It can be a real challenge to completely avoid gluten, so here are eight simple action steps to take in the event of accidentally consuming gluten or if cross-contamination occurs.
The side effects of being ‘glutened’, ie. accidental gluten contamination, vary from person to person in symptoms and severity. If you are a coeliac your symptoms can be more extreme such as vomiting, diarrhoea or intense stomach pain.
Those who are gluten intolerant gluten tend to have less severe symptoms such as bloating and gas, headaches and fatigue. Regardless, these symptoms are very unpleasant so the best thing to do is educate those around you, double-check with restaurants when eating out and arm yourself with tools to help if you get glutened.
The good news is that there is much that can be done in the event of being ‘glutened’. How much of this you need to implement will depend on whether you’re coeliac or gluten intolerant and whether you’ve been contaminated or eaten a product that actually contains gluten.
Here are my top tips for a speedy recovery:
1. Don’t panic!
It’s easy to fly into serious panic mode when you’ve accidentally been glutened. Firstly, try to keep calm, think logically and identify what you have been exposed to, to avoid it next time. Stress slows down the body’s capacity for healing, so take deep calming breaths and call on others to support you through this.
2. Digestive enzymes
You can get specialist enzymes (DPP-IV) that help your body to break down gluten immediately after consumption. In the weeks following gluten exposure choose a broad-spectrum digestive enzyme as the small intestine will need extra support to effectively digest food and absorb nutrients.
Take time off work/school and rest to allow your body to recover. You may experience fatigue, body aches, pain and brain fog in the days following exposure. Be gentle with yourself.
4. Ginger, peppermint and chamomile tea
If you have abdominal cramps make tea with these herbs which act as natural antispasmodics to calm cramping. In addition, ginger is great for nausea and calms inflammation.
Drink plenty of water to help to flush things through and replenish water lost if you have been vomiting or had diarrhoea
6. Soothe with slippery elm and aloe vera
The gut lining will be inflamed after a gluten ‘attack’. To help calm this down you can buy these natural agents from a local health food store or through your practitioner
7. Calm inflammation
Using the concentrated supplement form of a natural compound called quercetin (found in apple skins and onions) immediately following gluten exposure helps to calm the inflammatory reaction which can lead to symptoms like pain, fatigue and brain fog.
8. Fasting and easy to digest foods
It’s typical to feel nausea and have no appetite after being glutened, therefore fasting gives the gut the time it needs to calm down and start repairing. If you feel like eating, introduce easy to digest foods such as broths, soups, fruit, cooked vegetables and smoothies. It’s also best to avoid dairy at this time due to the damaged villi, which usually produce the enzyme needed to break down the lactose in dairy.
The damaged villi in the small intestine can take from 3 to 6 months to repair and can be supported by being extra careful about avoiding gluten, sticking to your known ‘safe foods’ and working with a practitioner to help support the healing process.
*See your doctor if you feel very unwell and not recovering as expected. Seek out a qualified and registered Nutritional Therapist who can help you with your recovery.
Thanks to Beth Raven from Positive Plate Nutrition.