I’ve accidentally eaten gluten … what can I do??

Posted on October 26th, 2011 by Alison | Posted in Celiac Disease, Gluten Intolerance, Symptoms | Read 15 Comments - Add Your Own »

It happens. You accidentally eat gluten, and you become sick. Is there anything you can do?

The following is an email I received from a concerned mother, whose daughter suffered recently from an accidental gluten ingestion:

sickMy daughter has just made a transatlantic flight during which the attendants gave her a meal designated specifically for her as gluten free (she had called ahead). She was vomiting for hours on the flight and on route home from the airport.

In the past she has experienced strong “brain fog”, depression, anxiety, fatigue, multiple canker sores, etc when she has gotten a little bit of gluten (she is a college student and her roommates and their guests have occasionally used her stuff or spilled beer, etc).

We know the appropriate treatment for celiac is a gluten free diet, but what can a person do to treat accidental gluten contamination? Are there foods, medications, or therapies that can help eliminate the toxin from the system and shorten the reaction time?

To answer this question I turned to Sheila Wagner, certified nutritionist specializing in food intolerance. She is also gluten-free and has suffered herself from the ill effects of gluten-by-accident. Here is what Sheila recommends for gluten exposure:

Despite being extra careful about eating gluten free, unfortunately, it’s always possible to encounter gluten in settings where we don’t prepare our own food, such as airplanes, restaurants or parties for example. Particularly for these times, I recommend having DPP-IV enzymes available to assist with lessening the gluten response. DPP stands for dipeptidyl peptidase and it is one of many enzymes that we make in our small intestine. Among its many functions is its ability to digest gluten and casein. Lab studies have shown a decrease in blood levels of gluten antibodies following ingestion of manufactured DPP-IV enzymes.

Compounds like metals, pesticides and certain antibiotics can interfere with DPP-IV function and may account for the differences in functional integrity of this enzyme from person to person. So as much I recommend gluten intolerant individuals carry these enzymes with them just in case they are needed, not everyone will get the same degree of benefit by taking them. There is no one protocol for taking the enzymes but I often suggest taking 1-2 capsules as soon as possible after ingesting gluten (or dairy) and then again later in the evening on an empty stomach in order to mop up any gluten that remains in the system. Some people continue to take 1-2 capsules on an empty stomach the next day and even two days following gluten ingestion to continue their attempts at diminishing the slow acting gluten antibody responses.

You can find DPP-IV enzyme containing products on health food store shelves.  Make sure to read the ingredient labels carefully that the product in fact contains DPP-IV. Both Kirkman Labs and Klaire Labs make products specifically for gluten and casein digestion that contain DPP-IV.

Does anyone else have strategies or product suggestions to help relieve accidental gluten ingestion.


It’s not all in your head. It could be gluten.

Posted on August 3rd, 2011 by Alison | Posted in Emotions, Gluten Intolerance, Symptoms | Read 12 Comments - Add Your Own »

“It’s all in your head” is the response more than one patient has received from a doctor after hearing about the patient’s health problems. I have heard this story from people who write to me looking for answers, and the fact that a doctor could be so dismissive of one’s health braincomplaints is frustrating and upsetting. Those that write me an email like the one I am sharing below have already taken the steps to find out what is wrong, and have discovered that by cutting out gluten, many if not all of their symptoms have resolved. I wonder how many others end up believing that it is in their heads, that there is no cure for their ailments, no hope to feel better. Gluten can indeed affect the head — with anxiety, depression, migraines, seizures, ADD and OCD, and even schizophrenia, but I doubt that’s what those doctors meant.

Here is an email I received recently:

“I’m sure you’re extremely busy, so I understand if you cannot respond to this email immediately, but I am desperate and would love your advice. I’m 27 years old.  I endured some abuse about a year into my marriage. I’ve been divorced about a year and a half, so my life is in a calm, peaceful place now. My body, on the other hand, has been rebelling.

I was suffering night sweats, joint pain, belly bloat, terrible gas, and recurrent mouth sores that absolutely cover my mouth making it impossible to eat. I went on a gluten free diet about 8 months ago, and I found relief from almost all of those symptoms. If I go back on wheat, the symptoms return. My doctor tested me for celiac disease and the results came back negative. I had been on a gluten-free diet for quite some time I thought it was possible that could’ve affected the outcome of the blood test, but my doctor refuses to look into the matter any further. She blames my problems on anxiety and post-traumatic stress. I agree that stress is a factor, but is it possible stress sparked the digestive issues? I’ve had problems with IBS, specifically constipation, since the day I was born, and have also been lactose intolerant all my life. So digestive complications are nothing new.

She acts like it’s all in my mind, which makes me feel so defeated. I don’t know where to go from here, but as someone with so much knowledge on the subject, I would value your advice more that I can tell you.”

In my answer to her, I told her that it is not in her mind, but rather her stomach! I also told her that her doctor sounds dismissive and ignorant and that she on the the other hand, sounds like she knows exactly what is going on. If she feels better off the gluten, that is her proof.

Celiac disease and gluten intolerance can indeed be triggered by stress, although it sounds like she already had symptoms long before. The stress could have turned it up a notch, or due to her radical lifestyle change she may have altered her diet to have more gluten in it, thereby making her symptoms worse.

