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

“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”?


  1. When I have accidental gluten I take Ibuprofen, Rolaids, Digestive Enzymes (Gluten Assist) & an antihistamine. Yes, that is a ton but my symptoms are within 10 minutes & very reflux turns into SO MUCH MORE if I don’t treat it like an allergy! It takes me a night of sleeping off the antihistamines & I am back to baseline where as before I was sick for a solid 2 weeks.

  2. Thinking in terms of 30 parts per million is the limit a GF item can contain, I eat a bunch of food that is gluten free. Regurgitation is something I am particularly averse to, so I choose eating safe food instead. So far it has worked for me but I am not as sensitive as some celiacs are.

  3. I take laxitives and rub myself down with menthol cream. I get awfully constipated and break out in hives. I also get migraines and eczema flairs.


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