Triage: 9 Tips to Remedy Accidental Gluten Exposure
I went gluten free eight years ago when I was told by my doctors they thought I had thyroid cancer.
I didn’t. After visiting a number of experts, I came to learn that I had a nodule of inflammation in my thyroid. I had thyroiditis—inflammation of the thyroid. And it was making me feel awful.
After a little research, I discovered that there is a HUGE correlation between thyroiditis and gluten intolerance. So I gave it up right then and there. It wasn’t easy because in 2006 there were no gluten substitute foods. I had to go cold turkey.
Fast forward three years when my husband joined me in my gluten-free world. After a car wreck, and stressful end to his GM dealership shortly after the GM bail out, he woke up crippled one day. Seriously. He couldn’t even put his own socks on. He screamed when I put the covers over him at night.
His agonizing pain was a terrible recipe for two people who fell in love at Crew soccer game over a lively conversation about snow skiing. Not long after, we found our way to adventuring during the Ohio summers on our mountain bikes.
Until the day he woke up crippled, and we thought our love affair with life—and eventually each other—was over. For about 18 months we tried to find the answer until one day we stumbled upon it. As soon as he went gluten free, he started feeling better!
Needless to say, we both avoid gluten like the plague!
We only go to restaurants with gluten free menus. Recently, we went to Houlihan’s—not because it’s at the top our list of healthy eats—but because we were tired, it was convenient and they had a gluten free menu.
Or so we thought.
I didn’t sleep a wink, inflamed from head to toe. He was up all night with crazy digestive distress. We had a gluten exposure.
It wasn’t the first time this had happened. I followed up with the manager and he apologized. But I also got motivated to figure out how to triage those unwanted, inevitable accidental gluten exposures.
I hope these help you feel better faster!
1. Take Enzymes.
As soon as you realize you’ve had a gluten exposure, you may want to take DDP enzymes, which have been shown to be effective in digesting gluten in some individuals. I’m copying an excerpt below from Sheila Wagner, certified nutritionist specializing in food intolerance.
“I recommend having DPP-IV enzymes available to assist with lessening the gluten response. DPP stands for dipeptidyl peptidase and it is one of many enzymes that we make in our small intestine. Among its many functions is its ability to digest gluten and casein. Lab studies have shown a decrease in blood levels of gluten antibodies following ingestion of manufactured DPP-IV enzymes.
There is no one protocol for taking the enzymes but I often suggest taking 1-2 capsules as soon as possible after ingesting gluten (or dairy) and then again later in the evening on an empty stomach in order to mop up any gluten that remains in the system. Some people continue to take 1-2 capsules on an empty stomach the next day and even two days following gluten ingestion to continue their attempts at diminishing the slow acting gluten antibody responses.”
I like DDP-IV Enzyme by Kirkman labs. I happen to be a patient of the wonderful Dr. Mark Hyman. He’s had me on these enzymes since day one and I swear by them. Only down side is that you have to get them through a medical doctor.
Avoid caffeine or sodas, just plain water. This helps cool inflammation and mobilize toxins out of your body.
3. Take an Epsom Salt bath.
Magnesium is the wonder mineral. If you eat a grain-free or nearly grain-free diet, you will naturally be low on this nutrient. It’s most easily absorbed through the skin, relaxes the colon and muscles and helps you eliminate. Just be sure not to make the bath water too warm as this can stress your system.
I also like to rub my feet with Magnagel. Rubbing in the arches of the feet from inner foot to outer edge approximates the location of the digestive organs according to reflexology.
4. Eat easily digestible foods.
This is different for everyone. If you tolerate rice, great. But skip GF breads and crackers as they often contain egg which is not easy to digest.
Avoid dairy and anything artificial.
5. Drink bone broth.
Bone broth is a great for a variety of health reasons. Bone broth re-mineralizes your body and contains gelatin which can be soothing and coating to the digestive track.
Be sure to make your own bone broth from grass-fed, preferably locally farm-raised animals. I always keep a couple of bags of organic bison bones in the freezer. Simply throw them into a pot of pure water with some coarsely chopped celery, onion, carrot and bay leaf and boil 20 minutest. Voila! You have bone broth.
Be sure to skim some of the fat off the top or you may feel sick to your stomach. Fat is difficult to digest, especially when your digestive system is under attack by gluten.
6. Rebuild with pro-biotics and L-Glutamine.
Some web sites will tell you to eat fermented foods. I don’t recommend this for a couple of reasons. Celiacs and those who are gluten intolerant often have leaky gut, candida overgrowth or disbyosis. Eating the wrong combo of fermented foods can start a raging war in your gut. Stick to bottled pro-biotics. I like Klaire Sacchromyces Boulardi & Ther-Biotic Detoxification Support. Stick with what you’ve been using as probiotics are unique to every individual.
L-Glutamine is an amino acid that helps restore the health of the villus in the small intestine. The villus are small hair-like structures that absorb nutrients from your food. In gluten intolerant people, a gluten exposure destroys the villus thereby causing poor nutrient absorption.
7. Keep an emergency kit handy.
I did some research on this and don’t actually have a kit on hand. I keep a stash of Dr. Schulz Bowel flush on hand, but frankly, I’m too afraid to try it!
Since every person’s response to gluten is a little different, your emergency kit needs to be specialized, depending on your symptoms. My experience and qualitative documentation of my friends’ experience is that symptoms vary greatly depending on your ayurvedic constitution and whether you are a true celiac or intolerant to one of the other 23 components in gluten to which you may be sensitive. Read more in 50 Shades of Gluten Intolerance for more info on the other types of gluten intolerance.
For example, some people get diarrhea from gluten; others get constipated and feel like their digestion has slowed to a halt with a giant rock in their belly. My husband gets eczema within hours.
If you get diarrhea, you’ll want to focus on things that are anti-spasmodic. Keep in mind, that your body is trying to expel the toxic substance (gluten) and that’s why your bowel is spasming. So it’s not helpful to bring it to a screeching halt. The point is to make yourself more comfortable as your body expels the gluten naturally.
If you get constipation, a different approach is warranted. You may actually need to assist or ignite the elimination process.
Some things you may want to include in your emergency kit:
Ginger is an anti-inflammatory and can help with stomach and digestive distress. Also, because of its pungent quality, it can help ignite the digestive system.
On the other hand, if you’re like me and you have a food sensitivity to ginger, do not include it in your emergency kit.
You can use essential oil drops or enteric coated capsules. Peppermint oil is soothing and cooling, especially if you get inflammation (itching, systemic inflammation) from gluten. It can calm the digestive organs as well.
Charcoal is a natural neutralizer of toxins and can help with intestinal gas.
Ground Fennel Seed
Fennel is a great reliever of gas and bloating. Make a tea of ground fennel seed or take fennel seed tablets.
8. Consider drinking Aloe Vera or Nettle Leaf Tea.
I haven’t tired either one of these. But you may find them helpful.
Aloe Vera is cooling and also coats the digestive track. It can be helpful in some instances of constipation; just be sure not to drink it ice cold.
Nettle Leaf has anti-histamine and anti-spasmodic properties. Worth a shot!
9. Rest and get outdoors if possible.
I find that sleep is often elusive when I’ve had a gluten exposure. Trying to sleep when I can’t just makes me more irritable. On the other hand, I find that light physical activity actually helps me recover quickly and it distracts me from my symptoms. A good hike in mother nature is excellent if your body will allow it!
Alternately, you might try meditating using a guided CD. There’s a plethora of evidence that indicates it’s helpful in reducing physical discomfort and pain. There are plenty of options online, or checkout my Mind Over Chatter home study course.