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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)

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    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.


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    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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    Thank you for your information on all of the ups and downs of this disease. I hope these helpful hints can provide some type of comfort to my recently diagnosed infant. If there are more discoveries toward this can you please email me with some type of information. Thank you very much for everything.

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    Let's just say my friend has Celiac disease. She is successful in her career and home life. She is in no way a pot head. One night she smoked a little after being 'glutened'. She was amazed how quickly her gastro-intestinal symptoms went away.

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    I have recently been been told I am Celiac based on physical markers & blood test. I am gathering my alternative foods but have not started diet yet. This exchange makes me think I might not want to. My symptoms now are very subtle.

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    Thank you so much for all the great advice in this article. I recently discovered that I have Celiac after being sick since I was very young and I am now 38. I have not had the biopsy or blood test. The doctor suggested I do an elimination diet mentioning wheat and gluten specifically. We started with wheat but realized it was gluten. I have been gluten free (at least I have been trying) for almost two months now. I have already noticed a greater sensitivity when I have been 'glutened.'

     

    This website has been wonderfully amazing! I have learned so much and finally feel as though I am among those who truly 'get it.'

     

    Tracy

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    Goldenseal Root - trust me it works amazingly well. I thought it would be good for my mother who is celiac. If she accidentally has wheat or wheat syrup, wheat glucose (as is in things like mousses, sweets and on dried fruits), concentrated grain sugars (which I think are the reason so many people are celiac - we just aren't meant to eat that much concentrated grain sugar. A few drops of the glycerin based tincture and she will come out of a faint, loose the shakes and think clearly again. Its truly magic and you can carry it in a handbag! I thought it would be good because it is a bitter and treats stomach problems, and cleans the blood.

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    my 3 year old daughter was diagnosed with celiac two years ago. It has been a battle. Recently while in the daycare at church, she was given pretzels for a snack by mistake. She was projectile vomiting for hours. Is there something I can give her after she ingests gluten by mistake? It's only going to get harder to make everyone aware when she's in school. Is there a website I can go to and get her a medical bracelet?

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    Thank you for such a wonderful article. I have searches the web for information like this. I appreciate the research and the time you took to put out the detail. I accidentally got gluten 2 days ago. I react with flew like symptoms, achy joints and tiredness for 2-3 days. This time I took Claritin and antihistamine and my reaction was not as bad as some past reactions. Your article helped. I agree with the response above. I think it is best to bring your own food with you and explain your allergy to the server. It is to risky to take the chance. I tried by ordering beans and tortilla's at a Mexican restaurant. I wanted to enjoy a special event and have just one night not worrying about food. So I ordered simple. I was two bites into the tortilla when I discovered it was flour. I cried!

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    Pears? Following along in the footsteps of the 11, or is it now 12, allele types associated with Celiac (or gluten intolerance), there's another one that treats a chemical found in pear, apple and peach skins, as well as in birch bark and seeds, just as though it were a terrible poison.

     

    That annoying apple peel that lodged in your gum didn't just 'irritate it'. That welt that rose up in the roof of your mouth and your gums is an auto immune reaction to the chemical in the peel.

     

    When that stuff gets to your intestines it continues cause welts.

     

    It is believed this genetic trait served to protect folks against eating small birch trees (6 inches high or less) in the Arctic. They contain high levels of cyanide and a diet high in birch trees can kill humans.

     

    If the peels are cooked, apples and pears and peaches are OK since heat destroys the damaging chemical.

    You're talking about salicylates. Those are supposed to be avoided on the Fiengold Diet, too. It's been 5 days and my mental state has greatly improved, I'm nearly 'normal'. It's amazing, the more I read, the more things I find in common with advice for celiacs, the Fiengold Diet, and the blood type diet (i'm an O), and I'm avoiding those right now, too. All of this research is going to converge soon, I think. Brighter days ahead for all of us dealing with our conditions.

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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.

    If only it were that simple. I find that when I have a reaction to food, Imodium doesn't work. I have been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in the past, and Imodium worked for my symptoms when they were related to that. I get roughly the same symptoms for both UC and food reactions. Just for one I can take a pill and the other I can't.

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    Thanks for the article and the interesting comments. I too went on the Gluten Free diet after biopsy etc. I too found that I have become much more sensitive to gluten after being on the diet. I did get rid of my all-body rash, which had been diagnosed for 13 years as Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma and improperly treated for such at Yale New Haven Hospital and Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, Cornell in NYC. What a mess. Yes, whenever I eat out I usually get glutened. Do not ever trust restaurants or waiters even when the restaurant has a reputation for having a Gluten Free menu. I now usually bring a small container of fat free yogurt and a banana which I hide while others order food. I eat what I bring and although I miss the goodies at the table I feel well after the meal. That is becoming the most important thing for me. I am old and I realize that Celiac damages our general immune system so we must be vigilant to protect ourselves. Yes, we 'think' we recover from the cramps, diarrhea, malaise in a few days, but the immune system damage, and small intestine damage lasts and lasts. Be vigilant and survive.

    Would like to discuss further your CTCL mis-diagnosis.

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    With an accidental ingestion, would it help to fast for several days on juice, probiotic, and water only (plus the enzymes you recommend)? Problems seem to escalate each time I eat anything after being "glutenized" and this lasts for 5 or 6 days. Advice would be appreciated!! Thanks.

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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 other websites are: www.WellBladder.com and www.neighborhoodnurse.net.

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