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 (40)

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 (40)

I was diagnosed with DH over 35 years ago was told they think it gluten related. Back then we had no internet/blogs and finding gf food in stores was pretty much none existent so I gave up and just had cancer surgery ( Whipple) to remove my Ampula, etc, etc. Pathology reported signs of Celiac which was confirmed by tests. After reading the horrible symptoms when others accidentally ingesting gluten I'm surprised that my symptoms weren't anywhere as severe. Perhaps if had more than DH & tiredness I may have not taken Celiac so lightly and avoided Cancer which at this point the doctors won't confirm was the cause but just connect the dots. Doctors in the States are more willing give flu shots than testing for gluten intolerance at an early childhood age. Thank you all for sharing your experiences and hope that our food companies realize how devastating Celiac is if using their none GF products.

Posted by: George | January 12, 2018 4:04 PM    Report this comment

I have had Celiac disease since birth; however, I was not officially diagnosed until I was 22. I am now 60. I also have the Dematitis herpetiformis symptoms. I have been adhering to a gluten free diet for 30 years. At first, in my 20's, I could cheat a little on the diet; however, the more I cheated, the more sensitized to gluten I became. My symptoms became worse with age. With all this said, I strictly adhere to my gluten free diet - much easier today than it used to be. Accidents will happen - if I accidentally ingest gluten - my symptoms are now very severe - 2 hours after the ingestion - cold sweat, vomiting, severe diarrhea, migraine with a foggy halo, severe stomach pain, and fatigue. My remedy is to let my body rid itself of the gluten. I then take an anti-diarrhea medicine and try to sleep. The next day I eat GF toast for breakfast and rice later in the day and try to re-hydrate. It usually takes a couple days to get back to normal. I sometimes break out with DH on my joints if I had a bad accident. Do not beat yourself up about accidents. Just get back on you GF diet! I know the bad feeling and pain you get after an accident - just tell yourself to be more careful and you will recover. My accidents these days are few - but they still happen when you let your guard down. Since being GF, I have felt great and my health is fine now.

Posted by: gt in Raleigh | January 6, 2018 2:25 PM    Report this comment

I drink warm cup of water with two tsp of organic apple cider vinegar twice in 24 hours and Kombucha tea and it eases the pain .

Posted by: SA2017 | December 26, 2017 10:45 PM    Report this comment

I can verify Glutenza from firsthand experience. I was diagnosed with severe gluten sensitivity (it MIGHT be coeliac it might not apparently the test to see would involve cutting in to me so if I already know I have a severe sensitivity and already know I have to avoid it either way there is no reason to go under the knife.

My mom is a chiropractor and though she has always studied holistic medicine now she is actually certified as a Functional Medicine Practitioner. Many think they are "fake doctors" but here is the thing. Everyone thought the same thing about Chiropractors 30 years ago (ironically right when she started) and Therapists and Psychiatrists 50 Years ago Dentistry before then so and so forth.

There is NO doubt it works not even among doctors but they are EXTREMELY hesitant to recommend it because insurance doesn't cover it yet which means no hospital kickback and far more importantly it's not a quick process. I don't know the exact amount of time Doctors spend with an individual patient but I know the individual visits aren't long. Functional Medicine is based on the INDIVIDUAL and takes hours and hours per person. It just isn't viable for doctors to use it when they have all that modern medicine. I don't believe any of that nonsense just telling you the excuses I hear.
Everywhere I go nurses know all about it and Doctors huff and get really uneasy as if to see to me "Oh you are one of those people"

Anyway I am way offtopic here. Glutenza works. Me and my mom both have gluten issues she also has Hashimotos so has to be even more careful than me. Anytime we go out to eat we take it BEFORE the meal as it doesn't work the way most people think. If taken before or VERY soon after it is a VERY small amount of Gluten's kryptonite. If you had more gluten it will reduce your symptoms and MAYBE the duration as well.

Furthermore it is important to note the big thing in functional medicine is the information is tailored to YOUR body specifically. If your body doesn't absorb some ingredient in Glutenza properly it isn't going to help you if it does it will.

Another thing MANY people forget to be most effective GLUTENZA should be refrigerated. She buys it from the places that make it for her own use and patients use. IT ALWAYS comes in a double sealed refrigerated bag. This doesn't mean Glutenza won't work at all if it isn't refrigerated but it will be far less effective. Probiotics have to be refrigerated too.

Posted by: ShiranaiJittai | August 3, 2017 11:25 AM    Report this comment

I am 34, I was diagnosed with coeliac disease last year, means I have been eating gluten for around 32~33 years.. So I don't feel much when I take some gluten meal at some place other than my home, once in a while. Yet I stay away from it as much as I can.

