With the holiday season creeping up, I thought it was about time that I finally compile this very important FAQ post on what to do if you’ve been glutened while on the AIP. Much of this information also applies if you accidentally eat something that’s not currently a part of your AIP diet, so this is definitely a good resource to keep bookmarked.

If you’re here because you’ve been contemplating just how bad it would be to cheat on the AIP this holiday season or for a special event, you’ll also want to check out my FAQ: Can I Cheat on the AIP?

While I’m hopeful you’re making good decisions and choosing food wisely for your healing journey, I know all too well that sometimes, as careful as we are, it happens – we get glutened! Or we accidentally eat a non-compliant ingredient. It’s especially challenging if we’re eating at a restaurant, or even at friends’ and families’ homes. 

The BEST advice I can give is – DON’T PANIC! Stressing about the situation only makes matters worse and gives your body more to deal with. Try to remain calm.

FACT:  Feeling emotionally stressed can compound the physical reactions you might have when gluten gets into your system. According to the Mayo Clinic, stress can affect your body in many ways, including causing symptoms such as stomach pain that overlap and amplify possible physical symptoms of gluten consumption.
– Source: Gluten.org

How do you know if you’ve been “Glutened?” 

Some common reactions of gluten exposure include:

Abdominal pain
Headaches / Migraines
Brain fog
Mood swings
Joint pain
Skin issues / Rashes / Mouth Ulcers

Depending on the person, the effects can last from a few hours to a few weeks, but the less time someone has to feel these effects, the better!

Emergency Preparedness 

Preparation is always key! As someone living with food sensitivities and/or allergies, you should have an emergency plan in place. I recommend consulting a medical professional BEFORE you’re in situation where you get glutened – that way you know what protocol is right for YOU.

Some suggestions from Dr. Izabella Wentz:  Being prepared with some digestive enzymes, and keeping these other tools on hand, can help minimize the impact of your reaction. See her Instagram post – click here.

  1. Digestive Enzymes. If you are going somewhere they cannot guarantee a 100% gluten-free kitchen, or if you’re wary about cross-contamination, try taking digestive enzymes, which can assist with the breakdown of gluten, and blunt some of the digestive effects.
  2. Anti-Inflammatory Support. Add an herbal tea such as peppermint, chamomile or ginger. Curcumin supplements, boswellia, ginger, and fish oils offer natural anti-inflammatory support, and may be especially beneficial if your reaction to gluten tends to result in pain/brain fog. 
  3. Mast Cell Stabilizers. These can be used to minimize food reactions in sensitive individuals. Mast cell stabilizers downregulate the body’s response to the offending food/allergen. Natural mast cell stabilizers include quercetin, zinc carnosine and chamomile.
  4. Gut Support. Try using warm lemon water and bone broth to help support gut healing.
  5. Electrolytes. Hydration and adequate electrolytes can help mitigate the feeling of “being hit by a bus” after exposure to a reactive food.
  6. Magnesium can take the edge off food reactions. Epsom salt baths can help with overall tension, headaches, aches and pains that can occur from reactive foods. If you experience constipation, a magnesium citrate supplement can help.
  7. Binders like activated charcoal can help bind up toxins and minimize reactions. Do this with caution though, because it will interfere with medications and can lead to constipation if you aren’t drinking lots of water.

Angie Alt from Autoimmune Wellness chimes in on the topic in her article “Gluten Exposure: A Healing Guide” – click here for the whole article.

  1. Start by focusing on hydration. Get plenty of fluids and consider adding a pinch of sea salt to each glass of water if you are experiencing diarrhea or vomiting.
  2. Consider a binder. Activated charcoal binds toxins and can decrease gas and bloating. Do this with caution though, because it will interfere with medications and can lead to constipation if you aren’t drinking lots of water.
  3. Add an herbal tea to help with GI pain. Peppermint, chamomile, and ginger are especially effective at calming cramping, gas, and nausea.
  4. Add healing elements. Now is the time for bone broth, stirring a little collagen in your herbal tea, or l-glutamine. These options are focused on the amino acids that can help repair the gut lining. You could also consider herbs that coat the gastrointestinal tract and soothe it, like slippery elm and marshmallow root (like charcoal, these can impact medication absorption, so talk to your doctor first).
  5. Keep your diet simple. For a few days keep your diet to easily digested foods (chicken soup, for example) and not too much fat (it can have a laxative effect, which you might not want if you’re experiencing diarrhea). As your system feels less raw, start focusing on omega-3 rich foods that are anti-inflammatory, like salmon, well-cooked veggies, and consider avoiding dairy and sugar, even if you are no longer in AIP elimination phase.
  6. Get some rest. Getting glutened can leave you feeling like you were hit by a truck. Prioritize as much rest as possible.

How Long Will It Take to Repair the Gut?

Dive into the science of it all with Dr. Sarah Ballantyne – reach her article “How Long Does it Take the Gut to Repair after Gluten Exposure?” Prefer a podcast? Listen to her episode “What Do I Do After a Bad Reaction?

Do I Need To Start Over?

It’s common to be concerned that you’ll need to start over at day one of the elimination stage if you accidentally consume something that’s non-compliant. I’m happy to tell you that this is not necessary. Work on the above steps to support hydration and digestion and simply keep going. 

Source: Dr. Izabella Wentz. (Be sure to follow her at @izabellawentzpharmd for more on how to take charge of your own health!)