What To Do If You Get Glutened


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what to do if you get glutened

I love to travel (read: I may be addicted) but I understand that travel can be unsettling for some, especially for those who are gluten-free or gluten-sensitive. As a celiac, I can attest to the fact that getting glutened is never fun (especially when you’re away from home), but being prepared can make all the difference. When you’re prepared, you’ll recover quickly and get back to your old healthy, happy self in no time!

If you’re on my email list, you know that I’m currently finishing up my ebook, Roaming Free, which I’m ridiculously excited to share with you. Roaming Free is the essential guide to healthy and happy gluten-free travel, with a whole foods approach. I’m hoping to release it in December (so make sure you’re on my email list to be the first to know AND receive a discount!) – but given that Thanksgiving is next week, I wanted to share this excerpt from the book with you today. Happy holiday travels! (UPDATE: Roaming Free is now available!)

For many of you, this may be your single biggest travel fear – getting glutened. Especially if you’re celiac, gluten-sensitive or have an autoimmune condition, like me. That fear may even stop you in your tracks and have you NOT booking your next soul-trip – although I sincerely hope it doesn’t.

I wish I could sit here and tell you that nope, you’re not going to get glutened while you gallivant around the world in your joyful and carefree state of bliss – but I would be doing you a disservice. You can take every precaution in the book, but nothing is 100% guaranteed. I’ve traveled to several countries and haven’t been glutened. Hooray! But then I did have one hell-of-a-doozy getting glutened in Bali.

As I always try to look on the bright-side, that episode of getting glutened in Bali taught me some very important travel lessons. First, I let my guard down. I had already been traveling for 4 months and figured I was a pro. But I got sloppy and didn’t ask all the probing questions and reconfirm ingredients, as I’ve detailed for you in Chapter 5. 

Second, I didn’t trust my gut. One bite into that “premium beef patty” (I had ordered a burger, sans bun, yet found out later that there were bread crumbs in the burger) and I knew something was off. But I was so ravenously hungry, that I ignored my internal alarms bells and continued eating. Ten minutes later all suspicions were confirmed as I felt woozy, light-headed, nauseous and all-over horrible.

Thankfully, my villa in Bali was literally one mile away. So I hoped on my motorbike, raced home and quickly implemented recovery measures. And should it happen to you, I recommend you do the same! Recovery times will vary depending on your body and severity of gluten exposure, but for me, I felt well enough to go explore again 48 hours later. Without a shadow of a doubt it was a horribly unpleasant experience, but I was not about to let it ruin the remaining time I had in paradise!

How to recover after you’ve been glutened

Take digestive enzymes

Digestive enzymes work to immediately break down the food you’ve consumed and support your digestion, which is now working overtime. Purchase a digestive enzyme with DPP-IV, an enzyme that specifically targets gluten and casein proteins. In fact, even if you haven’t been glutened, I recommend taking this enzyme when eating out as an added safety measure.

Drink lots of water

Drinking water will help to flush your system and assist the passage of food through your intestines. Water will also support your kidneys in cleansing and ridding your body of the unexpected toxin you just ingested. So guzzle up! 

Take activated charcoal

The first time I ever took activated charcoal was when I got glutened – but it helped so much that I now consider it a packing essential. Activated charcoal, if taken immediately after exposure, can bind to the toxin to prevent it from being absorbed by the body. Just make sure you drink plenty of water with activated charcoal to prevent constipation.

Rest and sleep

After you’ve done those first three things – REST! Your body is physiologically stressed and working overtime, trying to detoxify and repair the damage. Give it all the quiet, recuperation time it needs by laying in bed and sleeping. Remove all distractions such as laptops and phones and allow your body as much time as it needs to recover.

Take a probiotic

A probiotic will boost the beneficial bacteria in your gut and support digestion. Consider doubling up for the first few days after exposure while your body is healing. Fermented vegetables can also be beneficial, but steer clear of yogurts and kefirs, as dairy can exacerbate symptoms.

Take ginger and turmeric

Both ginger and turmeric are natural anti-inflammatories and can ease stomach cramping, bloating and nausea. Drink ginger tea and take turmeric capsules to provide soothing gastrointestinal support and rehydrate your body.

Lay off food

You may be tempted to eat, but any new foods you consume will only add to the digestive burden your body is currently facing. If you can find good quality bone broth (from a local health food store), feel free to drink that. But avoid food for the first 24 hours. Once you start to regain energy and feel better, slowly introduce whole, easier to digest foods such as green smoothies, sauerkraut, bananas, avocados, sweet potatoes and scrambled eggs.

Don’t blame yourself

It’s easy to get down in the dumps after being glutened. You feel like crap and your body is achy. But remember that anxiety and depression are symptoms of gluten exposure and can be triggered after an episode. So if you don’t feel like “you” – don’t fret. You’ll be back to your old self in no time. 

Accidental glutening happens to even the most seasoned travelers, because quite simply – accidents happen. So be gentle with yourself, reach out to supportive friends and focus on all the amazing, positive travel experiences you’ve had. Because there’s gonna be lots more of those in your future!

