People with both celiac disease and gluten sensitivity often suffer after accidentally eating gluten. But, did you know that people without gluten sensitivity can struggle to digest gluten too?
An accidental gluten exposure can happen to people avoiding gluten. This can be due to cross-contamination with gluten on cooking surfaces or hidden gluten in foods.
But, the reality is, the temptation of gluten foods also can overcome you, especially if you are away from home (it happens!)
So, are you stuck feeling miserable for weeks on end when you eat gluten?
Luckily, there are ways to get back on track and feel your best more quickly.
For a quick summary, here are the take-home points of this post:
- Get back on a gluten free diet regimen as soon as possible
- Eat antioxidant-rich foods
- Hydrate well; use a healthy electrolyte drink and try bone broth
- Add broad-spectrum digestive enzymes as soon as possible
- Take a probiotic supplement twice daily
- Try activated charcoal
- Mix glutamine powder into your water
- Betaine HCL may help
- Get some gentle exercise
Table of Contents
Symptoms of a gluten exposure or “gluten attack”
Do you ever get that sensation of your stomach and intestines feeling “glued” together and an overall yucky feeling after eating gluten?
Yeah me too.
What does a gluten attack feel like besides the “glued” up belly?
Here are some other common signs you may have been glutened:
- Gas and bloating
- Brain fog
- Skin rashes and acne
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Joint pain
It was once thought that people with celiac disease were the only ones with systemic reactions to gluten.
Now, research shows that people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity also have far-reaching health effects from eating gluten too.
For example, one recent research study of over 200 people showed that 64% of people with gluten sensitivity had brain shrinkage in the area of the cerebellum [R].
What is more, 92 percent of people with gluten sensitivity had decreased cerebellar circulation (perfusion) due to gluten intake.
A strict gluten-free diet helped to alleviate the brain circulation issue in these studies.
So yes, it’s important to stick to your gluten-free diet if you are sensitive to it.
How to feel better after eating gluten
There are many ways to feel better if you have accidentally found yourself glutened. You can try these tips all at the same time.
Just make sure to always check in with your healthcare provider if you are making any major changes to your healthcare routine.
Don’t stress, but get back on track
Don’t push the panic button, but get back on a gluten-free diet ASAP.
It’s easy to throw in the towel if you have had an accidental gluten exposure, with the logic “Well I already blew it, so I should just keep eating gluten for a while.”
However, the quicker you can get back on track the better you will feel.
But, don’t stress if you aren’t perfect. You can avoid gluten moving forward.
After all, stress is very bad for the gut and for the healing process.
So, just relax, and trust that your body will heal. Focus on getting gluten-free foods that are tasty and nourishing.
Eat antioxidant-rich foods
Accidentally eating gluten can cause inflammation in the gut and in the body. The best way to help counteract this inflammation is by getting nutrient-rich and antioxidant-rich foods.
A few favorite foods that are also healing for the gut are:
- Leafy greens
- Wild-caught fish
- Broccoli sprouts
- Sweet potatoes
- Herbal teas
- Fresh pineapple (for enzymes)
While you are healing, it may also make sense to avoid other difficult-to-digest foods as well.
This could include dairy or other known food triggers for you.
Following an overall gut healing diet is super helpful for anyone with accidental glutening.
By staying hydrated, you will help your body clear out toxins due to gluten exposure.
If you have diarrhea due to gluten, you also may want to get a healthy electrolyte powder to add to your drinks.
Bone broth is also a nourishing and electrolyte-rich way to help soothe and heal the gut.
Take digestive enzymes as soon as possible
When the gut is inflamed due to getting glutened, digestive enzymes can be a really helpful tool.
This is because inflammation can reduce your body’s ability to produce enough digestive enzyme levels in the small intestine and pancreas.
Digestive enzymes help you to digest all the foods you are eating.
The type of gluten matters
Additionally, gluten digestion is also impacted by its method of cooking. For example, baked goods with gluten are virtually impossible to digest, even for healthy people, according to research [R].
