How to Recover From Accidental Gluten Exposure

Tips That Will Help You Feel Better Faster

If you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, then you've probably experienced at least one "glutening" in your life, when you've accidentally ingested gluten and experienced symptoms as a result. Those symptoms may start quickly (within minutes) or may not manifest themselves until several days afterward.

It doesn't take much gluten. Even a tiny amount that's smaller than the eye can see can be a trigger that causes a variety of bodily reactions.

Symptoms of glutening may be digestive, neurological, and/or skin-based. These glutening symptoms can take up to several weeks to disappear.

If you do experience a glutening, what can you do to feel better? Follow these five tips.


Get Plenty of Rest


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Gluten exposure leads to a dreary combination of gluten-induced fatigue and insomnia in many people. It's tough to feel normal when you can't sleep at night and want to sleep only during the day.

The solution? Get as much rest as you possibly can—whenever you can grab it. If you're lucky enough to work at home, or if you have a flexible schedule, try to build in time for a 20-minute nap.

Even if you can't actually sleep, lying down and simply resting with your eyes closed may help. Try breathing deeply to clear your mind of any gluten-induced anxiety as you rest.


Avoid Difficult Tasks


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You may experience brain fog when you are exposed to gluten, leading to fuzzy-headedness, absent-mindedness, and sometimes outright confusion. Needless to say, that's not a good combination for tasks that involve heavy lifting, quick thinking, or deep analysis.

If you are feeling the effects of gluten contamination, try to avoid those types of tasks. Reschedule what you possibly can. If you can't avoid this type of work (most people can't simply take time off ), exercise plenty of caution when performing potentially dangerous tasks.

Extra sleep (again, if you can manage it) can help some with brain fog. But in most cases, you'll just have to wait for it to lift.


Skip Lactose-Containing Foods

lactose intolerance in celiac disease
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If you've experienced a severe exposure, you may temporarily become lactose intolerant. That's because you digest dairy proteins with the very tips of your intestinal villi, and gluten ingestion can damage those villi.

Lactose intolerance occurs commonly in celiac disease, especially in the newly diagnosed. However, many people report improvement and an ability to digest dairy again once they've followed the gluten-free diet for a while, indicating that their villi have recovered.

After a bad episode, it's possible to find that you no longer tolerate lactose. Don't worry: It's likely only temporary. Just make sure to avoid milk and products that contain milk such as yogurt, ice cream, and soft cheese until you feel recovered, and perhaps for a day or two afterward.

If your lactose intolerance continues indefinitely, there are over-the-counter chewable tabs or non-chewable pills that you can take whenever you eat dairy that will help you digest it. 


Revert to Whole Foods

gluten-free applesauce
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Now is not the time to try a new type of "gluten-free" product or to challenge your digestive tract with something radical. The best way to enjoy a speedy recovery is to revert to eating a whole-foods diet that's made up of foods that you know don't bother you.

Many people do well on a modified "BRAT" diet. BRAT stands for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. Of course, you would need to substitute in gluten-free toast, and skip the butter if you can't have dairy.

If you don't eat grains, the BRAT diet won't work for you. However, it's likely you can find something else that's easily digested to eat, such as a plain omelet or some chicken soup with vegetables.


Don't Take Chances

cookies tempting two children
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It goes without saying that you should avoid the food that got you in trouble in the first place. So try to think backward and pay attention to what, exactly, may have been the trigger. 

However, you also should avoid taking chances while you're recovering. That means skipping restaurant meals, bringing your own food to friends' houses, and sidelining any temptations that you may feel to indulge in something that you know maybe questionable.

Maintain a strict gluten-free diet and you're more likely to feel better sooner.

A Word From Verywell

Getting glutened is no fun, but it can happen even to those who are the most careful on the gluten-free diet. When it does happen, your body will tell you to slow down so that it can recover. The best thing you can do is to listen to your body and give it a chance to bounce back.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long do symptoms last with accidental gluten exposure?

    It can vary from person to person. One study found that symptoms for celiac patients ranged from one hour to eight days after accidental gluten exposure.

  • What foods should you avoid with celiac disease or gluten intolerance?

    You'll need to avoid wheat, rye, and barley, as well as wheat-containing foods like bulgur, couscous, durum flour, farina, graham flour, Kamut, semolina, and spelt. Since gluten is in so many different foods, your doctor or dietitian should work with you to help you learn what to avoid.

  • What are the symptoms of gluten intolerance?

    Symptoms of non-celiac gluten sensitivity or gluten intolerance are similar to those of celiac disease, including:

    • Bloating and gas
    • Abdominal pain
    • Diarrhea or constipation
    • Nausea
    • Brain fog
    • Joint pain
    • Headache
    • Fatigue
    • Anemia
    • Depression

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6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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