Have you ever been glutened while traveling? What did you do to recover quickly? Share in the comments below!

Make sure to check out Roaming Free – A Whole Food Approach for Traveling the World Healthy, Happy and Gluten-Free for tips, advice and wanderlust inspiration!

About the author

Lisa Bryan

Lisa is a bestselling cookbook author, recipe developer, and YouTuber (with over 2.5 million subscribers) living in sunny Southern California. She started Downshiftology in 2014, and is passionate about making healthy food with fresh, simple and seasonal ingredients.

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  1. Hi. Very good advice on what to take if you have been gluttened. As you know you give a list. I know we only try one at a time. Is your list ranked by best tablets to take? Thanks

  2. I have known about my celiac disease for about 13 years. I have been strictly gluten free, but lately I have been getting horrible gluten reactions every time we eat out. I have decided not to eat out anymore. This time, I haven’t been able to eat at all and my blood sugars have gone through the roof. I am taking tumeric and ginger tea. I’m going to order some bone broth. Any other suggestions?

    1. Everyone is very different, so I can’t give specific answers. But, I have a whole video on my Youtube channel about my health and wellness journey that you can reference. Hope that helps!

  3. Hi! I know I’m SUPER late to this but I stumbled across this when looking for advice on having gotten glutened. It’s much more helpful than anything else I’d found, but I wanted to offer a possible edit?

    Activated charcoal will bind to medications as well as gluten. I didn’t see any mention of it in the article, but I think it’s really helpful to know that while activated charcoal absolutely has benefits, if you’re a person who relies on things like an anti-depressant, it can make the mood swings even more rough to deal with. Thank you for taking the time to make such an excellent post!

  4. Well, I have Celiac Disease. But, I found out the hard way that I also have Dermatitis Herpetiformis (DH). 

    I went to a popular breakfast place in our area and ordered a gluten free bagel, eggs and sausage. Of course I asked if everything was cooked on a clean surface away from any allergens. They were adamant that they hold true to guidelines. I ate my breakfast  . It was too good to be true.

    I went to get up from the table and felt like vomiting and was dizzy. My stomach bloated and I could not wait to lay down. When I got home I started getting blisters all over my hands, knees and elbows. It itched so bad I felt like I was going insane! The itch was just maddening! NOTE: I also have psoriasis and type 1 diabetes. This is a perfect combo for DH. 

    That day I went to my doctor and she said I have DH and she put me on steroids and Dapsone. It can take 6mo to a year or more to recover. I have started eating at home and not going out. To me, its just not worth the risk. If I cant go home, ill just have an apple or something fresh until I can. 

  5. Hi Lisa, I don’t have celiac or an allergy, and I can eat bread with no problem. I’ve never been diagnosed with any wheat intolerance.
    I do have a problem when I eat Seitan. Every time, I’m sick for days. I accidentally had some at dinner last night, and this is the worst it’s ever been. I just popped a probiotic and my husband is going to look for digestive enzymes. I figure it’s too late for the charcoal.
    I think I’m going to get tested for a gluten intolerance when I’m better. This is just the worst!
    Thank you for the great tips!

  6. Help! I came to this page to get the specific Probiotic referenced but got an Amazon Page not found message :( . Would it be possible to give the name here? Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi Antholene – we actually just checked and it looks like you are subscribed :) We send out emails once a week, so be on the lookout for them!

      1. I have family that can’t tolerate corn and most of its derivatives. Wild attacks sometimes. And these Bio Allers allergy drops has helped amazingly. For Corn or wheat or whatever it is. It also has Histamine homeopathic form, in it so it works quickly to stop inflammation. It’s BioAllers. There is one for Grains and one for Dairys (including eggs). Another for Mold/Yeast/Dust. Etc. Hope that helps for any of you having an episode. Celiac Or not. We find it works to ease symptoms within minutes. it quickly stops the inflamation.

  7. Hi – I came back to this page for a refresher on what to do if I get Glutened. The link for the probiotic is broken. It goes to Amazon but the product is no longer available, I guess. Can you recommend another brand?  Thank you!!

    1. Hi Teri – I just updated that link with the probiotic I’m currently using today. :)

  8. last night I got back from dinner and I felt a strange tingling or trembling feeling in my belly and I kept telling my husband and mom that something was weird then I got out of the car and almost fell but I dismissed it as maybe a little dizzy and I got up the steps to my apartment and I suddenly fell over and I had to sit on the ground and I barely crawled into the house as my head started spinning and I laid on the couch and my arms and legs fell asleep I felt paralyzed and I started to panic as I lost control of my body I had a headache for days and I started spotting last night and also I started stuttering and repeating words like I couldn’t just talk normally. I was taken to the ER they kept saying I might have had a panic attack and I was furious I had no reason to have one except for the panic as a result of knowing something was wrong with my body and I couldn’t tell anyone what was happening. of course they found nothing wrong with me when they ran tests. I decided to see a celiac doctor from the center of UCLA.