However, if this same baked gluten was taken with a digestive enzyme called amylase, the gluten may be more easily broken down.
So, it makes sense to get a broad-spectrum digestive enzyme to help if you have been accidentally eating gluten or intentionally eating it. (Yeah we sometimes cave into cravings. We are human!)
It’s likely a smart idea to take digestive enzymes regularly if you have any food intolerances anyway.
Get probiotic foods
Probiotic foods can help balance the gut microbiome and restore proper digestive function. Healthy probiotic foods also help to dampen down inflammation in the gut.
In fact, a review study found that probiotics reduced GI symptoms in people with celiac disease by almost 30 percent compared to no probiotics [R].
Examples of probiotic foods are raw sauerkraut, kimchi, fermented carrots, fermented asparagus, yogurt, and kefir. Some experts, like Amy Myers, MD, also recommend supplementing probiotics twice daily when exposed to gluten.
Related post: The Best Probiotics for Acid Reflux
Try activated charcoal
Coconut charcoal can help bind to unwanted substances in the gut, including gluten.
This tip has some controversy behind it when it comes to accidental gluten.
While there isn’t any direct evidence that activated charcoal helps bind gluten in the body, it does bind peanut allergen compounds [R].
Logic would suggest that it could also bind other allergens like gluten.
Using activated charcoal is a way to help reduce toxins by binding them and helping them to be excreted out of the body.
After all, healthcare providers use charcoal for all kinds of accidental overdoses.
And, it’s relatively safe for anyone to try. (Many kinds are made out of coconut husks).
Activated charcoal is also used to reduce gas and bloating.
Just make sure you are taking charcoal away from prescription medications; charcoal can bind them too. Also, make sure you drink plenty of water when taking it.
Mix glutamine powder into your water
Did you know that glutamine, a type of amino acid, is your gut’s major fuel source?
Glutamine also helps with gut healing as well [R].
Not surprisingly, glutamine also makes many people struggling with GI issues feel better [R].
With glutamine powder, it’s best to start with a little bit, see how you feel, and make sure that your product is gluten-free, of course.
Betaine HCL may help
Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Or as in the case of gluten intolerance, which came first, low stomach acid or gluten intolerance?
Low stomach acid can contribute to food intolerance, and gluten is no exception.
Many people find that adding betaine HCL helps reduce gluten intolerance symptoms.
Betaine HCL increases the acidity of the stomach, which may help alleviate food sensitivity and food allergy symptoms.
Another interesting fact is that the use of stomach acid-suppressing medications increases the risk of food allergies.
People often just feel better, digestive function-wise, when adding betaine HCL.
Of course, there are exceptions to this. Use common sense, and check in with your doctor first.
Get some exercise
When you have been exposed to gluten, it helps to exercise a bit. This is because exercise helps to improve the muscle movements of the intestines.
By “moving” things along by exercising, you can help yourself feel better quicker.
How long does a gluten attack last?
When you are trying to recover from gluten exposure, you want to do so swiftly. So how long will symptoms last?
It really depends on how much gluten you eat, how sensitive you are, and if you have celiac disease or not.
Even then, the symptoms can vary from person to person and the time to recovery can as well.
Common gluten sensitivities can feel better within a day or so, while some people with celiac disease can struggle for weeks.
It really boils down to how quickly you nip it in the bud, the steps you take to heal, and how healthy you were BEFORE gluten exposure.
Interestingly, your digestive system may have healed, but that darn bit of acne caused by gluten may remain for longer! That is because the skin takes longer to heal.
Heidi Moretti, MS, RD is The Healthy RD. A registered dietitian for 23 years as well as a book author of the new book Gut Fix and The Whole Body Guide to Gut Health, Heidi has a passion for functional nutrition and natural medicine. She has researched supplements and natural medicine throughout her career. One of her biggest loves is helping people gain function and vitality by tackling the root causes of illness.