This article is contributed by Jenny Finke of Good For You Gluten Free. Jenny is a certified integrative nutrition health coach and gluten-free blogger. Nothing in this article should be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor before implementing any of the recommendations shared below.
Eating gluten, by mistake, happens to the best of us.
Even us veteran gluten-free eaters have been known to make a mistake or two. No one is perfect and anyone who tells you otherwise is only fooling themselves.
Last year I went to an allergy show in London. I let my guard down thinking everything at the show was gluten-free; this is my fault for not doing my homework. I was on vacation and I let my guard down. My kids and I each sampled a cookie from a vendor before I realized the sign on the table said, “May Contain Wheat.”
I just committed the worse gluten-free offense. I ate something before reading a label or asking questions.
While I kicked myself for being so careless, it was a good reminder to me that accidentally eating a piece of gluten happens to the best of us, even those of us who are extremely careful.
Thank goodness I did not have a bad reaction. I think the product did not actually contain a wheat ingredient (the company’s sign said, “May Contain Wheat”).
While it’s best not to eat gluten, if it happens, don’t panic because I’ve got you covered in this detailed article.
In this post, I share my best tips (and tips gleaned from my gluten-free community) on how to best handle accidental exposure to gluten.
This article is not an excuse, however, for eating gluten haphazardly or allowing yourself a cheat day. In fact, cheaters and haphazard or “low gluten” dieters are at higher risk of early death. I’ve written extensively about why you should never cheat on your gluten-free diet on my blog.
Rather, this information is only for the purposes of helping you recover from an accidental exposure to gluten, such as what happened to me at the London allergy show.
Here are six home remedies to try if you’ve been accidentally glutened:
1. Go easy on Yourself, Rest Up
Being gluten-free isn’t easy nor foolproof and we all make mistakes. As you can see, even veteran gluten-free eaters like me recall a few situations where we know we could have done better. Don’t sweat it, it happens, and your best course of remedy is to take it easy.
Stressing about what you ate or did will mostly likely only make you feel worse. Go easy on yourself. Live and learn.
2. Drink plenty of water to flush toxins from your system
Drinking a lot of water can help flush your system of the gluten more quickly. Hydrating also can help you if you’re experiencing diarrhea as it replenishes the water you lost and deters dehydration.
Adding a squeeze of lemon to your water may help too. Lemon is alkalizing and can help you restore your body’s natural ph balance.
Unsweetened coconut water also can help to replenish electrolytes your body may have lost from diarrhea. Coconut water contains sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus, essential vitamins and minerals your body needs.
3. Take a digestive enzyme supplement
A digestive enzyme supplement may provide some relief from the symptoms related to an accidental exposure to gluten. This is because digestive enzyme supplements can help flood our bodies with extra enzymes to help better break down and absorb the food we eat.
There are many digestive enzymes to choose from, but one that many people have recommended to me is called GlutenEase. It is marketed as a digestive supplement to be taken ONLY during accidental gluten exposure. GlutenEase contains dipeptidyl peptidase (DPP-IV), a form of the enzyme protease, which aids in the breakdown of gluten and gliadin proteins in our body.
GlutenEase and other digestive enzymes do NOT give you permission to eat gluten again. They are only to be used in times when you accidentally eat gluten.
4. Take a probiotic to boost your gut health
Eighty percent of your immune system is in your digestive system, so it’s essential to take care of your gut. You want to have more beneficial bacteria in your gut than bad bacteria, and a way to help this process along is by taking a high-quality, high dose (50 billion CFUs or more) daily.
In times when your digestive system is flaring up (as might happen during an accidental glutening) or when you’re ill or taking antibiotics, I always recommend doubling up on probiotics. When I’m sick, I take a probiotic in the morning and one before bed.
Taking probiotics daily can help you build your immune defenses as well as help you bounce back quickly from an illness or accidental glutening.
5. Research the potential benefits of activated charcoal
I don’t have personal experience with activated charcoal, but so many people have told me they take it after an accidental exposure to gluten.
Activated charcoal is often used to treat poisonings or drug overdoses. These toxic substances bind to the charcoal and aid the body in ridding of the toxins.
While many people take activated charcoal to treat a variety of digestive maladies such as gas and diarrhea, there is no scientific evidence that validates that gluten binds to the activated charcoal or that it can even be used for relieving digestive symptoms. This is why I highly recommend talking to your doctor and researching potential side effects before taking activated charcoal.
6. Learn from your mistake(s)
There are many lessons we can learn from an accidental gluten exposure. After all, if we don’t learn from our mistakes, we are doomed to repeat them.
Here are a few things to consider to ensure it doesn’t happen again:
- Test all suspect foods with your Nima Sensor. I’ve been known to pull a leftover meal out of my fridge and test it after I ate it if I suspect it contains gluten. I once ate chocolate pudding that clearly did not have gluten listed on the ingredient label. I felt awful afterwards! Sure enough, I tested the leftover pudding in my fridge and yep, the Nima Sensor confirmed that it contained gluten!
- Always tell your server you need a gluten-free meal. Stress that it’s important to you and you have a serious reaction when you consume gluten. The more you stress the seriousness of your condition, the more your waiter will take your order seriously.
- Carry your Nima Sensor with you at all times and don’t be afraid to use it. The Nima Sensor can give you amazing insights into what’s inside your food before you take a bite. It’s also an amazing deterrent. I tell the waiter I am going to “test my food for gluten,” and he or she knows I mean business! Keep in mind, however, that the Nima Sensor cannot detect gluten in fermented foods (beer, soy sauce), and it only tests a small sampling of your food (not your entire dish). It is not a replacement for common sense or asking good questions.
- Become an avid ingredient label reader and don’t eat anything that you suspect might or unsure of whether or not it contains gluten. Looks can be deceiving and hidden gluten is in so many products that may look innocent.
Accidentally eating gluten is not something any of us gluten-free eaters are proud to admit happens, but from time to time, we’ve all found ourselves in this difficult situation.
As soon as you realize you’ve mistakenly consumed gluten, implement these six strategies to help you bounce back more quickly.
Above all else, go easy on yourself. There’s no use crying over spilled milk. Pick yourself up, learn from your mistake, and when you know better, do better.
For more information about living a healthy and gluten-free lifestyle, please visit Jenny online at Good For You Gluten Free. Also be sure to read her latest Nima Sensor report, How Did 20 Restaurants Fare Against the Nima Sensor.
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