One of the most popular posts I’ve ever shared is 6 Steps to Ease Symptoms When You Get Glutened. It makes sense, too, because when someone with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity consumes gluten accidentally, it is serious business for our health. I know this first hand because:
(a) I have celiac disease and
(b) while it is rare, there are times gluten does get into my body, regardless of how careful I am.
In 2013, it was coffee that got me.
The last time that happened was back in 2013 when I decided to buy some flavored holiday coffee from the grocery store (duh). That little three-week episode of horrors led to this post about hidden gluten in some flavored coffees.
Two years later, in France, the culprit was more obvious.
And most recently, here in France, after three solid months of extreme care, it happened again, nearly two years since last time isn’t so bad, but for a few hours, I thought I would die in my bed after a gluten-filled baguette made close contact with my food before being remove (all unbeknownst to me until it was too late).
The symptoms vary by the individual, but here are some of mine.
My symptoms come on fast and strong, and there is no doubt what is happening to me. The acute symptoms of severe, sharp, stabbing abdominal pain, nearly instant bloating and gassiness (sorry, but if we’re gonna’ talk, we might as well tell the whole truth, non?) and the overall body swelling are the first tell-tale signs that gluten entered my body.
After that, while I’m spending my time equally divided between lying doubled over in my bed grasping my abdomen, half cursing/half crying (mainly because I am so mad when this happens) and in the loo, suddenly phase two begins.
The joint aches, fatigue, brain fog and flu-like feelings wash in, through and over me and there is nothing to do except wait it out, right? Wrong.
There are steps we can take to help our body recover more quickly.
There are actually steps we can take to help our bodies recover the trauma of gluten ingestion. Now, these are no guarantee for any one individual because we are all so different and what works for one might not work for another in the same way.
What makes my approach so different, though, and the reason I’m sharing it here with you, is that:
(a) I know it works for me and dozens of others I’ve shared it with who also have celiac disease and
(b) I draw on my natural products science research for what should work, based on the composition of certain foods. After all, I didn’t spend all that time in the neuroscience lab for nothing. :)
So, from the scientist with celiac disease who also very recently had a negative run-in with a gluten-filled baguette and almost lost the fight, here are 5 Foods that Speed Recovery When You Get Glutened.
Please keep in mind:
1 – These are not the ONLY foods that help rid the body of toxins. There are several others (you can find some of them in my 6 Steps to Ease Symptoms post, linked above). I chose to single out these five foods because they are particularly detoxifying due to unique properties. I also have personal experience using them with significant positive results.
2 – At this time, sufficient science does not exist to support any of the products (special enzyme tablets, etc.) on the market claiming to rid the system of gluten. If/when I do find there is adequate science to support them, I will share that with you. Until then, I suggest you save your hard-earned dollars.
1 – Blueberries have the highest cellular antioxidant activity of all fruits and vegetables.
Blueberries are tiny antioxidant powerhouses. In fact, research shows blueberries have the highest cellular antioxidant activity of all fruits and vegetables.
As a mini-refresher, antioxidants are naturally occurring phytochemicals (plant compounds) that combat damage to the cells in our body caused by oxidation and free radicals.
Free radicals are molecules that have an unpaired electron. Now, to save us a lengthy (snooze fest) of a chemistry lesson here, think of free radicals this way – they are kind of like your crazy Aunt Lurlene, they’re unattached and are liable to do just about anything at any time with anyone. : )
Seriously though, these rogue molecules are unstable and extremely reactive and are known to attack and damage other cells in the body, which can lead to serious illness.
Of course, free radicals are produced in the body as the result of various normal metabolic reactions going on all the time. Normally, our bodies are equipped to handle this, but when extra free radicals are produced, due to pollutants from the environment, cigarette smoke, radiation, ozone, certain drugs and even things like exercise and inflammation (like the inflammation that occurs when those of us with celiac disease ingest gluten!), they body isn’t able to handle all those renegade molecules pillaging the system.
And that is where antioxidants come into play. When we consume foods containing antioxidants (like fruits and veggies), it helps reduce the amount of free radicals in the system and protects our cells from damage.
So, when someone with celiac disease ingests gluten and the subsequent inflammation occurs in the small intestine (and throughout the body), it makes sense to reach for antioxidant packed foods like blueberries.
Further, the science backs it up – consuming blueberries, due to their high level of antioxidant capacity and high levels of phenolic compounds, provide significant protection against free radicals and oxidative stress within the red blood cells.
Eat blueberries every day when they are in season. When they are not, buy organic frozen ones to add to smoothies, breakfast foods (like gluten-free cereals, pancakes or oatmeal, or yogurt – depending on what you like and can eat on your special diet).
2 – Beets contain compounds with anti-inflammatory and detoxifying properties.
The compounds that give beets their vibrant hue are special health-promoting pigments called betalains. These compounds possess powerful antioxidant properties and have special anti-inflammatory and detoxifying properties other antioxidants do not.