Posted by: Aatif | July 13, 2017 7:27 AM    Report this comment

When I get gluten-ed, I have severe abdominal pain accompanied by vomiting and the runs. Someone posted on Pinterest a recipe of one tbsp of Bragg's vinegar and 1 tbsp of honey with enough warm water to dilute. Oh my! this soothed the pain and swelling in my abdomen, and I was able to return to life after an overnight. I was still tired easily, but getting rid of the pain and swelling is worth the unpleasant taste. I have used this remedy with great success. I'll do anything to avoid the hospital.

Posted by: pmodlin | June 12, 2017 7:54 PM    Report this comment

I must thank everyone who commented here and especially Gluten Free & More for all the wonderful suggestions mentioned here! In the past I have always used hot, fresh peppermint tea (and lots of it) to help with the "glutened" issues. But the tea has become less helpful as I have found that I have multiple food allergies and even though I have eliminated 6 other sensitivities and gluten from my diet, I am suffering from stomach cramps after eating a "free-from" breakfast that I made myself!
Anyhow I had not realized there were so many different items to help bring relief and am going to try to find the one that helps me the most. And to be honest, until I subscribed to this magazine, I hadn't realized there was so much I had to learn about this issue. I've been pretty much on my own in searching for help so its been a hard journey these past 20 years. Maybe I can now give me and my gut some rest!

Posted by: Ibegigi2 | June 11, 2017 11:44 AM    Report this comment

We always stop at Cracker Barrel on the way back and forth to visit family in Florida. Ask for gf menu and lists under gf what is available and never a problem. Well, just returned from Florida and first stop at CB produced a Wheat free menu! When I explained about other offending grains like barley and rye they were clueless. Called their Corporate Headquarters and asked why the menu change. Something like we redid the entire Food limitation and allergy menu. As celiac told them it does not help our gluten free people and said they would pass it on. Grrrrr! In this enlightened age a big chain like Cracker Barrel should know better. Will continue to notify them of this impediment to celiacs everywhere. Anyone else run into this at CB?

Posted by: Josieo | June 11, 2017 10:53 AM    Report this comment

For those reading this thread in 2017 i think that intestinew by renew life is the best thing to take keep the powder in stock at your home. Its full of a ton of Lglutamine which helps heal the intestinal lining

Posted by: Celiackiller | June 10, 2017 6:27 AM    Report this comment

I am a Celiac and have become exceedingly sensitive to even one crumb or cross-contamination. If I think I have come in contact with gluten, I immediately take some really good probiotics. I use Biomuve from houston-enzymes.com. It is a combo of enzymes and probiotics. This guy is the researcher who discovered a major enzyme chain breaker. Anyway, the probiotic helps, but doesn't necessarily remove all symptoms. If I am just cross-contaminated it usually stops the progression immediately.

Posted by: lissaj31 | June 9, 2017 12:39 PM    Report this comment

Just a FYI for those considering Glutenza. I purchased it for around $50 -3 caps were partially empty, one was empty, I tried contacting the company on Amazon, no reply- makes me concerned about quality control!
I am gluten intolerant , serious leaky gut makes some sense to do Benadryl to combat the histamine reaction that happens, certainly would be cheaper than Glutenza !!

Posted by: Gaaga | June 9, 2017 12:30 PM    Report this comment

I so appreciate all these suggestions. I get extreme abdominal pain and vomiting about 10 to 14 hours after ingestion and it lasts from 4 to 48 hours. The vomiting stops but the pain lasts for at least 2 weeks or longer and nausea comes with each meal during this time, so eating is still a problem. I have been hospitalized two times because I get so dehydrated that my intestines go into a hibernation mode so my bowels while not blocked refuse to move.

All that said, I am going to get some Benadryl to keep in my purse and medicine cabinet, as well as investigate the Glutenza. My homeopathic chiropractor has given me some drops from GUNA (company in Germany) to help reduce inflammation and balance the Flora in my gut. In addition, she has me placing warm Cod Liver Oil Packs on my stomach to help draw out inflammation. This seems to be helping me get over this last accidental ingestion which has lasted 4 weeks. Prayerfully this, plus some of your suggestions, will reduce future reactions should it happen again. Would love to get to the place where the reaction is only a couple of days rather than weeks.

My daughter suggested I try drinking a glass of water with a tsp of Apple Cider Vinegar with the "Mother" in it before each meal to balance the acidity in my stomach. Has anyone tried this? Would appreciate feedback if you have.

Posted by: Paula Kay | June 6, 2017 2:10 PM    Report this comment

I am Celiac fortunately not as severe as most on here. I never intentionally eat gluten items but a couple of times got caught out. The first time severe stomach cramps for hours then left like nothing happened. I was in a health food store and found some GLUTENEZE capsules, the next time I felt something similar I popped a pill and within 20 mins the symptoms were gone. Fortunately in 4 years I have only needed 3 pills.

