Steps to Take After Accidentally Getting Glutened

When my doctor initially told me that I had to give up gluten I felt hopeless because I believed it would be impossible since gluten is in everything from cosmetics to condiments.  Since that day I have mastered the art of living a gluten-free lifestyle; however, there are those few rare occasions when I unintentionally come in contact with gluten.  If you have been gluten-free for a while you will know almost immediately when you have been “glutened.”  Symptoms of gluten exposure vary and mine include a sudden and very painful bloating with a feeling that glass is moving through my gut, joint pain, headache, blurred vision, foggy-brain, irritability, mood changes, fatigue, rapid heart rate, and a general sense of feeling very unwell.  As meticulous as I am if it can happen to me it can happen to anyone.  So I decided to share my favorite interventions because they work extremely well.

First, I have a few concerns about certain digestive enzymes on the market today that promote the digestion of gluten. I am not saying they don’t digest gluten because likely they do; my issue is that I am curious as to why anyone who has a gluten-sensitivity or allergy would be advised to take a product that “digests” gluten in the first place.  My point here is that for example, in cases of autoimmune disease, if gluten is allowed to digest, the immune system is going to recognize and tag the molecule just before launching its inflammatory attack.  Antibodies in the immune system in the small intestine are already primed and on the look out for it (gluten being recognized as an antigen). When a gluten-sensitive/allergic person is glutened, the immune system does not differentiate as to whether it sees one molecule or one million molecules . . . it only knows that it has seen the antigen and proceeds to attack and destroy. Because gluten looks like so many human body tissues (referred to as molecular mimicry) the immune system is not only attacking gluten but also the host’s tissues.  In my case it is thyroid cells & thyroid tissue. My other concern is that these types of products may suggest a permission slip to consume gluten. When many of these digestive enzymes first appeared on the market, they were labeled with a message not to be used for Celiac disease.  Since then, I have not seen this label.  At the last conference I attended where gluten was discussed by scientific researcher’s it was put forward that an inflammatory attack triggered by gluten exposure can last as long as 6-9 months.

Ultimately, the goal is to remove gluten from the body as soon as possible. Below are my personal interventions that work very well:

1. Activated Charcoal: I keep activated charcoal capsules with me at all times.  Many have used bentonite clay with success, I just happen to prefer activated charcoal capsules.  I take it along to any restaurant regardless of whether it was an entree’ from a gluten-free menu or not.  I have learned the hard way for sure and I simply cannot trust any restaurant.  Activated charcoal is an over-the-counter supplement and I take it with the first bite of food, and again the following morning. Activated charcoal actually disperses and lines the intestinal tract and binds with toxins and other substances to prevent them from being absorbed.  I make sure to avoid taking any other vitamin or supplement within 2-3 hours before and after taking activated charcoal because it will prevent their absorption also.  It is wise to consult with your healthcare practitioner prior to taking activated charcoal if you are being treated for any medical issue. I have my doctor’s full blessing on this one:))
NOTE:  The benefit of activated charcoal is not a permission slip to consume gluten.

2. Magnesium & Epsom Salts: I love the luxuriousness of magnesium bath flakes but Epsom salt works well too.  Soaking for 40 minutes in these salts in hot water is believed to aid in detoxification and re-mineralization through reverse osmosis.  When I know I have been glutened, I intentionally do at least two of these baths per day for one week.

3. H2O:  We all know to drink sufficient water but particularly in the event of a gluten exposure water is essential.  Water assists in the removal of wastes and toxins and helps to ease the discomfort of aches and pains that are associated with gluten’s havoc on the body.  I prefer reverse osmosis water as it is free of mold and helps to maintain proper bacteria balance in the gut.

4. Rest:  Many of the after effects of gluten exposure leave one feeling as if they have the flu.  It is no picnic for sure.  While detoxifying combined with feeling ill it is prudent to get extra rest as well as extra sleep. Sleep helps the body repair itself and deal with negative symptoms so that the body may heal itself.  I do not exercise for a few days after a gluten exposure . . . it’s taxing enough on the adrenal glands without adding the burden of a strenuous workout.