The cell protective properties in beets are of significant importance in reducing oxidative stress in the body and beets’ anti-inflammatory power is so strong, these compounds are being evaluated for their anti-cancer properties.
To receive the maximum betalain from foods like beets, less is best when it comes to cooking. Eating beets raw or gently steamed insures maximum betalain benefit.
3 – Lemon contains antioxidant compounds that activate detoxifying enzymes.
Like all citrus, lemons are rich in vitamin C, which is the #1 champion of the immune system. Lemons go a step further, with special antioxidant compounds called limonoids, which are known to have detoxifying effects in the body by activating special detox enzymes.
While you normally don’t eat lemons like you would other fruits due to their tart flavor, they make a terrific addition to room temperature filtered water to keep you hydrated during your recovery from ingesting gluten.
Be sure to buy organic lemons, wash them well before using, and then add some juice, some slices or wedges to a large pitcher of pure water for sipping.
Just like eating blueberries every day, lemon water is a great addition to your daily nutritive support routine.
4 – Peppermint may reduce the number of harmful gut bacteria.
Studies show peppermint oil and coated peppermint capsules may alleviate some of the symptoms individuals with IBS suffer from – pain, bloating, gas and diarrhea. Those are some of the same symptoms many individuals with celiac disease suffer when they accidentally ingest gluten.
In a small (but well-conducted) study of 57 adults with IBS, three-fourths of those receiving peppermint capsules reported a significant reduction of IBS symptoms. More research from Taiwan indicates taking enteric coated peppermint oil capsules several times each day leads to reduced bloating and gas, as well as relief of abdominal pain in most individuals.
While research is ongoing regarding the efficacy of peppermint with digestive issues, two reasons scientists believe peppermint may be effective combating those nasty gastrointestinal symptoms is because of its ability to reduce the number of harmful bacteria in the gut and its ability to soothe muscles of the GI tract.
Note: Peppermint is NOT recommended for individuals with pre-existing gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or hiatal hernia. Peppermint reacts negatively with some prescription medicines, so always speak to your doctor before using any additional medicines, supplements or herbs. Peppermint can be dangerous to children, so always consult a pediatrician before using peppermint with a child.
Peppermint tea is easily made by steeping 1 – 2 teaspoons of fresh, roughly chopped peppermint leaves in a cup of boiling water for several minutes. Strain out the leaves and drink the remaining liquid once the temperature has cooled sufficiently for your liking.
5 – Watermelon
Even though I list it last here (only because I alphabetized my list), you may want to reach for a juicy ripe watermelon first when you accidentally ingest gluten. In fact, I consider it my “secret weapon” among all fruits and vegetables when it comes to cleansing my system quickly. (click image above for watermelon fruit “pizza” recipe)
There are several reasons why.
More lycopene than tomatoes:
First, watermelon contains huge amounts of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant most of us associate with tomatoes. Tomatoes (especially cooked ones) do contain copious of lycopene, but watermelon contains a whopping 40% more than tomatoes, on average, and there is no need to cook it in order for the lycopene to be highly bioavailable. When I’m not feeling well, the idea of cool, sweet watermelon and no cooking is definitely a plus!
Research indicates lycopene levels (just like any nutrient levels in any fruit or vegetable) varies with variety and growing season, however, seedless varieties in general are shown to contain more lycopene than seeded watermelons (another perk!).
Watermelon (and most foods in the Cucurbitaceae family of plants) contain cucurbitacins (a naturally occurring tripterpenoid steroid), known to be anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain killing). As with other anti-inflammatory foods, watermelon goes a long way in reducing some of the symptoms we get when gluten gets in.
Watermelon also contains an impressive lineup of important nutrients such as vitamins C, B6 (pyridoxine; supports metabolism), B3 (niacin; helps protect the digestive system) and A, as well as potassium (partially responsible for the diuretic properties of watermelon) and magnesium, which support overall health and wellness.
Watermelon is also very hydrating, which is a plus in general when we aren’t feeling up to par, but especially for those who suffer diarrhea when accidentally ingesting gluten.
Watermelon can be cubed or made into balls with a melon baller and frozen, then blended in the blender or food processor for a nutritious “slushy” drink if you prefer.
So there you have it, five foods that will speed your recovery if you accidentally ingest gluten. I hope you never need them, but if you do, I hope they will bring you some relief.
Youdim, K. A., Shukitt-Hale, B., MacKinnon, S., Kalt, W., Joseph, J. A., Polyphenolics enhance red blood cell resistance to oxidative stress: In vitro and in vivo, Biochim. Biophys. Acta 2000, 1523, 117 – 122.
Chatterjee, A., Yasmin, T., Bagchi, D., Stohs, S. J., Inhibition of Helicobacter pylori in vitro by various berry extracts, with enhanced susceptibility to clarithromycin, Mol. Cell. Biochem. 2004, 265, 19 – 26.