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  • Wendy Cohan, RN
    Wendy Cohan, RN

    When Mistakes Happen, Focus on Comfort (How Celiacs can More Quickly Recover from Gluten Exposure)

    Celiac.com 09/25/2008 - Even after identifying yourself as having a wheat or gluten allergy and asking for a specially prepared meal, it is a common mistake to have a server deliver soup with crackers, or the entree with a side of Texas toast.   I get frustrated just thinking about the number of times my salad has arrived with croutons.  However, getting upset, or pointedly reminding the server can ruin the ambiance of the meal, as well as leave a bad impression with your dinner companions. It is helpful to remember that you are in the very small minority of their customers, and simply consider it an honest mistake.  Do not remove the croutons, crackers, cheese, etc. and eat your contaminated food—SEND IT BACK TO THE KITCHEN—politely, please.  State that you cannot eat what they have brought you, and repeat that you are allergic to the offending food.  Use the opportunity to gently remind your server and educate them about gluten.  Hopefully the next time they will be more conscientious.

    If you are wheat or gluten intolerant, and have the genetic component that leads to celiac disease, there is no going back to gluten.  As your body heals, you may think that you will be able to cheat once in a while, and that your sensitivity to gluten will decrease once you are not getting "too much".  In fact, the opposite seems to be true.  Once the body begins to get rid of its toxic load, heal damaged tissues, and regain health, it becomes more sensitive to gluten.  I see this over and over again in the clients I counsel, and in my cooking class students.  You will know right away if you cheat, or if you are accidentally "glutened".  Your body, fortunately or unfortunately, will tell you.  It is important to learn techniques to sooth your symptoms as much as possible until recovery takes place.

    Symptoms of gluten exposure in a gluten-intolerant person can vary widely, but some commonly reported ones are abdominal discomfort, bloating, pain, swelling (sometimes extreme) and cramping, followed by diarrhea, or loose stools.  For those with Dermatitis Herpetiformis (DH), even very minor exposure can provoke itching and a return of a healed or nearly healed rash.  Others report headaches, or experience a sudden decrease in alertness and clarity of thought.

    Short-term treatment strategies for gluten exposure include taking an over-the-counter anti-histamine (check with your pharmacist for gluten ingredients), drinking nettle leaf tea (a natural anti-histamine), and using a warm castor oil pack over your upper or lower abdomen, wherever the pain and cramping are centered.

    Longer-term strategies include rebuilding your intestinal health through following an anti-inflammatory diet, taking supplements like L-Glutamine, coconut oil, fat-soluble vitamins A, E, D, and K, Calcium, Magnesium, B-Vitamins, Essential Fatty Acids (EFA's), and probiotics.  Dr. Thomas O'Bryan, a nationally recognized speaker on celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, also recommends Carnitine, an amino acid, in the treatment of celiac/gluten intolerance.  L-Carnitine helps in the absorption and transport of essential fatty acids into cells, and also helps to protect nerve membranes from free-radical damage.

    You may have good results with the tummy rescue smoothie recipe below, which I developed in response to a "gluten emergency" of my own.  The healing properties of each ingredient are also listed.  Puree in blender until smooth, and slightly thickened.  It is most soothing when consumed while still warm from the hot tea

    Tummy Rescue Smoothie:

    • 1 cup hot freshly brewed nettle leaf tea (anti-histamine, anti-spasmodic)
    • ¼ cup Santa-Cruz pear juice (flavoring/sweetener - pears are the least allergenic of fruits)
    • ¼ - ½ teaspoon whole fennel seed (reduces gas & bloating)
    • 2 Tablespoons slippery elm powder (healing & soothing to mucous membranes and the gut)
    • 1 Tablespoon flax seed oil (soothing, anti-inflammatory)
    • ¼ - ½ cup rice milk (hypoallergenic, use to thin to desired consistency)

    This smoothie is best consumed in small sips over an hour or so.  Magnesium also helps with pain and relaxes muscle spasms, so taking a little extra magnesium may be of benefit. For severe symptoms, drink the smoothie while reclining in bed, with a warm castor oil pack over the abdomen, covered by a heating pad set on low.  Do not leave the pack in place for more than an hour.

    There is also an enzyme coming on the market that may help reduce some symptoms of gluten exposure, although this product is in no way meant to replace the gluten-free diet.  Use it only for emergencies.


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    Hello Wendy, yes, long term health-boosting strategies should be at the forefront. Indeed, coconut oil is an anti-inflammatory dietary fat and is renowned for enhancing the immune system. 80% of our immune system is located in the intestinal tract.

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    Lots of Celiacs I know (including me) are violently ill starting about an hour after consuming even small amounts gluten. Sorry if it is TMI, but I have projectile vomiting for 3-4 hours accompanied by severe cramping in my stomach (not intestines) .... and then feel like I have the worst hangover the next day.

     

    Frankly diarrhea, or loose stools would be a welcome change...easily fixed with Imodium.

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    Thank you for the Tummy Rescue Smoothie! I've often wondered if there is a little help/relief when accidental gluten exposure occurs. Thank you! Thank you!

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    Thanks for the smoothie idea, it definitely sounds like something worth trying!

     

    And just a note to Jen: It's a bit presumptuous of you to assume that those of us who suffer from severe intestinal pain and D as a result of being glutened somehow have it easier. It is literally the WORST pain I have ever felt, and it is most definitely not 'easily fixed with Imodium.' Just wanted to clear that up.

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    Hello, I sympathize with you gluten symptom sufferers but do be thankful (though it may be difficult for you) that you do get a reaction to gluten to alert you. My daughter has no external symptoms though her biopsy showed her gut to be in a very bad state... there is literally no way of knowing when a mistake has been made and therefore no way of avoiding food with hidden gluten ...

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    The problem is not as simple as obvious croutons in a salad. The problem is when I discover that I ate hidden gluten after the server, manager, or cook has assured me multiple times that my food is gluten-free. I do not get tummy aches that can be cured with a tummy remedy. I get some of the severe symptoms mentioned in the article. My gut is severely damaged, possibly permanently, and the symptoms last for days if not longer. Restaurant owners and managers have to take responsibility for their actions, and this article does not help in that regard.

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    I have found that drinking two or three tall glasses of water right after being glutened helps some too! Then my old friend Mylanta. I'll try that brewed nettle leaf tea should there be a next time (let's hope not!).

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    Hi Wendy! I'm glad to see this here... I've also found that the nettle works well for bladder disturbances, often related to gluten exposure.

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    Guest Mary Lou Archambault

    Posted

    I have to say that intestinal pain and diarrhea are not to me considered easier. If this happens to me at a restaurant possibly caused by cross-contamination, the reaction is usually immediate and hopefully there is a restroom handy and empty. When I go for walks even that sometimes brings it on so I therefore have become dependent on Imodium. To me this is not a good thing.

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  • About Me

    An RN for 14 years, I have been following a strict gluten-free diet for six years of improving health! Now I help others as a Celiac Disease/Gluten Intolerance Educator. I work one on one with people on meal planning, shopping, cooking and dining out gluten-free. I will also work with children who have behavioral issues related to gluten or other food sensitivities.  My book "Gluten-Free PORTLAND" is a comprehensive resource guide to the gluten-free diet and is available on my website www.glutenfreechoice.com. My other websites are: www.WellBladder.com and www.neighborhoodnurse.net.

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