    1. Oh no! Sorry to hear of your episode. I know how unbelievably scary that can be. It definitely sounds like you had a reaction to something, whether gluten or another ingredient. It definitely makes sense to get a celiac panel done and I’d recommend working with a functional medicine doctor to run other food sensitivity tests as well. Best wishes to you!

    2. Ifitan, have you been tested for hemiplegic migraines? What you described sounds uncannily similar to what happens when I get them.

  9. Yes!  These are the things I do too!  Digestive enzymes before I eat the meal, lots of water, activated coconut charcoal and essential oils, plus the other.  The charcoal definitely helps with the itchy eyes, runny nose, ear pain, any intestinal cramping and some joint pain.  Unfortunately, like you mentioned, I still get extreme fatigue, some achy joints and diffuse body pain, plus an emotiona rollercoaster of anxiety and depression for several days.  It’s so validating to read someone else’s journey!  I’m going to Europe next week and I’m definitely anxious about eating.  My list of allergies and sensitivities is long.  Even in Europe I can’t eat wheat, despite what people say about it being different.  But, I can’t let food issues steal my joy or adventure and memories with friends and family!  

    1. Glad you’ve found benefit from the same things Allison! And while some people can eat dairy and/or wheat in Europe, it’s very individual and based on each person’s level of sensitivity. So just keep doing what works for you and most definitely don’t let food issues steal your joy and happiness! Have a wonderful time in Europe! :) x

  10. Hi Lisa
    Recently my doctor gave me meds that had gluten in them. Unfortunately because we are eradicating some very nasty diseases from my system like H Pylori & others i had no choice. (Insurance would not cover other medications which were not.) Anyway, what would you recommend & how long will this be in my system? Part of the meds i am on are a probiotic.
    Nice post by the way

    1. Hi Sarah – Unfortunately, I’m not a doctor or scientist so can’t say exactly how long it will remain in your system. But I have seen studies that have indicated an increased immune response could last for several weeks after exposure. Given that you have H. Pylori, I’d just do everything you can to boost your immune system and provide your gut nourishment – eat lots of vegetables/greens, take priobiotics and fermented foods and remove all processed sugar and processed carbs. Best wishes!

  11. Be careful with or avoid Tumeric altogether if you have a hormone sensitive health condition or it you are on blood thinners, or need to be careful about the thinness of your blood. Tumeric acts as a blood thinner and also effects your hormone levels.

      1. What is the probiotic you’re talking about 
        The soil based one that works so good 

  12. Do these same things work if you dont have Celiac but gluten sensitivity related to Rheummatoid Arthritis?

    1. Absolutely! Even if you don’t have celiac, you still want to reduce inflammation and strengthening the immune system after gluten exposure (if you react to gluten). My dad has RA and he reacts to gluten very similarly to me. Hope this helps! :)

  13. Hi Lisa! Thanks for the great ideas and recipes you share. I wanted to share with you that after dietary exposures which are always somewhat disabling, I feel better when I load up on certain anti-inflammatory foods. One dish that’s very medicinal for me in general and helpful with any symptoms is a lettuce salad with a purée of raw garlic, olive oil, fresh lemon juice, and sea salt. Other greens and low carb veggies are fine, too, and variations of this sauce on everything are great for me, but this by itself is what I try to do if I don’t feel 100%. Another one is homemade chicken soup with the bones, plus kale, onions, and garlic, adding olive oil and lemon juice at serving time. Please feel free to share any aspect of these meals if they work for you. Best wishes and Happy 2016!

    1. Thanks for sharing Mel! Garlic is a wonderful anti-inflammatory. And bone broths are jam-packed with “gut repairing” nutrients. So glad these work for you! :) x

      1. I am always looking for natural anti-inflammatory foods and supplements. I have a problem with raw garlic. Do you know if cooked garlic or garlic capsules have the same anti-inflammatory effect? Thanks!

      2. I’m sure all are beneficial, but to the degree in which they’re more or less anti-inflammatory, I don’t know. I do take garlic capsules with me when traveling though, specifically for that purpose and so far so good. ;)

  14. Hi Lisa,

    I have recently found your blog and I’m really enjoying it! I have Hashimoto’a and have been GF for about 6 months, but I’m still trying to work on feeling better. I have taken quite a few different probiotics, but have never heard of the one you suggest. Have you had good results with it? This is the first time I have heard of soil-based organisms. It’s quite a different approach than the lactic acid-forming types of probiotics. I’d love to know your thoughts!


    1. Thanks for the kind words Maureen! As for the probiotics, soil-based probiotics are fairly new as a mainstream product. They’re not lactic acid-based and for those with gut issues (I also had SIBO) the soil-based probiotics seem to work well. I do still alternate with standard probiotics, just to switch it up, but as the soil-based don’t have to be refrigerated they’re much preferred for travel. And yes, they work great for me! But it’s all about finding what works for you. :) x