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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 accidentally ate something I thought was gluten free, an Amy's product and realized it immediately after I ate it. I really thought I looked at it when I bought it but maybe I reached in and grabbed the wrong thing. I hardly ever eat store bought gluten free products but we are remodeling our kitchen. I was frightened and considered trying to induce vomiting. I had no idea how to do it and I live an hour away from the nearest town. So I waited with no idea what to expect. 3 to 4 hours in, I was feeling okay. But in the 4th hour, well, my stomach eliminated all the contents of my stomach without hesitation. I had no further problems after that. I have to note, I never experienced vomiting before my diagnosis, only intense stomach issues, pain, bloating, gas. But my body treated gluten as though I had eaten rancid food. I wish I had known about the enzymes, I would have taken those.

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    Guest Vinicio Colón

    Posted

    Wow. I cannot believe all the posting on eating gluten and having the same symptoms I get when I accidentally find out that it had a hidden gluten ingredient. I had a small piece of chocolate last Friday, Ghirardelli's. The ingredients looked okay. Well I have been SO sick since then. It has been 1 week. Online their website says that they try to clean machines but their candy is not gluten free. Well I have had severe gastritis symptoms. The next day I had diarrhea and stomach pains all day. The next few days I had severe burning in my stomach and severe nausea. 2 doctors later they tell me it is gastritis and gave me meds to take. Blood work done came back normal, so happy. But still feeling like crap. Husband is tired of hearing me complain! He does support me at all, so stress also adds to my situation. I have been living on toast with jelly, jello, cream of rice, flat ginger ale, gluten free crackers, and chamomile tea. I just can't get rid of the nausea, it comes and goes. I had diarrhea the other day for about 5 hours. It is now 1 wk today and I am just slightly better, but not 100%. I cannot believe that a small piece of candy could do so much damage. I am so careful. We cannot go out and we do not go out to eat. I cook everything at home and I am okay with that because I am in control. Mostly I eat plain chicken or plain salmon. My question is is 1 week normal to feel like this? My husband is pushing me to go to a GI doctor, as he is disgusted with me complaining. For the most part I am okay, but I do have my days. I am gluten free about a year. I don't think your body ever really heals itself completely after eating gluten for 50 years, so I just feel that it is my normal. I am taking anti acid pills, the doctor gave me Prilosec, Pepcid,and zolfran for nausea, although TUMS seems to help instantly when I get the nausea feeling and I am good for most of the day. Of course my stomach is irritated since I took a lot of MOTRIN and AMOXICLLIN for 2 wks for gum infection and doctor really thinks I irritated my lining of my stomach I think it is a combination of the gluten candy and the medication irritation. Anyone have this? What is the longest it takes to recover from being gluten. So tired of telling everyone I have a stomach virus...no one gets it.

    I'm not a celiac but I do get severe migraines when I do gluten. My roommate lives pizza, weakness of mine. Within 2-4hrs after investing gluten rich foods I take 2 or 3 tablespoons of bentonite clay and a tall glass of room temperature water. This stops the bad effects of my poor choice. It is not a magic cure, bentonite clay has very "absorbing" qualities. It is sold for human consumption in health food stores.

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    Thank you for all the info. I accidentally ate gluten yesterday. I too have celiac and was diagnosed Nov '13. About a half hour after I ingested the gluten I got a terrible headache and my stomach is crampy and bloated. I'm going to try taking enzymes now and see if it helps. I'm 18 hours into my gluten response so I'll keep you posted.

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    Thank you for all the info. I accidentally ate gluten yesterday. I too have celiac and was diagnosed Nov '13. About a half hour after I ingested the gluten I got a terrible headache and my stomach is crampy and bloated. I'm going to try taking enzymes now and see if it helps. I'm 18 hours into my gluten response so I'll keep you posted.

