Alternative Antidotes for When You're Accidentally GlutenedAfter realizing I’d accidentally eaten gluten, my first thought was, should I throw up?
Celiac experts don’t recommend intentionally tossing your cookies, in part because you’re unlikely to get “all of the gluten up,” says Burkhart, a former ER doctor. But the idea of vomiting isn’t totally harebrained. “Syrup of ipecac was once used in the ER to induce vomiting when poisons were ingested.”
We queried GF&M readers about how they get through a glutening episode. In addition to extra sleep and fluids, many turn to various teas, probiotics and other intriguing antidotes. Here we list the top 9 quick fixes. None has been vetted in scientific studies but most are very safe, says Burkhart. In fact, she generally gives the green light to her patients when they ask about these modalities. Just be sure anything you’re taking by mouth is gluten-free. You don’t want to add to your misery with more inadvertent gluten.
9 QUICK FIXES
1. TeaGinger and peppermint teas can help with nausea and cramping and they also help keep you hydrated. Slippery elm tea is purported to coat the gut lining and promote intestinal healing.
2. Bone BrothWhether it’s the bit of salt, the warm liquid (warm liquid is better tolerated) or the bone broth itself, many swear by it. There’s no harm in drinking both, says Burkhart. For an easy and delicious bone broth recipe, go to GlutenFreeAndMore.com/bonebroth.
3. ProbioticsMany readers say they double or triple up on probiotics after getting glutened. The thinking is probiotics help decrease inflammation in the intestines and rebuild the gut lining. Stick to the probiotics you already use or try VSL#3, says Burkhart.
4. Psyllium and Chia SeedsThese fiber-packed food items are said to help absorb toxins—cytokines—that result when the immune system fires up after a glutening. Some also use bentonite clay or activated charcoal for the same effect. Talk with your healthcare provider about using these, including the appropriate dose for you.
5. Methyl-B12This over-the-counter B vitamin is said to promote detoxification. As long as it’s gluten-free, methyl-B12 won’t hurt you and some say it helps them feel better faster. Ask your healthcare provider for your ideal dose.
6. Digestive EnzymesThese are used to support a digestive system that’s impaired after getting glutened. Digestive enzymes are considered very safe but whether they’re going to help is hard to say, says Burkhart.
7. L-GlutamineThis amino acid is said to help repair the gut lining. Research in patients treated with chemotherapy has shown it may help decrease gut permeability but the data is conflicting. Other uses haven’t shown much promise.
8. MeditationThere’s often a lot of anxiety surrounding a glutening. Anxiety can aggravate and even bring on symptoms.
Try meditation, says Burkhart. If you’re new to meditation check out the app Calm.
9. Mild ExerciseIf tolerated, gentle exercise like walking, stretching or yoga will improve circulation and help your body naturally eliminate toxins through the liver.
Lifestyle LessonsRegardless of what remedy you try, a glutening episode will eventually pass. If you’re able to pinpoint the culprit, use the episode as a valuable learning experience. I never again confused wheat-free with gluten-free.
The good news is that an occasional inadvertent glutening probably won’t do lasting damage. There’s not a lot of data on accidental exposure, but doctors tend to be more concerned about chronic exposure to low levels of gluten, like gluten in a daily medication, says Leffler.
“Don’t worry about long-term damage from a single exposure,” he says. “If you’re strict with the gluten-free diet and accidentally get exposed to gluten, your intestines will take a hit for a week—but they will heal.”
- Amy Burkhart, MD
Health editor Christine Boyd lives in Baltimore.