“Where do I go from here?” she asked at the end of the email. Where do you go from here? You stay gluten-free if you feel better, you tell people you have a gluten intolerance or sensitivity or gluten allergy or whatever you want to call it, and you say it with confidence! It really doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about it — do what is right for you.

I wish this reader well, and I hope that her email touches someone else out there struggling with the same obstacles. If anyone else has advice for those that are wondering if it’s all in their heads, please add your comments!


How I react to gluten… what happens to you?

Posted on May 29th, 2011 by Alison | Posted in Celiac Disease, Gluten Intolerance, Symptoms | Read 354 Comments - Add Your Own »

Wonder what happens when a girl with celiac disease eats gluten? Read on!

There was actually a time that I wanted to eat gluten just to see what would happen to me. I had been gluten-free for many years, and I didn’t know how my body would react. I also thought it would make for a good blog post! Well, here it is, but not intentionally. I have been “glutened” three times in the past year. I’m not talking about a tiny bit of cross-contamination — I accidentally ate gluten. And paid for it.

First there was the muffin incident, and although there was no obvious gluten, there is no doubt in my mind that there was a significant amount of it in that muffin.

One bite of glutenMonths later came a lunch out with colleagues to an Italian restaurant. One of my colleagues ordered the “gluten-free pasta” that turned out to be not gluten-free. Oops. I found out after I had eaten one bite of her pasta. Just one bite.

And the last time was a few weeks ago, when I ate gluten at lunch. The owner of the restaurant believed something to be gluten-free, but it turned out to be an appetizer made of semolina (which is wheat). This time I ate with my colleague and nutritionist Sheila Wagner, who is gluten-intolerant, so it was interesting to note the differences in our reactions.

In all three instances I reacted almost the same way:

  • Anywhere from one to four hours after ingesting the gluten, I began to feel nauseous and my stomach started hurting.
  • The nausea got gradually worse until I ended up vomiting and having diarrhea.
  • After that I was practically comatose. I could barely walk and had an uncontrollable need to lay down and either zone out (I caught myself staring out the window and I had no idea how long I had been doing it), or go to sleep as though I have been drinking alcohol and need to pass out for a while until I sober up.
  • I fluctuated between feeling hot and clammy to feeling chilled and shivering. This combined with achy muscles made me feel as though I had the flu.
  • After sleeping, I came to and felt sober again, although one of the times I remained spacy for hours after, and even a little bit the next day.

Sheila reacted in a totally different way when we ate the same meal:

  • She had a headache by the time we left the restaurant and began to feel bloating that she has not felt in a decade.
  • She awoke at 3:30 am that night with a “blaring” headache, stomach ache, a little nausea and an elevated heart rate (like she drank a bottle of booze).
  • She couldn’t go back to sleep and the headache got much worse. Her brain felt very slow, her bowels were also slow, and she had a low back ache and left neck pain.
  • She also had phlegm in her throat and sinuses.
  • She continued to have soft tissue and joint pain the entire next day and her headache persisted for about 24 hours.

All this from gluten!

In a way I feel lucky that my body gets rid of the gluten right away, so my symptoms don’t persist into the next day like Sheila’s did. I have heard from some of you who feel it for days, even weeks. If you’ve been gluten-free for a while, it would be interesting to hear what happens to you if you accidentally (or on purpose!) eat gluten.

How do you react to gluten?


From GERD to Great: Abigail’s Story

Posted on March 7th, 2011 by Alison | Posted in Babies & Kids, Celiac Disease, GERD, Symptoms | Read 24 Comments - Add Your Own »

A baby diagnosed with GERD, a tired mother who kept fighting for answers, and a new beginning. Today’s post is from Cherie, a reader of this blog who originally shared her story with me via email. She willingly agreed to share her story publicly, knowing that her difficult journey could help others to avoid the pain that her daughter and her family went through. Thank you Cherie.

abigail-babyMy name is Cherie. In 2007 I gave birth to our second child, a beautiful baby girl. She came quickly and was just perfect. Little did I know that this would begin an often difficult and heart wrenching journey. It started right away. Because of a surgery I had when I was younger I was unable to breastfeed my babies. So the nurse gave me some formula for Abigail, but she would not eat it. I should have know something was up — our son, born less then 2 years earlier, ate his first bottle like nothing. But not Abigail. She just would not eat. She just wanted to sleep. We tried so many different things to get her to drink. Finally a nurse decide to try putting the formula in a little medicine cup and putting drops on her lips. Eventually, she started drinking, but we ended up staying in the hospital for 5 days.

When we got home, her feeding issues continued. She never wanted to eat. And when she did she would cry and scream. She would violently spit up. She would throw up. Off to the pediatrician we went. She was diagnosed with GERD. Then put on Zantac. It did not really help. She was still crying and screaming, when I could get her to eat. It was so difficult for me. I was a stay at home Mum, and had Connor who was not even 2 yet. My husband worked a lot and I felt so overwhelmed with this little one who would just scream for hours on end. Abigail needed to be constantly held. She never, I mean NEVER, slept. She would sleep for 20 minutes to half an hour at a time, even at night time. She never napped. When she did sleep she would reflux in her sleep and start gagging and often turned blue from everything settling in in her mouth and throat. I was scared to death to let her sleep in her room because I thought she would choke to death. We did all the typical things: raised her bed, tried to tuck her in so she would not slide down. Nothing really helped.

Finally, after going to the doctor for the millionth time, I took her to the ER. CONTINUE READING »