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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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    After reading the article and your comments, I am really concerned that it is taking me too long to recover from accidentally eating gluten! I accidentally ate some gluten in an order of mashed potatoes at a restaurant two weeks ago and I am still trying to recover! Any insight on this? I am going to try JR Harper's suggestion of charcoal tablets. Thanks for the article and all your comments!

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    A very good article! Although general awareness of Gluten Free and Celiac is increasing, there are still too many times I have been the unwitting recipient of gluten at restaurants (sauce ingredients, dressings, etc). The dreaded symptoms normally show up after about an hour or so, and last a day or more...I would love to cut the side effects short, and feel like myself earlier!

    I have used a table spoon or two of honey when I have felt those dreaded symptoms and it really helped.

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    That is too long Letisia! I had a silly waitress promise me my food was gluten free. And it wasn't, I've been gluten-free for 10 years and could taste something but didn't want to be rude...when she bought the desert menu, it had gluten free marked next to which ones were, so I asked if they'd do that for the main menu...low and behold the steak I just ate was in fact gluten. Tired and blah for 3 days, slept for 12 hours and riding it out...will try enzymes. But the best think is just to give your body good nourishing vegetables and food easy to digest. My eyes, face and stomach feel so puffy and I'm in complete regret. Be a princess in restaurants!! Make sure they know it's a serious allergy!!

     

    Note: If you're new to gluten free and still have symptoms...remove yeast from your diet too..it's in a lot of gluten-free products. They are closely connected so you could have a yeast intolerance. Same goes for fructose, including high fructose corn syrup.

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

    Usually for me, it can take anything from 5-10 days. I am unable to eat properly for up to 7 days, before slowly gaining my appetite back, but am so cautious about putting anything in my mouth. Eating only plain foods is all I can manage. Hope this helps.

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    Thanks for this article. I take [enzymes]. My holistic doctor recommended these for helping to reduce symptoms after contamination. She also recommended taking these with any meal in a restaurant in which there is a risk. I think they may help a little but it's hard to say. My reactions typically start 48 hours after ingestion and last for about 8 days. It's quite painful.

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    I have been gluten free for about three years after a diagnosis of severe celiac disease. After accidentally eating gluten I did not have to worry about making myself throw up because my body did it for me. It was as if I had Salmonella poisoning. Have never been so sick. On day 3 my stomach still hurts and my GI tract is in an uproar and my muscles ache too. Wish there was a calming agent. My course of action is sipping cool water --no food except maybe rice for a couple days.

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    Accidental gluten ingestion of 4 ounces wheat bread (!) two days ago - usually would make my 21 yr. old daughter very very ill within 12-24 hours. 48 hours later and she is fine - we have never faced this before so took fast action that worked:

    Took her to ER where we asked for liquid Charcoal ( we are ordering this for her to have if she needs in future) Charcoal absorbs nutrients and medications if taken 30-45 minutes after eating. The sooner you take it the better it absorbs. ER doc did not want to give her this, we insisted and they finally did.... they just had never read that this could help.

    Came home, had her take double dose Ex-Lax ( a Senna laxative) to promote rapid transit through the small intestine

    Followed with Pepto Bismol for 24 hours to decrease inflammation, 4 cups of yoghurt for probiotics and this increases her gut transit time, capsules of L-Glutamine to help soothe the gut lining. LOTS of water and hot herbal tea.

    Unbelievably, she is FINE 48 hours later. We are so happy as usually she is very very ill with even TRACE amounts of gluten.

    We are also ordering the enzyme that can help break down gluten if accidentally ingested.

    Hope this helps someone out there!!

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    Hi I have just eaten 2 slices of grain bread that looked gluten free but it wasn't. I have been really unwell all day sick many times with the runs and kept falling asleep, 9 hours later I feel ok. I have been celiac for over 20 years so let's hope all will be fine in the end.

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    Guest Accidentally Ate Wheat

    Posted

    Drinking warm water and taking an Anti-Acid can sometimes help.

     

    A few weeks ago I accidentally ate some wheat pasta. I felt so nervous about getting stomach pains I tried to make myself sick but couldn't. It turned out this was a good thing as it led me to try something else instead.

     

    Instead, I spent the next few hours drinking lots of warm water made up from 2/3rds boiling water and 1/3rd cold tap water in the hope that it would wash the wheat out of my body.

     

    About an hour and a half later I felt slightly acidic in my stomach and decided to take an Anti-Acid every hour, making sure not to exceed the recommended dose.

     

    After 5 hours I felt a bubbling sensation below my stomach in my lower abdomen, though there was no discomfort or pain.

     

    I spent that night sitting upright in bed while asleep, half expecting to wake up feeling ill. Surprisingly nothing happened though my stomach did make a few grumbling noises.

     

    It seems that the warm water had helped the wheat move out of my body while the Anti-Acid tablets had absorbed any excess acid I had made.

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    I take fresh raw ginger, peel it and boil it right in the pot in large chunks with water and sugar.

    Then I drink it simply when it has boiled at least 10 minutes.

    You can pull out the chunks and just drink the rest.

    It seems to help and energize again.

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    My daughter was diagnosed 5 months ago and we are very strict about what she eats. She is totally on board too since she gets so sick with accidental ingestion. Last night was the second time she got glutened by plain chicken breasts bought at the grocery store. Nothing on the label said anything about broth, but she has been a mess since an hour after dinner last night. It is so frustrating. She also had raw carrots and watermelon, so it had to be the chicken. Also, Utz potato chips claim to be gluten free on the bag, but they make her very sick so they are cross-contaminated despite the company's cleaning between batches of gluten chips. It's frustrating when "experts" say to just avoid gluten instead of giving remedies for accidental ingestion. My chiropractor gave us the enzyme Gluten Flam; wish us luck!

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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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