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Getting glutened is the pits. Let’s just get that out of the way right off the bat.
If you’re sensitive to gluten or have celiac disease, consuming even the smallest bit can send you straight to couch (or the bathroom…) within less than an hour. Symptoms range in severity and variety, but you’ll most commonly experience stomach pain or cramping, a feeling of indigestion, diarrhea, fatigue, bloating, headaches, and swelling and/or water retention.
For the first time in years, I got glutened last weekend. I prepare almost all of my food myself, rarely eat out, and take great care in situations that pose potential risk for cross contamination. So how did I get glutened? Simple: I got lazy.
I failed to read a label, assumed the food was gluten-free, and threw it down the hatch. My stomach cramps a few hours later prompted me to go back and read the label. Good old barley and rye greeted me in bold black ink.
I could have sworn any number of bitter profanities at the package! I was so upset with myself for making a “rookie mistake.” How many times have I given talks and classes where I’ve told people to never, ever skip reading a label and to never, ever make assumptions? It still frustrates me to think about my mistake.
After I cooled down, I realized that beating myself up over the whole episode would do no good. Even the most seasoned among us slip up from time to time.
While I hope that you aren’t getting glutened frequently—and while I hope that I don’t get glutened again for a long time (forever would be nice)—the fact is that we live in an imperfect world. Mistakes and slip ups are going to happen.
So let’s take a look at 5 things to do when you’ve been glutened. These are steps that I took last weekend and will continue to take in the future.
1. Stop, drop, and rest.
I know. We all hate being slowed down. But the single most beneficial gift you can give your body during such a stressful physiological experience is rest. Cancel any obligations that you can and stay home. Don’t hit the gym and try to “push through.” Your body will be focusing all of its attention on fighting off the offender and repairing the damage done. Give it time to do its job.
We’re all totally unique, so your body might bounce back quickly (within 8-12 hours)…or your symptoms could go on for a while. I have friends that won’t feel back to “themselves” for a full 7 days. In my case, it took about 3 days.
2. Guzzle back the fluids.
When in doubt, water is the answer to so many health issues! While it won’t “fix” what’s just happened to your body, it will help flush out excess fluids and toxins, helping to reduce bloating. For the ultimate anti-bloat cocktail, sip warm water with lemon and ginger (and add some fennel seeds if you have them).
If you experience diarrhea as a symptom, it’s all the more important to stay super hydrated. You can also sip coconut water in small amounts (3-4 ounces at a time) to replenish electrolytes.
3. Drink broth.
The day that I accidentally got glutened, I just so happened to be simmering a fresh batch of bone broth. What luck! I’ve been enjoying mugs of it ever since to both soothe the intestinal tract and replenish with supportive minerals and collagen.
Sorry to be a Debbie Downer, but store bought broth won’t cut it. Most broths are very thin and taste mostly like seasoned water. The nutrient profile isn’t nearly as optimal as homemade. (Many broths also pack in preservatives, sky-high amounts of salt, and even MSG and gluten extractives. YIKES.)
My approach: Always keep a few jars of broth in the freezer. Then, when tragedy strikes, they’re ready and waiting for me!
4. Eliminate allergenic foods.
After getting glutened, your system will be on high alert for incoming offenders. Commonly allergenic foods could easily be “red flagged” by your body and therefore trigger another autoimmune response, sending you deeper into the throws of your symptoms. For at least the first week after the gluten episode, avoid cross-reactive foods like gluten-free grains (including quinoa, millet, and corn), dairy, and—depending on your sensitivity level—eggs and nuts.
I personally avoided grains, dairy, and eggs in the first several days after my glutening and kept nuts and seeds low. Focus on a diet rich in healing foods like broth, sweet potatoes or winter squash, vegetables, fruits, organic meats, and quality fats like olive oil, avocados, and coconut oil.
5. Add probiotics.
Probiotics are essential to getting back on the road to supportive gut health. If you already take a good quality probiotic daily, consider increasing your dose for a week or two to inoculate your GI tract with beneficial bacteria. I also love incorporating probiotic-rich foods like raw sauerkraut and lacto-fermented vegetables (my friends Ali and Tom have a great video tutorial here). Stay away from yogurt or kefir until you’re fully recovered to prevent a dairy cross-reaction.
Popping up online and in some health food stores these days are supplements that supposedly help to break down gluten more easily. I’ve never tried them so I can’t vouch for their effectiveness.
But what I can say is that no pill or potion can make it all better. They might offer some relief if taken soon enough, but thorough healing is a process that takes time and patience.
Now it’s your turn: What action steps do you take when you’ve been glutened? Leave a comment and share your experience below.