I accidentally ate gluten. Now what?

It happens to the best of us. We try and try to keep things safe for ourselves or loved ones to eat, but still we accidentally ingest gluten.  I’ve been on this diet for almost 5 years now and have done really well. This weekend, however, I was accidentally served what was supposed to be a gluten free and dairy free meal, and didn’t realize until a few bites in, that it definitely was not.

My first indication is usually fatigue, similar to feeling that I am coming down with the flu. Brain fog, headache, digestive woes, skin rash, mouth ulcers and muscle twitches can also appear in the days following. Bottom line – not good.

So, what do you do? Remedies for getting through those days following a gluten ingestion are as varied as the symptoms celiacs experience. Some people swear by digestive enzymes, the BRAT diet, special teas or broths, and even hot showers  or warm baths to help release the toxins. There are a few things that seem to help most people and guidelines that I usually follow:

1. Relaxation.

After the initial feelings of anger and frustration subside, I tend to beat myself up over it a bit. How could I let this happen? Why didn’t I triple check things? Why didn’t I just bring my own food or eat beforehand? The reality is, the damage is done and feeling anxious or upset about it doesn’t change the situation. Building yourself up is most important now, not tearing yourself down. Relax and take a deep breath. This too shall pass.

2. Rest.

Extra rest, if you can get it, can help mitigate the brain fog and fatigue that often comes with accidental gluten ingestion. Your immune system has been compromised, so that extra rest can help keep it as strong as possible to prevent colds or other infections.

3. Hydration.

Water and fluids that are supportive of your digestive system (teas, broths) can help move things along and ease some of the symptoms from being glutened.

4. Nourishment.

After an incident, I revert back to blander foods for a few days. Whole foods that are anti-inflammatory (fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, certified gluten free breads/grains) are also top on my list. I also find dairy free yogurts and kefir with probiotics helpful.

I avoid eating out for a while. I don’t believe anyone ever sets out to intentionally gluten someone with celiac disease, but over the years, I’ve also come to learn that unless that person is also living with celiac disease, they don’t truly understand or care as much about the preparation of gluten free food as you do. Of course, I’d love to be proven wrong.

As far as supplements go, I continue taking my daily vitamins and probiotic. I up my probiotic for the first few days following an incident, to help restore beneficial bacteria. I used to carry digestive enzymes around in my purse and pop 1 or 2 after eating out. Once I became pregnant, I no longer took them, and for myself, couldn’t tell if they helped me or not. Some celiacs swear by them though.

It’s a frustrating disease. We are trying to live active, full, gluten free lives in a gluten-filled world. I try hard every day to heal my body and be healthy, but I’m not perfect. No one is. Even with the best intentions, accidents can happen. The important thing to remember is to take care of yourself today and know that you can make a fresh start with your next meal.

Do you have a tried and true remedy for feeling better after you’ve been “glutened”? If so, leave a comment and let me know.

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  • Great list! I'm also gluten-free and it's one of my major fears that I'll ingest gluten by accident. In the past when I have ingested gluten by accident, I did exactly what you said on the list, in addition to drinking two or three bottles of Kombucha. Kombucha helped reintroduce probiotics into my intestines and sped things up for me.

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    Thanks for the tips! I accidentally ate gluten today and am paying for it with major intestinal issues. I find that take a couple of fiber tablets helps alleviate the diarrhea symptoms. Sometimes I will take 2 fiber tablets twice that day with plenty of water.

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