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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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    Apparently according to an Internet search for gluten free alcohol, some cheaper tequilas or "mixto" may have gluten ingredients mixed in. Jos is ok.

    This is an Internet rumor that has been circulating for at least 20 years, with absolutely nothing ever posted to back it up.

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    I came here via researching anti-inflammatory (systemic) use for proteolytic enzymes. Although they can be the same as digestive ones which, for example, get taken with meals, these are ingested away from meals; get absorbed into blood stream and act on 'inappropriate" protein molecules (I don't know why/how they distinguish between self and non-self. I wonder whether they may serve a purpose for mistaken gluten ingestion for[non-bowel affected] gluten intolerants).

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    My son was diagnosed with celiac when he was 13. He is now 18 and has always stuck to his gluten free diet. However, today he accidentally ate gluten. Not just a small amount, but a very very large amount. An entire half of a 16' pizza! That was at 6:30 pm. He threw up at 8:30 pm then 9:30pm then 10:20 and now again at 10:54.

    I have been searching the internet for hours (while caring for him) trying to find out how serious it is to be glutened this badly.


    I have the same issue whenever I accidentally eat something with wheat. It usually seems to start about 2 hours after eating, and depending on the amount of gluten can go for hours. At Christmas, my uncle changed his recipe and added a tablespoon of flour to his HUGE batch of casserole. That small amount DID make me sick. However, since it was a smaller amount, it was only one round of throwing up. I've had attacks that have lasted up to 10 hours before. As of now, I haven't found a way to stop it from happening, but here are some tips to shorten the agony:

    1.) If you think you have eaten gluten, drink a lot of water. Along with hydrating you, it reduces the amount of damage it does to your throat.

    2.) Once it starts, DON'T DRINK WATER. Don't eat or drink anything. If you think you're getting better, you're not. Take a nap/rest for a few hours without getting sick before trying to eat something. Some times, a few hours later my stomach is completely better and I'm asking for barbeque.

    3.) This is your own choice... staying really still will keep you from puking. However, I don't do this anymore, because I think it just prolongs the attack. The best way to get it to stop is just to move every once in a while, and hopefully get VERY sick in a short period.

    4.) When it's finally over, and you're ready for food, stick with something slightly heavy but bland. I prefer mashed potatoes. Anything that's just liquid won't settle well. Make sure to hydrate well. My immune system is always down for the next few weeks afterwards, and I catch EVERY cold.

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    I accidentally glutened myself yesterday. Forgot to order gluten-free pizza. Within a 1/2 hour of eating, I took probiotics, and an hour later activated charcoal tabs. Last night I took an antihistamine (my skin was terribly itchy). Today, I continued all 3 (taken at different times b/c charcoal will adsorb other treatments), adding Apple cider vinegar, bone broth and turmeric (for inflammation). I have had stomach and joint pain but I expected to be much sicker. And am grateful that these remedies seem to be helping. But I will NEVER slip-up again. I was quickly reminded of how sick I was before celiac diagnosis. And will take good health over pizza any day.

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    Believe it or not, I have found that one shot of tequila within a few hours of ingesting gluten greatly minimizes my symptoms, almost to the point of negating any reaction! Just one shot, though!

    My fiancee has celiac and recently was "glutened" at a function where she was promised everything was gluten-free. She was very ill for 2 1/2 days with severe abdominal pain. We had tried a number of things to relieve her pain but nothing was helping. I came across this website as we were about to head to a long church ceremony. With nothing to lose I ran to the liquor store and bought a small bottle of tequila. She was symptom free the whole evening, what a blessing! Prayer and tequila who would have thought? She does not drink much and does not like the taste of tequila (even the higher grade ones) but I will be keeping some on hand from now on! Thank you for the suggestion.

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    All good information - After 18 years of gluten free and no issues, I got stupid and forgot to ask - result - huge gluten load. I've had volcanic diarrhea for over three weeks - food in - 20 min later gunk, fluid, mucus and yuck out... Doc had tested for all the intestinal disorders (C diff etc) as well as an extensive blood panel. Nothing else wrong. I have lost 9 pounds. I use peppermint or chamomile tea, turmeric, white rice, and other recommended treatments. Max doses of Imodium barely slows it down. I read it could take 6 months to heal. I'll loose 35 pounds at the rate I'm going now. (do not need to lose any).

    I'm tired, discouraged and hungry.

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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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