Posted by: sperlo | June 6, 2017 1:22 PM    Report this comment

I have brewed a cup of peppermint tea and have recently started eating a piece of ginger candy afterwards. It helps me. I am gluten intolerant.

Posted by: CharleneE | June 5, 2017 7:23 PM    Report this comment

usually within about a half an hour of being glutened I'm getting very uncomfortable with stomach pain and bloating...within a few hours I'm on the throne with a bucket on my lap as I have peristalsis, so it's projectile from both ends, then I generally collapse on the bathroom floor and pass out for hours, until I wake up and shower myself off and go to bed...I've learned to be extremely careful when eating out and take my own crackers to cocktail parties...the last time I was glutened though it was from eating french fries in a restaurant, and we discovered the next day that the restaurant deep fries all kinds of wheat flour battered items, so it was cross contamination from flour in the oil...

Posted by: ladolcevita | June 5, 2017 4:28 PM    Report this comment

If I get poisoned by actually eating wheat, I usually force myself to vomit. A lot of times, something bothers me and I don't know what it might be. Then I use Alka Seltzer Gold and a generic stomach antacid tablet. Lots of water. Defecating is a definite help, too. If I feel like a migraine is starting, I get into bed with a hot pad and lots of blankets, and put an ice pack on my head. It usually stops the migraine process. Once I feel better, I eat bland stuff for a day or two. I don't eat out anymore, and don't eat food other people cook, can't trust them anymore. Usually this happens if a manufacturer changes something in their ingredients, and it isn't apparent from the label. Recently I had to abandon a lemon candy I had eaten for a long time, they had changed their "glucose" from actual sugar to wheat.

Posted by: GFCAS | June 5, 2017 2:34 PM    Report this comment

Having mercury & other chemical poisoning affecting many body systems, and specifically digestion, this is what I have found to be helpful. I take 2-4 caps of activated charcoal to soak up any poisonous byproducts from the digestive process and about an hour later, I take Renew Life's FibreSmart powder with 1/2-1tsp of green clay in warm water. I still get the reaction but it definitely minimizes the intensity and has been my best 'go to' remedy when I don't have a clue if I got gluten or some other food additive that is playing havoc with my body. The charcoal & clay help soak up poisons, as well as the clay giving important minerals for healing; FibreSmart-the ground flax & other mucilagenic herbs help coat & soothe the intestinal linings, and the L-glutamine helps heal & repair the intestinal linings.Hope this helps for some of you too.

Posted by: Lalita | June 5, 2017 1:18 PM    Report this comment

There is an antidote! It is called Glutenza and available in the USA. Because gluten is a protein made up of chains of amino acids, the Glutenza breaks down the chains into molecules so that your body cannot recognize the gluten and does not react . This is quite a miracle. My 26 year old son is a severe coeliac. We sure do understand.

Posted by: Arquen | June 5, 2017 1:14 PM    Report this comment

Alka seltzer gold and lots of rest. I drink lot of water the next two or three days and because of mood swings, I try to avoid the family as much as possible. I won't even answer the phone or go to the door when the mood swings are going on! It really is that bad. Recently I was forced to totally give up dairy. I had been mostly avoiding it because I suspected that was also a problem, but once in awhile I ate it. For years I could tolerate that if it was cooked or in something that was baked. Now I can't. I am going through my pantry reading labels and throwing things out, a lot of things. Dairy hides in as many foods, if not more, than gluten does. After three days of simultaneous vomiting and diarrhea, I knew it had to go. I slept a lot in between taking over the upstairs bathroom! Again, lots of water and rest. I took the Alka Seltzer Gold after the worst was over, because it wouldn't have stayed down, otherwise.

Posted by: BirdMom | June 5, 2017 12:34 PM    Report this comment

My physician prescribed dicyclomine (trade name Bentyl) to help ease the abdominal cramping if I get an accidental exposure to gluten. Won't help with the bloating or other inconvenient symptoms that ensue

Posted by: BOHICA | June 5, 2017 12:18 PM    Report this comment

There is alot of good advice here. I have only used Imodium for the after effects of ingesting gluten. I now know I am allergic to dairy also so if I get both I am in absolute misery for days. You have to be a detective to avoid both of these ingredients but I have to say Slippery Elm and L Glutamine have really helped with the healing.

Posted by: vijackie | June 5, 2017 11:46 AM    Report this comment

Glutenzyme is a hoax. It may help symptoms for some people doing the no gluten thing on their own but for someone with Celiacs, it does NOT make eating gluten okay. There was a whole scam with the guy that created this, protests on his website, etc. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for this and a gluten free diet must be followed. That's it. If it seems too good to be true, it is.

Posted by: ljb | June 5, 2017 11:31 AM    Report this comment

If I accidentally ingest gluten, I take ibuprofen+ benadryl with lots of gatorade

Posted by: Jillybean | May 31, 2017 10:25 PM    Report this comment

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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