Whether it happened when you dined at a restaurant that didn’t have a dedicated 100% gluten-free kitchen, or when you ate the meatloaf that your aunt insisted didn’t have any bread or flour it in, or even if you have no idea how it happened, many of those with gluten intolerance or celiac disease who follow a strict Paleo or Primal diet have been there: the unfortunate accidental exposure to gluten that is often referred to as “glutening” or “being glutened”. When gluten is eliminated from the diet for a period of time, re-exposure will often lead to unpleasant reactions in people with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance. Symptoms of gluten exposure can vary widely and may include:
- Muscle and Body Aches
- Joint Pain
- Bloating or Gas
- Nausea or Stomach Cramps
- Constipation or Diarrhea
- Rashes, Acne, or Other Skin Disturbances
- Headaches or Migraines
- Depression or Anxiety
- Brain fog
- Exacerbation of Existing Disease Processes
The severity of symptoms from gluten exposure and the length of time it takes to recover depends on numerous factors, including the amount of gluten exposed to, length of time from last gluten exposure, degree of gluten intolerance, presence of celiac disease, health of the digestive tract, existing inflammation or infection in the body, and overall health status. Some people find that they can recover from gluten exposure within a few days, while others may experience significant setbacks in their health that last weeks to months. For those with celiac disease, it may take years for complete healing of the small intestine after gluten exposure, although outward symptoms may resolve much sooner.
Regardless of what symptoms you experience from gluten exposure, there are some steps that you can take to aid the recovery process:
1.) Drink plenty of water: Water is an essential nutrient and every cell of the body needs water to function properly. Water also assists in the removal of wastes and toxins from the body. Many people live in state of chronic dehydration, so drinking an appropriate amount of water may help you to feel more refreshed, alert, and better able to cope with the symptoms of gluten exposure.
2.) Get extra sleep and rest: Sleep is the time that your body repairs itself and undergoes natural detoxification processes. After a gluten exposure, it’s important to honor your body’s need for extra sleep and rest so that it can combat the symptoms that you may be experiencing and facilitate the healing process. You may also want to avoid strenuous activity and opt for gentle exercises like walking and yoga.
3.) Drink bone broth: Bone broth is rich in minerals, gelatin, and other nutrients that are soothing to the digestive system and nourishing for the entire body. An additional benefit is that bone broth is hydrating. Incorporate bone broth into your diet daily.
4.) Take Epsom salt baths: Epsom salts contain magnesium, a mineral that can help relax the body and relieve muscle aches and pains. Also, the sulphate minerals found in Epsom salts are detoxifying. Epsom salt baths can stimulate the lymphatic system and support the immune system. If you don’t already take these baths regularly, start with taking an Epsom salt bath three times per week following a gluten exposure.
5.) Take digestive enzymes: If taken immediately following the consumption of gluten, some people believe that digestive enzymes can help to modulate their symptoms. There are a few digestive enzyme products that are marketed specifically for this purpose; however, it is known that digestive enzymes do not prevent the damage caused by gluten, especially in the case of celiac disease. They should not be used to knowingly consume gluten if you are gluten intolerant, but they may help you to digest your food better in general and lessen some gastrointestinal symptoms following accidental gluten exposure.
6.) Drink ginger and/or peppermint tea: Ginger and peppermint tea are both known to help relieve nausea and can be soothing to the digestive system. Drink a cup if you are having bothersome nausea or other gastrointestinal symptoms.
7.) Take activated charcoal: Activated charcoal is an over-the-counter supplement that may be useful if taken immediately following gluten exposure. Activated charcoal may help by binding with the offending food and preventing it from being absorbed by the body. Similar to digestive enzymes, activated charcoal will not necessarily prevent internal damage caused by gluten. Also, this supplement can bind with medications, so consult with your licensed health care professional prior to taking if you are under treatment for any disease or condition. Make sure you hydrate well to prevent constipation after taking activated charcoal.
8.) Eat fermented foods: Fermented foods contain enzymes that enhance digestion and probiotics that help to balance your gut flora, which play a large role in the health of your immune system. Also, fermented foods are high in nutrients that nourish the entire body. If you aren’t already eating fermented foods on a daily basis, start out with a small amount and slowly increase.
9.) Drink nettle leaf tea: Nettle leaf tea contains natural antispasmodic and antihistamine properties. It can help to relieve muscle and joint pains and relax the body. Neither gluten intolerance nor celiac disease is mediated by histamine, but some people report that nettle leaf can help to relieve symptoms of rash and itching following gluten exposure. Nettle leaf tea also has a gentle diuretic effect and can be detoxifying.
10.) Get acupuncture treatments: Acupuncture can relieve inflammation and assist with many of the symptoms following gluten exposure. Most people find acupuncture to be relaxing and calming as well. An acupuncturist can help you to determine how many treatments will be necessary to relieve symptoms following gluten exposure.