5. Curcumin:  When my personal physician returned from a medical conference last year he was excited to share with me how effective curcumin is for down-regulating receptors to reduce inflammation.  I take curcumin every day regardless, but during a gluten crisis and as soon as I have taken my last activated charcoal capsule, I begin a higher than usual dose of curcumin for a few days.  Be sure to discuss this supplement with your physician especially if you have gallbladder issues because it may be contraindicated.

6. Ginger Tea: Ginger root has anti-inflammatory properties and is soothing to the gastrointestinal tract. If I don’t have fresh ginger root on hand, I use Tulsi Ginger Tea for its antioxidants and powerful adaptogenic qualities. If you do make your own, be sure to boil the ginger water for 30 minutes, and allow to steep another 10-15 minutes.  I use a use a veggie peeler to shave peel the skin.  Add a small amount of honey and enjoy its healing properties.

7. Bone Marrow Broth: I don’t know of too many things as healing for the gut as bone marrow broth is. I  like to use grass-fed beef marrow bones. Bone marrow broth is rich in gelatin, full of minerals, fortifies the immune system, and nourishes all body parts related to collagen which includes the mucus membrane that lines the GI tract. But one crucial component of bone marrow broth is glutamine which is important metabolic fuel for cells in the small interesting (which is where much of the immune system lives).

8.  GI Revive: This is a product I have found to be extremely beneficial in maintaining the health of my gut. GI Revive contains all of the necessary ingredients recommended by functional medicine practitioners to heal the GI tract and leaky gut syndrome.  It comes in a powder form (also available in capsules) and I like to add it to water throughout the day. It contains L-glutamine, N-acetyl glucosamine, aloe vera extract, slippery elm, marshmallow, chamomile, deglycyrrhizinated licorice, citrus pectin, mucin, okra extract, cat’s claw, methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), quercetin, prune powder, and zinc carnosine…all excellent for healing leaky gut and maintaining a healthy GI tract.  It has a pleasant peach flavor and lasts a really long time. I have used GI Revive since the day I received my diagnoses and suggest it to client’s.

9.  Acupuncture:  Acupuncture is my most favorite complementary and alternative modality (CAM) for inflammation, pain, and/or modulating the immune system.  Whenever I have been exposed to gluten, my acupuncturist knows it the minute he lays eyes on me.  It is amazing how their education trains them to assess the body.  Acupuncture has been scientifically proven beneficial for Hashimoto’s and it also helps the body to detoxify and deal with inflammation, not to mention it is very calming.
10. Digestive/Pancreatic Enzymes: Gluten exposure and the resulting inflammation can be lessened by using pancreatic digestive enzymes (not those labeled for gluten) in between meals in addition to taking them with meals.  Taking high quality enzymes between meals helps with systemic (throughout the body) inflammation in the tissues.  The result is improvement in the level of pain in the joints/muscles and fatigue.
11. Probiotics: Believe it or not many probiotics sold over the counter (OTC) actually contain gluten and dairy! Some studies have identified that gluten is in more than half of the OTC brands available. Probiotics are essential for maintaining a healthy GI tract and immune system.  Here are a few favorites I use personally in rotation: is a custom formula available in powder or capsule form (I like the powder form for smoothies).  GutPro is endorsed by thousands of practitioners like functional nutritionist Andrea Nakayama, certified GAPS practitioner Kitsa Yanniotis, and naturopath Melissa Malinowski. My next favorite probiotic options are TheraLac/Truflora/TrufiberVSL#3, and Probiotic Synergy. Again, I use them all but in rotation.

As soon as you realize you’ve been glutened, try these steps as soon as possible.  You should see improvement in your symptoms after only a few days.  However, if you aren’t getting better or are getting worse, please follow up with your practitioner.