Got Glutened? A Guide to Recovering Your Gut
By Kristin Thomas, founder of Thrive By Food.
The bloating begins, the pains kick in, and the brain fog and headaches ensue. You’ve likely gotten glutened! It happens to the best of us because, despite how hard we try, gluten is EVERYWHERE. It contaminates foods at restaurants, it lingers on our cutting boards, toasters, and ovens, it sneaks into shampoo and hair products, and it may be hidden in the most unsuspecting of items you’re still using today.
Aside from being diligent about reading ingredient labels before you purchase or eat something, is there anything you can do to help your body process and eliminate the gluten to reduce the damage it can cause?
Yes, there are, in fact, several things!
As a functional diagnostic nutrition practitioner and founder of Thrive by Food, I work with people who have severe celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and all forms of autoimmunity and gut dysfunction. My clients are constantly on the search for ways to rid gluten from their lives, and I love helping them find the strategies to do so. In this post, I’ll be sharing my top tips for you to help support your body if you are accidentally exposed.
- Load Up On Nutrient Dense Foods
Once you suspect you’ve been glutened, start by adding in nutrient dense foods like bone broth, liver, stewed vegetables, sauerkraut and healthy fats like avocado or ghee. These will help replenish the cells in your body from any potential damage from gluten. This can accelerate your body’s anti-inflammatory work and help to regulate the immune system.
- Begin the Repair Process
Gluten and parts of the wheat plant can do quite a bit of damage to the villi lining our digestive tracts. Thus, it’s incredibly important to help your body recover in an effort to prevent villous atrophy, which can result in a serious inability to absorb nutrients. Consider taking a gut-healing supplement such as l-glutamine to help repair the GI tract cells and promote normal cell signaling. Grass-fed gelatin and collagen peptides can also help diminish inflammation and protect your GI tract from irritation. Or, you could take zinc carnosine, which is usually a cheaper but equally effective option to the above supplements. A favorite gut healing drink of mine is aloe juice; drink two ounces of it twice per day. There are MANY gut healing supplements to choose from, so pick the ones that appeal to you and work within your budget.
- Protect the Gut
Next, you want to help protect the gut from further damage. Deglycerized licorice (DGL), for example, can coat the lining of the gut and protect it from damage caused by inflammatory foods like gluten. Marshmallow root and peppermint tea can also help do the same.
- Prioritize Sleep
Sleep is incredibly important for decreasing inflammation and promoting healing in the digestive tract. When we sleep, our body repairs and rejuvenates itself. Aim to get 8-10 hours of sleep per night, especially during a flare-up. You may also feel more fatigued when you get glutened, so don’t fight it, let your body rest and repair.
- Replenish Minerals
Because of the damage and inflammation often caused by gluten, nutrient absorption can become impaired and your body also needs more nutrients in order to heal. One place to start is to take magnesium. Magnesium is a powerhouse mineral that can help calm the body from the stress of gluten exposure and promote healthy sleep. You can apply a magnesium spray to the bottoms of your feet or anywhere else for fast-acting benefits or take it in powder or capsule form. Two of the best non-diarrheal magnesium are glycinate (good for relaxation) and threonate (good for brain health)
- Support the Brain
Gluten toxins can pass through the gut-brain barrier and cause imbalances in the brain, which can result in brain fog, memory lapses, emotional lows, irritability, anxiety, depression, and more. A natural supplement called L-theanine is known to help with mood support and anxiety relief during the after-effects of gluten. And as mentioned above, certain forms of magnesium can, too. Additionally, ensuring you’re getting good quality fats, such as coconut, olive, and avocado, in your diet can help protect and nourish the brain, too.
- Introduce Good Bacteria
Considering that gluten sweeps into the gut and wrecks so much havoc, it often can wipe out or damage our population of good bacteria that resides in our digestive tract. Good bacteria, or probiotics, can help to rebalance the gut and flora and promote a healthy immune response. You can take probiotics either as a supplement pill or by eating fermented foods such as kombucha, kimchi, kefir, or sauerkraut. For a list of recommended probiotic brands, visit this post. For recipes to make fermented foods, visit this post on my website.
- Support Body-Wide Healing
As a functional practitioner, I’m specially trained to look at the function of the ENTIRE body when something goes wrong, such as exposure to gluten. So, not only do I recommend supporting the gut, I also recommend supporting the entire body. Doing things like acupuncture (or getting an acupuncture mat, taking Epsom salt baths, practicing yoga or meditation, and even dry skin brushing can help with the physical and mental pain after gluten exposure.
I hope these tips will prove useful to you if you happen to get exposed to gluten in the future. Of course, my top recommendation is to always read the ingredient label of a food item or beauty product before purchasing or using it, and informing restaurants about your gluten allergy or sensitivity. But, for those times when we get exposed despite our very best efforts, these tips should serve you well. If you’re interested in learning more about what wheat and gluten do to your body, or if you have any other food sensitivities and would like to explore what pathogens may also be behind your chronic and unresolved digestive health concerns, contact me. I offer a free 20-minute introductory call as well as my popular Love Your Gut program.
Founder of Thrive by Food, Kristin Thomas is a Greater Boston-based functional diagnostic nutrition and health coaching practitioner. She specializes in chronic digestive health conditions like ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, Celiac disease, as well as autoimmune conditions, and hormone imbalance, but most importantly, as a functional practitioner, she views the body as one interconnected system and works with people to help uncover imbalances deep within the body and implement strategic change that can influence multiple systems and conditions at once. Having struggled with her own digestive health challenges, Kristin deeply gets what it’s like to have these conditions and to overcome them. Kristin spreads her message of natural digestive health through group programs, live events, one-on-one coaching, summits and podcast appearances. If you need a place to start, sign up for her free Gut Healing Recipe Guide and design a plan to begin healing your gut. Kristin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.