Going Gluten-FreeFebruary 22, 2017

What Do You Do If You Accidentally Ingest Gluten?

Food editor Beth Hillson grapples with that (hopefully seldom) reality of gluten contamination.

Comments (17)

Posted by Beth Hillson

“Oops, I ate a wheat cracker,” Andrew wrote to us in a recent e-mail. I sensed the urgency in his tone:

“Hello, The other night I was at a dinner. They served cheese and crackers. They know I am gluten intolerant. They had gluten-free crackers and wheat crisps. I thought I was safe and did not think to ask until I consumed about four crackers. Uh-oh—what do I do?”

accidentally ate gluten

I know exactly how he feels. Don’t you? He couldn’t have worn a face of higher anxiety if he’d had a belt of dynamite strapped to his waist with a remote timer set to trigger it. What would happen and when would it take place? 

Getting “glutened” takes all the enjoyment out of socializing. Life’s complacency evaporates and in its place, an uneasy, gnawing sensation sets in. You know something physically unpleasant is about to happen and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Andrew offered two possibilities about what to do:

1. Regurgitate, or

2. Hold on and take the hit the next day.

“Is there another way to deal with the impending gluten reaction?” he asked.

Unfortunately, there is no antidote or morning-after pill to ease the symptoms from gluten exposure. Each person reacts differently and uses different techniques to ease the symptoms. Some people say they drink a lot of water. Some take digestive enzymes or lots of antacids. Crudely put, my 20-something metropolitan son says he takes a ‘s**t and a snooze’ and then feels better. 

I asked Andrew what he usually does when he ingests gluten. 

“So far, I just fret and wait for the happening,” he wrote. “But now you have given me ideas. I will drink lots of water and take digestive enzymes. See if they do anything.”

Then he added: “Lately, I have been craving glazed donuts.”

“NO!,” I screamed at the screen. “Don’t fall on your sword for gluten, my friend,” I typed. He wrote back to assure me that good sense will prevail. I am relieved.

I wish I could offer Andrew better advice. But despite all the improvements in the gluten-free marketplace, one thing hasn’t changed: We have to take the hit when we accidentally eat gluten. 

What do you do if you when you are "glutened"?

Comments (17)

so i just went out to eat for the last time, I just ate 1/2 a plate of gluten free pasta that was not gluten free before we realized, wait these are not rice!! Usually if I eat something with less than 2% gluten I am sick for two days, can't work. I take milk of magnesia to help speed up the recovery process especially since once I have a migraine reaction ingesting any antihistamine makes me throw up. So as soon as we got home from the restaurant tonight I induced vomiting, which was a horrible experience and then took two exlax. And taking antihistamine now before I get the headache. Not looking forward to tomorrow and will look up the Glutenzyme capsules above.

Posted by: TL | February 23, 2017 9:52 PM    Report this comment

I love the sh*#t and snooze statement above! So funny! I hardly ever have had it happen. But there have been a few cross contamination situations, although you risk these things if they happen. Yes, that is basically what I wait for, like the statement above. It takes from several hours to up to a day. I also time it out. I won't do anything important for that day or the next. Usually you can feel zings of pain in different places. The minute my lower intestines start the bad gut pain, that's when i head home and just wait for it!!! Then I have a glass of wine and celebrate :)

Posted by: Froment Free | November 14, 2016 10:23 AM    Report this comment

I have celiac and recently discovered that taking an over the counter antihistamine combined with Ibuprofen really reduces my symptoms after accidental gluten ingestion. I usually get extreme fatigue, brain fog, abdominal pain and muscular and nerve pains. Hopefully this combo can also help some of the other celiac suffers out there.

Posted by: Cat14 | May 1, 2014 10:58 AM    Report this comment

Thank you sooooo much for this article. My 11 year old daughter accidentally ate bbq chips with gluten in them and was sicker than a dog about 20 minutes ago. When I realized there was barley in the chips, I googled what to do and read in your article that I should have her induce vomiting. She did so and vomited fiercely several times. She said she feels 100% better!! She just drank 2 ounces of aloe vera juice and she is eating some papaya enzymes now. Thank you thank you thank you! She has a friend over and we were beginning to think the night was ruined. I can hear her in there now laughing and talking. Like I said, she had her head in a trashcan crying a half hour ago.

Posted by: indygirl2012 | February 22, 2013 8:47 PM    Report this comment

What works for me, quick relief, is a red delicious apple. Pain and swelling subsides within the first half hour. I prefer the really huge dark ones, cold. So, keep yourself a few apples handy; and thank God

Posted by: plac | January 16, 2013 10:45 PM    Report this comment

I too contacted Quaker Oats and was told by a very nice lady that their oats do not contain gluten, but they are sometimes transported in trucks used to transport wheat so not to eat their oats if I have celiac.
(Sent to Editor at LW by "Jo")

Posted by: LW Moderator | September 14, 2012 2:29 PM    Report this comment

I inquired about the purity of Quaker Oats and received no reply from their customer service. I suspect some companies are advised by their attorneys to list wheat, nuts etc. when there is no reason for the product to contain these. Nevertheless I no longer buy Quaker products.

