Getting exposed to gluten can be an uncomfortable experience. If you have a gluten intolerance or have celiac disease, you know how easy it is to get exposed to gluten despite your best efforts. You might not believe there is much you can do once you accidentally ingest gluten. However, I’m here to tell you that a gluten detox is possible if you are exposed.
A gluten reaction can result from eating foods containing gluten, such as white bread or whole-wheat pasta, or foods that have come into contact with gluten. Even when you’ve ordered gluten-free at a restaurant, you can never be sure it’s free of all gluten. That is why I always keep a bottle of Complete Enzymes in my purse, just in case of a sneaky gluten reaction.
I will tell you how to know if you have gluten sensitivity, how to avoid being exposed to gluten, how gluten wreaks havoc on your gut, and why I believe everyone should remove gluten from their diet. First, let’s discuss three steps for a gluten detox.
Three Steps for a Gluten Detox
Depending on your sensitivity, accidental gluten exposure can make you feel bad for days! You might experience brain fog, bloating, constipation, depression, or headaches. I’ll talk more about the signs of gluten sensitivity in just a minute. The good news is there are three easy steps to detox from gluten and recover quicker. Here are three steps to a gluten detox:
Step 1: Get the Gluten Out
If you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, your immune system responds to gluten with inflammation. If you continue to eat gluten, your immune system goes into overdrive, and the inflammatory response revs up with each bite of yeast bread, bagels, durum wheat pasta, or even multi-grain crackers. This can lead your immune system to malfunction and misfire, attacking healthy tissue and cells.
The more quickly you can get the gluten protein out of your system, the faster you can detox from gluten. Here are methods to help you manage a gluten reaction promptly and effectively:
Digestive enzymes speed up the breakdown and absorption of nutrients. Your body produces several digestive enzymes throughout the digestive tract. However, your body’s natural digestive enzyme production weakens as you age, which lowers your body’s ability to digest certain proteins such as gluten and lactose.
There are protein-digesting enzymes, enzymes that digest starch and carbohydrates, and enzymes that digest fat. Amylase is the primary digestive enzyme responsible for breaking down gluten. Your saliva, pancreas, and stomach produce amylase.
I recommend that those with celiac and gluten intolerance take Complete Enzymes as an extra precaution against a gluten reaction. They contain DPP-IV to help break down gluten and a broad-spectrum blend of plant and microbial-based enzymes for maximum digestive potency.
Activated charcoal is a binding agent that may reduce gas and bloat after a gluten reaction.1 Here’s how it works. Charcoal becomes activated when treated with oxygen and then heated to extreme temperatures (about 1,700 degrees Fahrenheit). This process causes the charcoal to become porous, thus making it activated.
Once you have ingested activated charcoal, the toxins bind to it in your stomach and eliminate it through your stool. The large pores formed from the activation process allow the charcoal to work as a binder to collect toxins, gasses, and other unwanted substances in your body, such as gluten. This makes activated charcoal an excellent tool for a gluten detox.
The detoxification process requires fluids to flush out your system properly, including a gluten detox. You lose water every day through sweating, urinating, and even breathing. You also lose electrolytes, including sodium, potassium, chloride, and magnesium.
If you’re experiencing vomiting or diarrhea from a gluten reaction, you lose more fluids, so it’s essential to replenish them. Aim to drink half your body weight in ounces of water. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, your water intake should be 75 ounces daily.
Step 2: Decrease Inflammation
When your immune system functions optimally, acute inflammation is a critical weapon that protects you against severe and immediate stressors, such as fighting off a bacterial infection or healing a wound. This type of inflammation is localized and subsides once the threat is gone.
However, chronic stress, a poor diet, and even the occasional gluten exposure can keep your immune system on all the time. When this happens, your immune system begins to attack everything in its sight, including healthy tissue and cells, to get to the root cause of the inflammation. This type of inflammation sets you on the path to chronic illness or autoimmune disease and must get addressed for your return to optimal health.
Supporting a healthy inflammatory response is essential to a gluten detox. My favorite tools for a healthy inflammatory response are omega-3 fatty acids, ginger, and liposomal curcumin.
Fish oils, flax, and chia seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids. Ginger has high levels of gingerol, which gives it a natural spicy flavor and acts as an anti-inflammatory in the body.2 It also has potent anti-nausea properties and can ease stomach cramping that can be present after a gluten reaction. Turmeric is a member of the ginger family with the active ingredient curcumin, known for its ability to support a healthy inflammatory response. 3
Step 3: Repair Your Gut
While this is the third step to a gluten detox, it’s by far the most important one. In people with a gluten sensitivity, gluten can cause the gut cells to release zonulin, a protein that can break apart the tight junctions holding your intestines together. Once these tight junctions get broken apart, your gut is leaky.
A leaky gut allows toxins, microbes, undigested food particles, and antibodies to escape from your intestines and travel throughout your body via your bloodstream. The antibodies that escape are the ones that your body produces to attack the gliadin in the first place.4
When your gut loses the ability to discriminate between good and harmful bacteria, you have a leaky gut. You can address your gut by following the 4Rs:
- Remove: Get rid of inflammatory foods that contribute to an unbalanced gut, such as gluten, dairy, corn, soy, and eggs. You’ll also need to ditch toxic foods, including sugar, caffeine, and alcohol.