    I am glad I found this article. There are never any treatments mentioned or available to us folks who are accidentally or unknowingly "glutened." We all try and lead "normal" lives by socializing in restaurants, going on vacations, or attending family functions. The truth is every one of these scenarios puts us at risk. Two days ago I was given a gluten contaminated meal at a restaurant. Ordered off their "gluten free" menu, and I double checked with the waitress when the food arrived. I ended up getting sick in their bathroom, in the parking lot, outside my house, inside my house, and this continued for 15 hours! I will eventually feel better in about 5-10 more days, but the pain is something else. I plan to carry digestive enzymes with me to try the next time this happens......hopefully never have to use them but that is unrealistic no matter how careful you are. I am not sure any oral medications will stay in my stomach long enough to work but I will try anything at this point. When doctors say "you will not die from this" it really makes me upset, because maybe we wont today, but all the combined incidents over the years could accumulate to developing cancer. I wish they would just say, "I am sorry we do not know how to help you yet, but we are trying to figure it out".

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    No offense--I am only writing, because many of the people whom have replied are clearly not celiacs. Trust me when I say some of you really should get a diagnostic, considering what you are stating is closer to a food allergy. The article on the other hand is something I may try one of these days, if I accidentally ingest gluten considering there is some solid science behind why it would work.

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    I drink tons of decaffeinated green tea when I accidentally eat gluten. (I am celiac, and gluten can make me sick for days.) As soon as I realize I have accidentally eaten gluten, I rush home and make decaffeinated green tea. If I cannot get home soon, I start drinking water until I can get the tea. I drink the tea non-stop.

     

    Today a waiter accidentally served me gluten. I am now drinking my 3rd quart of decaf green tea. It has been 7 hours and still no signs of illness. I will probably have some symptoms tomorrow, but this tea will make the whole experience shorter and less severe I believe (if past experiences are any indication).

     

    I appreciate the suggestions by the commenters. I am going to add to my decaf green tea: honey, a dash of apple cider vinegar (only once a day), and some ginger.

     

    I tried to make myself throw up but it just won't happen. Honestly I wouldn't mind throwing up after accidentally eating gluten a couple times a year. But my stomach just won't give it up.

     

    I think the decaf green tea helps because celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder, and green tea strengthens the immune system. Get decaffeinated, though, because if you drink a lot you don't want all that caffeine building up in your system.

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    I was glutened for the first time after being diagnosed with coeliac disease a year ago. 24 hrs later - bloating, gas, nausea, exhaustion and needing to sleep, very thirsty, bad pains in pelvis, lower back and rib cage. The culprit a pub meal which was gluten free but must have been contaminated. I will try some of the remedies. Thank you.

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    I am a celiac, as are both my children, my father and my sister. We are the 1 in 10 celiacs who get the skin reaction, as well as the intestinal distress. I could deal with the intestinal distress because it lasts only about a week but the skin reaction lasts about 6 weeks starting with an itchy ulceration that occurs in the dermis and comes up to the epidermis. If you are like us, the only thing that helps is Benadryl and the sooner you take it the better. If you wait until the reaction begins, it is too late, although it can lessen the severity. Hope this helps someone.

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    I recently had a viral gastritis, and I think I have (hopefully temporary) become gluten intolerant. Not sure what was going on, I had a big load of bread and for the last 4 hours I have felt dreadful.

     

    Inspired and "it can't make things much worse" I have just had a shot of Tequila. We will wait and see. Will hopefully let you know.

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    For what it's worth...the tequila did NOT help. Feel dreadful. Might not even be the gluten I suppose. Maybe two shots would be better... Off to my friendly gastroenterologist on Monday I guess.

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    For what it's worth...the tequila did NOT help. Feel dreadful. Might not even be the gluten I suppose. Maybe two shots would be better... Off to my friendly gastroenterologist on Monday I guess.

    No, tequila does not contain any gluten!

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    Like an earlier contributor, I too use tequila as a medicinal treatment for everything from the flu to GI relief. Remember, it is natural vs. the many chemicals in Rx bottles! My dosing is 1 1/2 to 2 traditional size "shots" of high quality tequila along with a multi-vitamin and B complex vitamin. I use it maybe 2 or 3 times a year and it has never failed me in the 26 years of the practice!

     

    If for any reason you choose not to drink alcohol, please don't take this as a suggestion to do so. This only works when under control and very infrequently.

    Does anyone know if Vodka would work? I just ingested some gluten and am already starting to feel sick. I don't have any enzymes or tequila! I'm going to go ahead and try it but would like to know from others if this remedy has been thought to work.

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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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