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  • Kristen Campbell
    Kristen Campbell

    How Celiacs can Deal with Accidental Gluten Ingestion

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Celiac.com 01/03/2009 - Recently on a gluten-free forum, I found a post asking for advice on what to do after a woman had accidentally consumed a large amount of gluten.  After unknowingly eating from her daughter’s takeout box, the woman had realized her mistake and was simply devastated to have broken her diet and subjected herself to the old, too-familiar symptoms that were on their way.

    It was interesting reading the various responses, which resulted in a debate over whether or not to induce vomiting, drink pineapple juice, take enzymes or engage in a certain illegal activity.  In all the debate, the woman eventually disappeared off the forum, which probably meant that she took some action or another, though I never heard the final result.

    This whole subject inspired some research on my part.  I first consulted my extensive gluten-free library, which led me to one solitary, repetitive answer: do not eat gluten.  In a world where doctors and authors alike are so concerned that their advice on the subject will lead people with gluten sensitivities to forgo a gluten-free diet in favor of a “band aid” of sorts, that finding a documented recommendation is near impossible.

    These experts are right to reinforce the importance of maintaining a gluten free lifestyle, and the fact that there is no “cure” for gluten intolerance and celiac disease (other than complete avoidance of gluten from wheat, barley and rye).  But mistakes do happen, and from time to time people do get "glutened,” and when they do, which action is best?

    No matter what the size is of the offending dose of gluten, all experts agree, inducing vomiting is too dangerous and disruptive to the body to be considered.  But there is one option that at least two noted experts in field of celiac research agree upon: enzymes.

    When I contacted the renowned Dr. Kenneth Fine of EnteroLab, and asked him if perhaps a dose of enzymes that are designed to break down gluten might help, he had this to say: “The good news is that everyone will survive and recover from the gluten exposure.  The enzymes you mention might help, but not completely, unless they consumed at the same time (as the gluten) for best results.”  And like all good doctors, he did go on to warn, “Avoidance is still the best policy.”

    Shari Lieberman, PhD, CNS, FACN and author of The Gluten Connection very humbly admits that “gluten slips happen.”  She also devotes a couple of pages in her book to research conducted using digestive enzymes to help manage those occasions when gluten does make its way into your diet, citing a research example in which “The study demonstrates that enzyme therapy can substantially minimize symptoms in people with celiac disease who are exposed to gluten.” 

    The enzyme used in this study does not seem to be currently available, but other gluten enzymes are at your local health food store.  I contacted one company in regard to their product, which according to them helps to reduce inflammation caused by the introduction of gluten in an individual with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.  According to them their enzymes will not prevent all damage, but may reduce some inflammation and help the body to better digest the protein.

    Ultimately, gluten sensitive individuals should recover from one accidental “gluten slip” here and there, and keeping some digestive enzymes handy to help cope with such an accident is not a bad idea.  But do keep in mind that repeated offenses, even the most minute, will damage your body and prevent it from healing.  Enzymes help treat the symptoms, but only complete avoidance of gluten can treat the disease.


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    Ginger helps for the upset stomach as a result of accidental ingestion. I prefer the ginger snaps better than the crystallized but I always have crystallized ginger on hand just in case---though I avoid gluten like the plague accidents do happen. There are also ginger teas that can be mixed with peppermint to calm the stomach as well.

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    I just wanted to say thanks so much for writing and posting this article! I just ate a muffin (that I was told was gluten-free but found out after I had eaten half of it that that it wasn't) and wasn't sure how I should go about minimizing the painful side effects that will inevitably come with ingesting gluten. I searched the internet the topic and came across this article and as a result of reading I have gone out and bought strong digestive enzymes from a naturopath. Its been about 3 hours since I ate the muffin and so far, so good. I only have minor symptoms that are, although quite uncomfortable, not what I would usually experience.

     

    So, thanks again for posting this article, it has helped me a lot!

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    I would second the apple cider vinegar tonic and the ginger tea. You can make your own: grate 1 tablespoon of ginger root into hot water and add honey to taste. Probiotics will also help with the leaky gut afterward. Good luck!

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    I appreciate this article. Like many other Celiac patients I occasionally am exposed to gluten. Enzyme therapy works for me as well as a dose of Asacol. I suggest that others consider this approach. Thanks. Jay

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    I ate at a buffet and knew I was probably going to get sick. Its been 3 years of gluten free eating. My skin itches, the inside of my mouth taste like biting on tinfoil and I'm swollen! I drank peppermint tea, ate an enzyme, drank apple cider vinegar, & drank a shot of tequila! I'm praying I don't suffer any more soon!Thanks for all the info.

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    Great article but I have none of those things in the house and I am so sick. Hate eating out now such a bother, waiter promised everything was gluten free and I asked him again when he brought the gorgeous meal...What do you have to do....

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    Thank you so much for this article! I accidentally ate something with a small amount of wheat-gluten tonight (after being reassured that what I was eating was safe) and while I don't have my usual strong reactions (thank God!), I do feel slightly sick. The one thing this experience has taught is my body still reacts to gluten/wheat in the same ways it used to, and even some ways I wasn't aware of (I've been gluten-free due to Celiac Disease for maybe 2-3 years now, but rare slip-ups have happened).

     

    I really appreciate your thoughts on how to care for yourself once this experience happens--I was so nervous at the first sign of my migraine and stomach ache!

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    It's easy to say that vomiting is a bad idea but I'd much rather throw up than suffer through 1-3 days of misery. I accidentally took a big bite of the wrong soup today when I was making lunch for myself and my kids and I immediately threw it up and followed up with a big does of digestive enzymes just in case I didn't get it all. Throwing up on purpose a few times a year after accidentally ingesting gluten can't possibly be a huge health risk.

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  • About Me

    Kristen Campbell is a gluten-free, natural beauty expert. Diagnosed with severe gluten intolerance, she tests and tries, then recommends only the very best and purest gluten-free cosmetic products on her website www.NaturallyDahling.com. She is also the co-founder of www.GlutenFreeFox.com the world's first gluten-free search engine.

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