Is Gluten Exposure really that bad?
Yes, gluten exposure, especially for those with autoimmune diseases, can promote digestive upsets and a flare in the disease. But there are ways to reduce the effects of an accidental gluten exposure so you can stay healthy.
From personal experience, I know the holidays and eating out with friends can often make sticking to a diet protocol very difficult. It is more likely that you may accidentally ingest gluten while enjoying the event. Those of us who can’t consume gluten like to call this accidental ingestion, “getting glutened”. Recovering from gluten exposure requires some planning.
How “getting glutened” presents itself may be different for everyone. It can cause a variety of symptoms such as brain fog, diarrhea, constipation, headache, rash, weakness, joint pain, swelling, vomiting, and fatigue. However, inside your gut, the effects are essentially the same. In those who are sensitive, gluten exposure will always cause inflammation and damage to the intestines (leaky gut), which can trigger or cause a flare in autoimmune disease. Keeping this inflammatory protein out of your body is imperative to reducing inflammation and healing your gut from the damage so you can recover as quickly as possible.
3 Tips for Recovering From Gluten Exposure
1) The more quickly you can get the gluten out of your system, the better you’ll offset a significant reaction from gluten exposure.
These three things will help you do that promptly and effectively:
- Digestive Enzymes help speed up the breakdown and absorption of macronutrients (proteins, fats and carbohydrates). Be sure to take an enzyme that includes dipeptidyl peptidase (DPP-IV), which helps break down gluten specifically. I highly recommend that those with celiac and gluten intolerance (especially with autoimmune diseases) take enzymes with DPP-IV when dining out. It may not clear all of the gluten from your meal, but at least some will be digested and therefore reduce the load your immune system will have access to. This does not mean you can choose to eat gluten containing foods and think the enzymes will remove it. But it does helps with accidents.
- Binding agents like activated charcoal and bentonite clay bind toxins and help reduce gas and bloating. These can potentially assist with speeding up gluten elimination after gluten exposure. Make sure to increase water intake when taking either of these to avoid constipation, which would only delay healing.
- Hydration. Fluids will help flush your system and keep you hydrated if you vomit or have diarrhea after an accidental gluten exposure. In addition to regular water, you can try coconut water, which contains electrolytes that may have been lost through vomiting or diarrhea.
2) Decrease inflammation from gluten exposure to heal your gut as soon as possible
Inflammation occurs naturally in our body when there has been an insult or injury to it, whether from an external or internal source. Gluten is one such inflammatory trigger. Decreasing this inflammation is essential to healing your gut.
These three things will help you reduce inflammation quickly:
- Omega-3 fatty acids. Purified fish oils , flax and chia seeds are full of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. I recommend a minimum of 2000 milligrams of omega-3 oils daily. Increase dosage to 2000 milligrams twice a day for a week after accidental gluten exposure.
- Ginger has high levels of the chemical, gingerol, which gives it a natural spicy flavor and behaves as an anti-inflammatory in the body. It also has potent anti-nausea properties and can ease stomach cramping. Drinking fresh ginger tea and having it your meals after gluten exposure may ease some of the negative symptoms.
- Turmeric is a member of the ginger family that contains the active ingredient curcumin which is known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Adding turmeric to smoothies, teas and meals for a week after gluten exposure can be very beneficial.
3) Heal your gut to keep your immune system functioning optimally
Approximately 80% of your immune system is along your digestive tract; therefore, having a healthy gut is crucial for creating your best health. The following 5 items will help you heal your gut.
- Probiotics. I regularly recommend taking a highly concentrated probiotic (25-100 billion units with many bacterial strains) a day to maintain healthy levels of good bacteria. I advise my patients to “double-up” on their probiotic dose for a week after a gluten exposure and then go back to your regular dosing.
- L-Glutamine is an amino acid that is great for repairing damage to the gut’s mucosal lining, helping the lining to regrow and repair, and undoing the damage caused by gluten. I recommend 3 grams twice a day for a week after gluten exposure.
- Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) is a herb that has been used in many forms of medicine, including Traditional Chinese Medicine, for more than 3,000 years for the treatment of digestive issues, including ulcers and indigestion. Like glutamine, DGL supports the maintenance of the mucosal lining of the gastrointestinal tract.
- Bone broth is very high in the anti-inflammatory amino acids, glycine and proline. The gelatin in bone broth protects and heals the mucosal lining of the digestive tract that may get disrupted by gluten exposure.
- Vitamin D3 is a powerful anti-inflammatory hormone (yes, it’s a hormone) that is also instrumental in healing a damaged gut mucosal lining. I recommend increasing your dose to 3000 iu (international units) twice a day for one week following gluten exposure and then return to your regular dosing.
Once you realize or strongly suspect that you have eaten gluten by accident, implement this three-step approach as soon as possible to mitigate exaggerated symptoms, especially if you have a confirmed autoimmune disease. If your symptoms persist or if you’ve had multiple exposures from holiday over-indulgences or from getting off track, I recommend getting back on an Autoimmune Paleo (AIP) Diet program and do your best to stick with it long term. And if you haven’t yet started a program to deal with your reactions to gluten, anytime is a great time to start!
Contact me at AcuPlus and we can figure this out together.