Posted by: Donald E | September 8, 2012 9:57 AM    Report this comment

Subject: How long will the symptoms last?
Message: I was diagnosed as Celiac in mid June and have been rigidly following a gluten free diet since then. Some symptoms cleared up quickly (the big D) but jabbing stomach pains continued until just recently, as did fatigue. Then last Tuesday I ate some Quaker rice cakes, cheddar cheese flavored. I had called Quaker's 800 number because while the ingredient list listed no gluten, there were "flavorings". The answer they gave me was, "We cannot guarantee they are gluten-free". I (foolishly) took this to mean there was a possibility of cross contamination in the processing plant and decided they were probably okay. Bad decision. It has now been six days and I feel like I put myself back to square one. I need to know if this is true. Have I badly re-damaged the villi? Have any of you veterans experienced this or have advice for me (besides DON'T TAKE CHANCES!!)? I am pretty bummed right now. FROM TRICIA, POSTED BY MODERATOR

Posted by: LW Moderator | September 4, 2012 1:38 PM    Report this comment

L-Glutamine has been recommended as protective of the lining of the intestine. Some people take glutamine as a sort of antidote to accidental ingestion of gluten.

Posted by: allison g | September 3, 2012 4:32 PM    Report this comment

My wife is a celiac and there is a difference between gluten intolerance and being a celioac. Celiacs should avoid gluten at all times. Be a pest when you are at a party. No one wants to make you loose the next two days to a week to this condition. Your host should be thankful that he/she didn't cause you harm.
Don't go to a restaurant without calling in advance to make sure that you can order a gluten free meal and be sure that they know what to do to make it. I have many sheffs as freinds and none of them want anyone to get sidk on their food.

Posted by: rjoldtimer | August 31, 2012 4:16 PM    Report this comment

I am newly diagnosed and after an accidental exposure, I drank some of my kombucha tea and my symptoms were relieved fairly quickly. Brain fog went away, my joints felt better and the stomach pains eased.

Posted by: Debbie M | August 31, 2012 1:31 PM    Report this comment

Last time I was exposed to gluten in a restaurant, I wished I had thought of doing some serious purging as was suggested. Instead I drove the 40 minutes home and took all manner of digestive enzymes including fungus-based digestion enzymes for the next several days. In my case the symptoms are related to brain fog. I thought I had dodged that bullet for about 24-36 hours but then the symptoms began to build and build. I lost a good six weeks of productivity and now three months later, I am mostly back to pre-contamination brain activity. Some studies show that antibody activity remains high for six months or more after even slight gluten exposure.
I am a fan of digestive enzymes but perhaps the anti-inflammation properties of supplements and drugs might be essential too. To my knowledge, nobody has published research about immunosuppression therapy for gluten contamination. According to my reading, the issue isn't digestion as the important gluten protein fragments are highly resistant to breakdown in the oven, deep fryer or the gut. It is really a matter of controlling the immune response in the gluten sensitive person.
This discussion has given me some ideas for further investigation and experimentation.

Posted by: flynv | August 31, 2012 10:05 AM    Report this comment

I have multple chemical and food intolerances, including gluten, and not infrequently wake up at night or in the morning with swelling, migraine, joint pain etc. I take a teaspoon of baking soda in a large glass of water, a gram of vitamin C, and an antihistamint pill, then more water. This seems to help symptoms resolve faster. Thank you to the others who recommended Glutenzyme. I take my own food and snacks to social gatherings, and touch nothing else. Raisins in my pocket keep by taste buds happy.

Posted by: Sandra S | August 31, 2012 1:19 AM    Report this comment

I have multiple food allergies. After ingestion is too late for things like Gluten Digest or Lectin Lock to work efficiently, but it may be wise to take these before eating at parties and restaurants, etc. After the fact, a safer alternative to Benadryl and it's scary side effects, is Ecclectic Institute's Freeze Dried Nettles. Other brands of nettles work too, but I've found theirs to work best. Symptoms usually subside within 20 minutes and there are no side effects except for an almost imperceptible diuretic effect.

Posted by: Sharon E | August 30, 2012 10:38 AM    Report this comment

I am Celiac (severely) and I take Glutenzyme capsules if I have that scenario...they do help.

Posted by: NewtoNC1111 | August 30, 2012 9:10 AM    Report this comment

I have been gluten free for 25 years. Hardly ever make this mistake BUT when I do I take Benadryl clear gels caps or clear liquid.
Hope this helps.

Posted by: gramma | August 30, 2012 9:10 AM    Report this comment

I am gluten intolerant....I keep Gluten Digest capsules on hand ( I use the ones from the company NOW)...they really help alot.....give them a try....clacy

Posted by: clacy | August 30, 2012 9:07 AM    Report this comment

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