How to Recover From Accidental Gluten Exposure

Tips That Will Help You Feel Better Faster

If you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, then you've probably experienced at least one "glutening" in your life—when you've accidentally ingested gluten and experienced symptoms as a result. Those symptoms may start quickly (within minutes) or may not manifest themselves until several days afterward.

And it doesn't take much gluten—even a tiny amount (that's smaller than the eye can see) can be a trigger that causes a variety of bodily reactions. Symptoms may be digestive, neurological, and/or skin-based. These ​glutening symptoms can take up to several weeks to disappear.

If you do experience a glutening, what can you do to feel better? Follow these five tips.

1
Get Plenty of Rest

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Getty Images/Eric Audras

Gluten exposure leads to a dreary combination of gluten-induced fatigue and insomnia in many people. It's tough to feel normal when you can't sleep at night and want to sleep only during the day.

The solution? Get as much rest as you possibly can—whenever you can grab it. If you're lucky enough to work at home, or if you have a flexible schedule, try to build in time for a 20-minute nap. Even if you can't actually sleep, lying down and simply resting with your eyes closed may help.

2
Avoid Difficult Tasks

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Getty Images/Les and Dave Jacobs

You may suffer from brain fog when you are exposed to gluten, leading to fuzzy-headedness, absent-mindedness, and sometimes outright confusion.

Needless to say, that's not a good combination for tasks that involve heavy lifting, quick thinking, or deep analysis.

If you're suffering from the effects of gluten contamination, try to avoid those types of tasks. Reschedule what you possibly can. If you can't avoid this type of work (most people can't simply take time off ), exercise plenty of caution when performing potentially dangerous tasks.

Extra sleep (again, if you can manage it) can help some with brain fog, but in most cases, you'll just have to wait for it to lift.

3
Skip Lactose-Containing Foods

lactose intolerance in celiac disease
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If you've experienced a severe exposure, you may temporarily become lactose intolerant. That's because you digest dairy proteins with the very tips of your intestinal villi, and gluten ingestion can damage those villi.

Lactose intolerance occurs commonly in celiac disease, especially in the newly diagnosed. However, many people report improvement and an ability to digest dairy again once they've followed the gluten-free diet for a while, indicating that their villi have recovered.

After a bad episode, it's possible to find that you no longer tolerate lactose. Don't worry: It's likely temporary. Just avoid milk and products that contain milk such as yogurt, ice cream, and soft cheese until you feel recovered.

If your lactose intolerance continues indefinitely, there are over-the-counter chewable tabs or non-chewable pills that you can take whenever you eat dairy that will help you digest it.  

4
Revert to Whole Foods

gluten-free applesauce
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Now is not the time to try a new type of "gluten-free" product or to challenge your digestive tract with something radical. The best way to enjoy a speedy recovery is to revert to eating a whole-foods diet that's made up of foods that you know don't bother you.

Many people do well on a modified "BRAT" diet. BRAT stands for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. Of course, you would need to substitute in gluten-free toast, and skip the butter if you can't have dairy.

If you don't eat grains, the BRAT diet won't work for you. However, it's likely you can find something else that's easily digested to eat, such as a plain omelet. 

5
Don't Take Chances

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It goes without saying that you should avoid the food that got you in trouble in the first place. So try to think backward and pay attention to what, exactly, may have been the trigger. 

However, you also should avoid taking chances while you're recovering. That means skipping restaurant meals, bringing your own food to friends' houses, and sidelining any temptations that you may feel to indulge in something that you know may be questionable. Maintain a strict gluten-free diet and you're more likely to feel better sooner.

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