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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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    I took enzymes, chewable Benadryl, Motrin, Maalox, and I drank two water bottles. Felt burpy, but not sick....and I am celiac, not just gluten intolerant. Had been gluten free for two years when glutened on accident (half a hot dog that was supposed to be gluten free but was Mrs. Baird's... From the gluten free stand at a major league ballpark).

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    Great article, I am glad to see someone unafraid to touch on this subject. Too many authors are so afraid that we'll all go start eating gluten that they won't even touch it.

    How long does it take your body to heal if you accidentally ingest gluten?

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    Great Article! I have searched the web, and it so hard to find an article that addresses accidental gluten ingestion. Will try the above for my husband who has celiac disease.

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    Now this is just me, but 3 days ago I had a reaction, and what I did was the following : 1 stool softener, 2 Tylenol regular strength, 1 heating blanket wrapped around my stomach, and lots of water. It wasn't the greatest but it was soothing. It lasted 3 days but it was my fault for eating mushroom soup that contained gluten.

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    Today at lunch time, I was feeling very peckish having being diagnosed with celiac since I was 16, now being 21 I ate a cookie knowing it wasnt gluten free. As soon as I ate it I felt horrible, so weak, so drowsy, then after i napped I awoke to unsettling tummy pains I was unpleasently on the toliet for quiet awhile..I am never going to have gluten again just because I was abit "peckish". Very silly girl.

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    I'm sorry to need to rate this article so low. It was well written as far as grammar and such, but there was no real research information listed. What enzymes are you talking about for half this article for heaven's sake??

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    Why the heck do you keep on about not eating gluten when we already know that? The question is to do with accidental ingestion by people who already avoid it, and the article is somewhat fluffy, not very helpful.

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    Tired and lethargic for three days and then it hit - massive stomach cramps and a tummy like a football. Too late to fix the glutening, now to ride it out.

     

    So - charcoal tablets (for the gas), ibuprofen (for the inflammation and pain), berocca (for the malabsorption and tiredness). At least I know that now the pain's hit, it's a matter of hours before I feel better.

     

    Still don't know what it was, though.

     

    I'm usually *very* careful - gluten-free for ten years and very rarely slip up. Any tips on getting through it are always appreciated...

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    The readers' comments are more helpful than the article! I was diagnosed with ADHD two years ago and after my Mom was diagnosed with gluten intolerance, I decided to give a go at giving it up to see if it reduced any of my ADHD symptoms. Symptoms have been a bit better. Still distracted, but not lethargic as I can be. I was only off gluten for a couple weeks and wanted to stay off it until after finals (I'm in grad school). To celebrate finishing finals I decided to go out with friends and indulge in some delicious gluten in the form of beer and pizza. I was so uncomfortable the rest of the night. Bloated, some stomach pains. I took some Peptol just in case. Today I am still feeling gassy and just off of center. I will try the ginger tea (and maybe some tequila if I am feeling sassy) tonight and see if it helps. I did not expect my body to respond this way after only being off it for a few weeks! I have been eating it my entire life, after all.

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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.

    Ginger tea helps me, too. After drinking several cups of tea, once I feel normal, again, I eat a little rice or gluten-free crackers. I have tried making myself vomit, before, but that only works right after eating...and symptoms begin once food has been digested...even though symptoms make you feel like vomiting. Article was helpful.

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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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