what to do when you've been glutened

You’re freaking out, you’ve been exposed to gluten and all you want is to know is what to do now. The first step to take after realizing you’ve been glutened is to take a deep breath. Know that this isn’t the end of your recovery and that you can and will get through this.

Now that you’ve taken a deep breath, let’s talk about what to do when you’ve been glutened to prevent future exposure and to alleviate gluten exposure symptoms.

Just a heads up there a few affiliate links in here.

don't beat yourself up over being glutened

It can be easy to be hard on ourselves after gluten exposure however it’s usually not helpful. Consider instead, being gentle with yourself. I offer you 2 thoughts when it comes to being kind to yourself after being glutened…

1. you have your entire life to master Gluten-free living

That’s right, you have the rest of your life to master gluten-free living and heal your small intestine. While yes, the sooner you can heal the better, it’s not the end of the world or the end of your healing journey if you get exposed to gluten.

Now I’m not saying that it’s okay to intentionally eat gluten or to “cheat”. What I am saying is that mistakes do happen, which leads me to thought number 2…

2. no one is perfect

No one is perfect and mistakes are bound to happen, so it’s important to be gentle with ourselves. We live in a world where gluten is everywhere. It’s a huge part of our food system and thus, all we can do is our best to avoid gluten exposure. And because we are human, our best will not be perfect, and that is okay. Not being perfect is a part of the human experience

If you’re struggling with feeling angry or upset with yourself over being glutened, consider the following questions:

  • how can I be kinder to myself right now?
  • what would a friend tell me right now?
  • what do I need to hear right now?

Managing symptoms of gluten exposure

When you’ve been glutened, there are a lot of potential symptoms. In fact, there are over 300 symptoms of celiac disease. While I can’t cover all 300, I can cover some common symptoms of gluten exposure and ways to find relief. So let’s dive in to what to do when you’ve got bloating, constipation, diarrhea, headaches, nausea, and fatigue after gluten-exposure.

Bloating/Cramps

  • Sip on peppermint, fennel, or ginger tea, these teas are known as carminatives which means they are known for the gas relieving properties.
  • Wear comfy clothes, the last thing you need is extra pressure on your stomach.
  • Heating pads or a warm bath, to help sooth the pressure and tension you’re feeling in your stomach. I recently learned about Warmies, which are stuffed animals you can microwave and cuddle.

Constipation

  • A general routine of eating enough fiber and drinking enough water pre-gluten exposure can help with this.
  • Drink enough water after gluten exposure to encourage the digestive tract to keep moving.
  • Talk with your dietitian or doctor about a laxative regimen for gluten exposure
  • Heating pads or a warm bath (see under Bloating/Crams)

Diarrhea

  •  Drink enough water (I like to always keep a bottle near me – especially after gluten exposure because you can lose a lot of water with diarrhea).
  • Consider electrolytes if you’ve had diarrhea for a while, this is to make sure your body is able to stay properly hydrated.
  • Invest in a squatty potty to help relief strain on your body during bowel movements
  • Baby wipes or consider a bidet (I recently bought one and it’s changed my life).

Headaches

When it comes to headaches after gluten exposure, the first thing to address NSAID-Free pain relief (the last thing you want is to take something that will mess with the lining of your gut right now).

Acetaminophen is considered to be an NSAID-free pain-reliever and this one from Amazon, is gluten-free.

Other things to consider that might help soothe your headache include cold compresses, dark rooms, peppermints/peppermint tea, and lots of rest.

Nausea

  • Peppermint, fennel, lemon, or ginger tea can help with nausea due to their carminative properties (see Bloating/Cramps), also consider ginger chews.
  • Bland foods like gluten-free crackers, rice, potatoes, and plain chicken might help if food is seeming to just upset your stomach.

Fatigue

  • Take time off if you can, to sleep it off. I recognize this is a privilege many can’t do, but if you can, do it.
  • Rest and sleep when you can, your body is tired for a reason.
  • If you can’t take time off, do your best to stay organized to make your life easier (especially if you’re experiencing brain fog too). You might also consider gentle movement to try to wake your body up.

other management strategies...

There is a lot of advice that goes around when it comes to gluten exposure. If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. I’m going to dive into 2 recommendations I see being thrown around that are necessarily evidenced based.

Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal is used to bind medications and toxic materials and remove them from the body. A lot of people suggest that you can take it and it will have the same affect on gluten, however there is zero research to support this. More importantly, activated charcoal can bind to your prescribed medications and inhibit them (included the birth control pill).

gluten digestive enzymes

There is zero research to support that these enzymes prevent damage to the small intestine after gluten ingestion if you have celiac. Basically, science and research just isn’t there to support these things yet.

If you’re looking for more guidance, consider grabbing a copy of my Celiac Self-Care Planner that I designed to specifically help you with managing celiac disease, including gluten exposure. Also consider reading my other post on building a gluten exposure recovery kit.

Get the Celiac Self-care Planner