can be consumed as a tea and some of them are more effective as a tincture or capsule. Here are a few examples:

  • Demulcents. These are herbs that can help protect the mucous lining of the gastrointestinal tract from further damage. Also, these are especially helpful if you experience acid reflux/heartburn. Some examples including slippery elm and marshmallow root.
  • Anti-Spasmodics. The irritation in your digestive tract from the gluten exposure you’ve experienced can cause spasms that lead to pain and diarrhea. Anti-spasmodic herbs will assist in decreasing these symptoms. Some examples include peppermint, ginger, chamomile, and cramp bark.
  • Anti-Inflammatories. There are lots of options for decreasing inflammation in the gut but a very effective option is turmeric (or curcumin, which is the active component in turmeric). This can be ingested in a variety of ways but one of my favourite options is turmeric tea. Here is my Turmeric Latte recipe for you to enjoy!
turmeric latte

Dr. Casey’s Turmeric Latte Recipe

  • In a saucepan over medium-low heat, combine 2 cups vanilla almond milk (or your milk of choice), 1 tbsp coconut oil (for added healthy fats), 1/2 tsp turmeric powder, 1/2 tsp ginger powder, and 1 tsp cinnamon powder.
  • Heat until milk is warmed.
  • Remove from heat and add 1 tbsp collagen powder (for added protein and gut healing benefits) and 1 tbsp honey (optional).
  • Add mixture to blender and blend until frothy.
  • Enjoy!

Support Your Digestion

It is helpful to have digestive enzymes on hand that you can take with each of your meals in the days and weeks following a gluten exposure. When you’ve been exposed to gluten, your small intestine will likely become inflamed and will not be functioning optimally to digest your food. A good quality digestive enzyme will give you a boost of those enzymes so you can fully digest your meals and prevent increased gas, bloating, and diarrhea associated with undigested food. Talk to your naturopathic doctor about the best digestive enzyme option for you! To further support your digestive system, choose simple foods that are easy to digest. These include bone broth, chicken broth, soups, mashed/baked potatoes, baked chicken/fish, and well-cooked vegetables. Avoid foods that are raw and/or high in fiber immediately following a gluten exposure. These types of foods are more challenging to fully digest and it’s best to wait to consume them until you’re feeling better again.

Rest and Recover

It takes extra work for your body to heal. And this can be exhausting! Listen to your body when it gives you the signals that it’s tired and give it the rest it requires. This means going to bed earlier, allowing yourself to sleep in longer, and taking time to rest throughout the day. If necessary, take a day off from work or school so you can really listen to your body and rest on demand.

Practice Self-Love and Kindness 

Gluten exposure can be incredibly frustrating and can come with feelings of guilt and blame. Do your best to be kind to yourself and let go of these feelings. You have to be so diligent about your food intake every single day and sometimes things happen that are out of your control. Mistakes happen and it’s OKAY 🙂 Also, anxiety, depression, irritability and other mood disturbances can present themselves with more intensity after being glutened. It is important to remember this and do what you can to support your mood. You can also talk to the other people in your life and explain what you’re going through so that they know how to best support you. Maybe they can bring you meals, watch your children, walk your dog, or do other chores that can be delegated. Gluten exposure is a chance to practice self-care, self-love, and delegation!

What do you do when you’ve been exposed to gluten? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experience! I focus on celiac disease and digestive health in my practice because I recognize that a lot of people are suffering with digestive issues and I know there are natural treatments that can help. Please don’t suffer without the proper support any longer. Email me at questions@emilycaseynd.com or book an appointment at one of my clinics so we can work together and get you feeling better!

Thank you for following along with me throughout Celiac Awareness Month!! I hope you’ve learned at least 1 new piece of information about celiac disease and that you feel better equipped to help yourself and your loved ones manage the symptoms associated with it. In case you missed them, here are my other 3 posts from this month: Celiac Awareness Month, 7 Tips For Starting a Gluten Free Diet, and 5 Dos and Don’ts for Hosting Guests with Food Allergies. Let’s keep spreading awareness all year long!

Emily Casey
questions@emilycaseynd.com