Glutened? 3 Steps to Recover from a Gluten Reaction
If you are gluten sensitive or have celiac disease you know all too well about accidentally ingesting gluten — otherwise known as getting “glutened.” A gluten reaction can be a result of eating foods that contain gluten, such as white bread or whole-wheat pasta, or eating foods that have come into contact with gluten.
Even when you’ve ordered gluten-free, you can never be completely sure that it’s free of all gluten. People with celiac disease have to be especially careful, as the effects of a gluten reaction can result in serious health complications. That’s why I always keep a bottle of my Complete Enzymes in my purse, just in case of a sneaky gluten reaction.
The Symptoms of Getting Glutened
Symptoms 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 is where the damage is really being done — the gluten reaction is wreaking havoc in your gut.
There’s a particular protein found in wheat and gluten which triggers the release of zonulin in your intestines. This is a chemical that 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 leaky gut.
When your gut is leaky, much larger boats that were never meant to get through (toxins, microbes, undigested food particles) can escape into your bloodstream, ultimately leading to inflammation from the gluten reaction.1
It’s essential to your health to get the inflammatory protein out of your body so that you can reduce inflammation and heal your gut, and recover from any damage done to your body as quickly as possible.
3 Steps to Recover from A Gluten Reaction
Depending on your sensitivity, an accidental gluten exposure can make you feel like junk for days! The good news is that you can take steps to lessen your symptoms and recover quicker. Following these 3 steps will help make your recovery period manageable and help you from getting glutened in the future.
1. Get the Gluten Out
If you continue to eat gluten, your immune system becomes overly stressed as the inflammation just keeps on coming with each bite of yeast bread, bagels, durum wheat pasta, or even multi-grain crackers. Your immune system can begin to malfunction! The result is that it begins to misfire. A gluten reaction causes your body to attack its own tissues as it tries to combat the source of inflammation.
The more quickly you can get the gluten enzymes out of your system, the better you’ll feel. These three things will help you manage a gluten reaction promptly and effectively:
Digestive Enzymes. Digestive enzymes help speed up the breakdown and absorption of macronutrients. I recommend that those with celiac and gluten intolerance take my Complete Enzymes as an extra precaution against a gluten reaction when dining out. They contain DPP-IV to help break down gluten, as well as a broad-spectrum blend of plant and microbial-based enzymes for maximum digestive potency.
Binding agents. Activated charcoal binds toxins and helps reduce gas and bloating after a gluten reaction.2 It’s best to increase water intake when taking this supplement to avoid constipation, which will only delay healing.
Hydration. Fluids will help flush your system and keep you hydrated if you’re vomiting or have diarrhea from a gluten reaction. In addition to regular water, you can try coconut water, which contains electrolytes that may have been lost through vomiting or diarrhea.
2. Decrease Inflammation
Inflammation occurs naturally in our body when there has been an insult (like getting glutened) or injury to it. Decreasing this inflammation is essential to healing your gut. These three things will help you reduce inflammation quickly:
Omega-3 fatty acids. Fish oils, flax and chia seeds are full of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. I recommend 1-2 grams of omega-3 oils daily. You can go up to 4 grams a day for a week after an accidental gluten reaction.
Ginger has high levels of gingerol, which gives it a natural spicy flavor and acts as an anti-inflammatory in the body.3 It also has potent anti-nausea properties and can ease stomach cramping that can be present after a gluten reaction. I like to drink warm ginger tea as a comforting, anti-inflammatory beverage.
Turmeric is a member of the ginger family that contains the active ingredient curcumin, which is known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.4 My anti-inflammatory smoothie with turmeric is a great drink to help you quickly recover from a gluten reaction.
3. Repair Your Gut
This may be the third step, but it’s also the most important! Nearly 80% of our immune system is in our gut. Having a healthy gut is crucial for optimal health. The supplements below will help your gut repair itself more quickly after getting glutened.
Collagen is rich in the anti-inflammatory amino acids glycine and proline, which protect and heal the mucosal lining of the digestive tract that may get disrupted by being glutened.
Probiotics. Routinely, I recommend taking a highly concentrated probiotic (25-100 billion units) a day. I advise my patients to “double-up” on their probiotic dose for a week after a gluten reaction.
L-Glutamine. Glutamine is an amino acid that is great for repairing damage to the gut, helping the gut lining to regrow and repair, undoing the damage caused by a gluten reaction. I recommend 3-5 grams a day for a week after exposure.
Once you realize that you have been glutened, implement this three-step approach as soon as possible. If you are not seeing any improvement in your symptoms after three days or you’re getting worse. I would advise you to follow up with your physician.
How to Avoid Getting Glutened
Now that you know how to recover, let’s discuss how you can avoid the uncomfortable situation of being glutened in the first place.
Even if you eat a gluten-free diet full of fruits, vegetables, and organic sources of protein, you can still get glutened; gluten is hiding everywhere! To ensure your body stays healthy and gluten-free, I recommend reading all of the nutrition labels for packaged foods and avoiding them altogether if you can.
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 resemble gluten in your body. 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 permanently remove these foods from your diet.
Avoid Gluten Reactions with an Elimination Diet
The best way to find out if you’re sensitive to certain foods is through an elimination diet. By eliminating common inflammatory foods such as gluten, dairy, grains and legumes, nightshades, corn, and soy among others, you can help your body repair the damage from inflammation and avoid being glutened. From there, you can slowly reintroduce foods through a reintroduction process that will help you identify the foods you’re sensitive to. Be sure to track your symptoms and reactions in a journal for easy reference in the future!
Remember that the first step to taking back your health is repairing your gut so that you can set the groundwork that will help get you closer to your goals of optimal wellness. That is why it’s so important to avoid getting glutened and keep tools like my Complete Enzymes in your back pocket. These enzymes are formulated to support optimal digestion and nutrient absorption, as well as assist the body’s intestinal repair and inflammation responses.
When formulating my Complete Enzymes, I made sure to include DPP-IV, a protease enzyme that actually 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 as well as have a beneficial effect on undesirable microorganism levels that opportunistically inhabit the digestive tract.
Complete Enzymes are perfect for those who:
- Want the very best digestive enzyme available that is equipped to break down a broad spectrum of foods and assist with optimal absorption and utilization of micronutrients
- Has or is concerned about gluten sensitivity
- Is looking for a way to manage accidental gluten exposure and cross-contamination
- Wants to support their inflammatory response, immune system, and digestive health
Whether you’re looking to supplement your diet to ensure your body absorbs the right nutrients, to complete an elimination diet, or both, you can find helpful information through my blog and website.
- A Protein In The Gut May Explain Why Some Can't Stomach Gluten. Jill Neimark. NPR. 2015.
- The Use of Activated Charcoal to Treat Intoxications. Tobias Zellner, Dagmar Prasa, Elke Farber, Petra Hoffmann-Walbeck, Dieter Genser, Florian Eyer. NCBI. 2019.
- Anti-Oxidative and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Ginger in Health and Physical Activity: Review of Current Evidence. Nafiesh Shokri Mashhadi, Reza Ghiavand, Gholamreza Askari, Mitra Hariri, Leila Darvishi, Mohammad Reza Mofid. NCBI. 2013.
- 10 Proven Health Benefits of Tumeric and Curcumin. Kris Gunnars. Healthline. 2018.
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