- Restore: Add back the essential ingredients for proper digestion and absorption that get depleted by diet, medications (such as antacids), chronic illness, or aging. This includes digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid, and bile acids required for proper digestion.
- Reinoculate: Restore beneficial bacteria to reestablish a healthy gut microbiome balance of good bacteria. This can be accomplished by taking a probiotic supplement that contains beneficial bacteria such as bifidobacteria and lactobacillus species.
- Repair: Providing the nutrients necessary to help the gut repair itself is essential. My most comprehensive weapon against leaky gut is Leaky Gut Revive® MAX, which contains powerful gut-repairing ingredients l-glutamine, aloe, deglycyrrhizinated licorice, arabinogalactan, slippery elm, and marshmallow root, along with ImmunoLin® to support your immune system.
Now that you know the steps to a gluten detox, let’s talk about how to know when you need one.
Signs You’ve Been Glutened
The signs of being glutened can be different for everyone; it can manifest as brain fog, diarrhea, constipation, headache, rash, abdominal pain, joint pain, swelling, vomiting, and fatigue. However, inside your body, the damage is really being done — the gluten reaction is wreaking havoc in your gut.
A particular protein in wheat is gluten, which triggers the release of zonulin in your intestines. This chemical tells your gut lining to “open up.” Think of your gut as a drawbridge. Your gut is naturally semi-permeable to allow teeny-tiny boats (micronutrients) to pass through your intestinal wall and into your bloodstream. Zonulin causes your gut lining to break apart, leaving the drawbridge open. Once this happens, you have a leaky gut.
When your gut is leaky, much larger boats that are not meant to get through (toxins, microbes, undigested food particles) can escape into your bloodstream, ultimately leading to inflammation from the gluten reaction.
It’s essential to your health to do a gluten detox to reduce inflammation, heal your gut, and recover from any damage done to your body as quickly as possible.
As I said earlier, you can do everything in your power to avoid gluten exposure, yet you can never be sure your food is free of all gluten. The good news is that there are ways to avoid getting glutened.
How to Avoid Getting Glutened
Even if you eat a gluten-free diet full of fruits, vegetables, and organic protein sources, you can still get glutened; gluten is hiding everywhere! I recommend reading the nutrition labels to ensure your body stays healthy and gluten-free.
Gluten hides behind many names in packaged and processed foods, including sauces and condiments such as soy sauce. You can easily find alternatives to mainstream processed snacks and sauces that are better for your body — or you can make your own to avoid getting glutened!
In addition to hidden sources of gluten, your body may not even tolerate naturally gluten-free foods such as dairy, corn, and gluten-free grains because their proteins still resemble the structure of gluten. This is known as cross-reactivity. Your immune system confuses innocent sources as invaders and begins to destroy them.
This means you can still get glutened even if you’re gluten-free. If you determine that there are foods that are cross-reactive for you, you will want to remove these foods from your diet permanently. I also recommend avoiding the gluten-free aisle of your local grocery store.
Supplement Your Gluten Detox
Gluten is an inflammatory food that everyone should remove from their diet. If you eat gluten or accidentally get exposed, following the steps for a gluten detox above can help you recover faster.
Suppose you’ve completed a gluten detox yet still notice symptoms of being exposed to gluten. In that case, you may need to restore the factors essential to digestion, such as digestive enzymes and stomach acid (HCL).
I mentioned how digestive enzymes break down proteins and fats so they can be adequately absorbed. HCL helps break down protein into amino acids so they can be absorbed in the small intestine. Amino acids are the building blocks for neurotransmitters, the chemicals in your brain that control your mood. Together, they make a powerful tool to detox from gluten.
When formulating Complete Enzymes, I included DPP-IV, a protease enzyme that breaks down gluten! In fact, Complete Enzymes do more than help you digest; they assist with tackling GI tract issues as well. The broad-spectrum blend of proteolytic enzymes assists with breaking down inflammatory antigens such as lectins. They also help support healthy levels of inflammation and have a beneficial effect on undesirable microorganism levels that opportunistically inhabit the digestive tract.
Just as many people need digestive enzyme support, many benefit from restoring stomach acid, or HCL, for optimal digestion. Your stomach should be acidic to break down nutrients, particularly proteins such as gluten. Do a trial with baking soda to see if you could benefit from extra HCL. Mix 1 teaspoon baking soda in 4 ounces of water, and drink. If you burp, you don’t need HCL. If you don’t burp, then you need HCL.
The Final Word
As someone with a gluten sensitivity, I know all about the discomfort of being glutened. The good news is there are steps to take to detox from gluten so you can recover faster. Taking Complete Enzymes and HCL before a meal can support the digestive process in the event of accidental gluten exposure. Using a gluten detox can help you quickly recover from eating gluten.
- The Use of Activated Charcoal to Treat Intoxications. Dr. Tobias Zellner, et al. Deutsches Arzteblatt International. 2019.
- Anti-Oxidative and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Ginger in Health and Physical Activity: Review of Current Evidence. Nafiseh Shokri Mashhadi, et al. International Journal of Preventative Medicine. 2013.
- 10 Proven Health Benefits of Turmeric and Curcumin. Kris Gunnars, BSc . Healthline. 2021.
- A Protein In The Gut May Explain Why Some Can't Stomach Gluten . Jill Neimark. NPR. 2015.