When I was newly diagnosed with Celiac Disease, I was always excited to meet other people with CD and exchange meal ideas, favorite brands and, of course, tips for what to do after an attack of the Celiac. Now that I have many gluten-free moons under my belt, I wanted to share my attack plan with any fellow CDers out there who may be new to the diet and experiencing surprise stomach aches along the way.
First of all, the obvious question: what does getting gluten-ed feel like and how do you know when it happens to you?
Well, if you have Celiac Disease, it’s not easy to explain but you know when it happens. Personally, my #1 telltale sign is that I start to feel like I’m hungover, out of nowhere. I’ll have finished a meal and be going about life when -boom!- I get foggy, tired and unbalanced. Within a few hours, I also feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach and usually put a heating pad on my abdomen just to alleviate the tenderness. Then there’s a few days of uncomfortable bloating/distension and poor digestion. (And a lot of wondering about what the hell did me in.)
On the other hand, when I’m solidly gluten-free for a good stretch of time and have no accidents, it’s like life is living ME. I wake up refreshed and energized, chirping songbirds follow me around and I leave rainbow footprints wherever I go. It’s just two totally different mental and emotional states.
As a CD veteran, certified nutritionista and long-time rebounder of gluten attacks, here are my recommendations for what to do when gluten finds YOU:
Take a chill pill
You’re sick. Rest!
Autoimmune diseases are known as “invisible illnesses.” Sufferers look completely healthy on the outside while there’s hell breaking loose on the inside. So, when someone with an autoimmune disease gets a flare-up and needs to retreat and rest, we are often looked at as complete hypochondriacs. Because people tend to be of the mindset, “I’ll believe it when I see it” when it comes to calling out sick to work or cancelling plans, we feel like we need to buck up, put on a brave face, and power through. But the truth is, we’re sick — really sick — and we need to take care of ourselves regardless of what anyone thinks or believes. Put yourself first and take the rest and time you need to recover. Don’t push yourself or the healing process will take far longer.
Probiotics. Because a dose of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Hopefully you’re already taking probiotics to support your immune and gut health but, if you’re not, now is a great time to start. Probiotics are absolutely essential to immune health and optimal digestive function. They will work to support and aid digestion while your small intestine heals from the gluten damage. There are as many brands on the market as there are probiotics to be had, so the best advice I can give you is to try several until one feels right. I also change my brand every few months to keep reintroducing a variety of healthy bacteria.
Eliminate Irritants & Allergens
When you are having a reaction to gluten, you are experiencing a serious, full-body autoimmune response. This means your body is going a little haywire and attacking itself. At this point, you want to avoid any irritating and allergenic foods and give your small intestine a chance to fully recuperate and recover post-attack. Avoid dairy, greasy foods, highly fibrous foods (nuts, seeds, flax, salads, etc) and anything overly stimulating like sugar and caffeine. Opt for soft, warm, nourishing and whole/unprocessed foods — healthy fats (avocado, olive oil), baked sweet potatoes, organic meats, broth and roasted vegetables.
“Pop enzymes” doesn’t have the same ring to it, but that’s what I’m getting at here. Before you sit down to a meal, take some enzymes to help support your body while it’s simultaneously digesting food and healing the intestinal tract. Our bodies work hard 24/7 to keep us healthy and functioning, so we need to be actively supporting them as much as we possibly can — especially those of us with compromised immune systems!
My recommendations: Enzymedica‘s Digest Gold and Gluten Ease. I take a few with me to every restaurant meal – whether I’ve been recently glutened or not.
What’s happening when you ingest gluten is inflammation overload. You want to minimize inflammation in the body as much as possible once the gluten ball gets rolling. So, take care to ingest as many anti-inflammatory substances as you can. We’re talking fish oil and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) supplements and naturally inflammation-mitigating foods like almonds, avocados, olive oil, blueberries, beets, etc… (Dr Weil has an anti-inflammatory diet that’s great; more on that here.)
Fluids, fluids, fluids.. for the Love of God, drink fluids!
I can’t recommend a water-rich diet enough. And when you’re sick with the glutens, this is more important than ever. Water re-hydrates your system (especially if you experience diarrhea with Celiac Disease), helps flush out toxins, and supports new cell and villi growth. We all know we’re mostly made of water, so keep your body hydrated by introducing new fluids to replace the ones you’re losing while your body is cleansing and detoxifying.
Bone broth is also a fabulous warm fluid to both soothe an aching stomach and provide a blast of easily accessible nutrition. There are many good brands, but they’re not available in supermarkets so you will need to pick them up locally or have them delivered (or get wild and make your own bone broth). This topic is a blog unto itself, but I recommend Bare Bones Broth and Broth Masters.
Have any additional tips?! Let me know down below 😉