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After moving from San Francisco, one of the most conscious cities tailored for healthy eating, to Hong Kong, a respected multi-cultural cuisine-laden island in its own right, I’ve had the unfortunate experience of dealing with unwanted gluten consumption. The first time around, I was admittedly a willing candidate, adopting the “When in Rome” attitude and agreeing to dine at a dim sum restaurant.
What was I thinking? I’ve had foods with gluten in other countries and experienced no ill effects, so I thought I would test my chances. I regret to report that although it was delicious at the time, I paid for it and learned my lesson — no can do gluten.
Since then, despite my best efforts to avoid gluten, I’ve been exposed to it unwillingly and unknowingly. This never fails to leave me in a hungover state, doubled over in bed with awful bloating, nausea and abdominal pain accompanied by a mental fog that doesn’t go away for a couple days. Needless to say, it's not fun, especially when you didn’t sign up for it in the first place. Sadly, this is likely to happen to any of us who are sensitive to gluten, no matter how careful we are in trying to avoid it. If you are someone who is intolerant to cross-contamination, it can be even more challenging when eating out or traveling. Gluten intolerance is increasing around the globe, with estimates suggesting 18 million people suffer from non-celiac gluten sensitivity. To make things more interesting, you could be sensitive to gluten and not be aware of it, despite negative test results.
Let’s take a look at some of the helpful ways to assist your body in recovering from undesired gluten exposure. Note: If you're traveling to foreign countries, you might want to bring some of the below on your trip to ensure you have what you need to take care of yourself.
This is an essential step to recovery. You body is working overtime to seek homeostasis and flushing out the harmful effects of the invader (gluten). Staying hydrated will aid your body in a faster recovery.
2. Supplement with activated charcoal.
This supplement is generally used as an emergency treatment for certain poisons, and can be used to whiten teeth and remove plaque. It's highly alkaline, and has the ability to adsorb (different from absorb) the toxins from your stomach and intestines, and escort them out of your body via the intestines. Although it's best taken right at the onset of gluten exposure, it can also help within the first 24 hours. Activated charcoal should be taken with plenty of water to avoid constipation.
3. Drink herbal teas.
Ginger, mint and chamomile tea are great for soothing the belly by aiding digestion and alleviating an upset stomach or nausea. Consume as needed.
Your body is going through a lot and needs time to recover. Give yourself permission to take it easy and sleep as needed.
5. Stick to easy eating.
Give your digestion a break. You might not have an appetite at all, and that's ok. Honor what your body is telling you. Soups, stews, juices, cooked vegetables (avoid starchy or fibrous veggies), fruit (non-acidic) or a boiled egg are some good options.
6. Add L-glutamine.
The healing powers of this amino acid are not to be underestimated. We naturally produce glutamine; however, our bodies are unable to produce it when we're stressed or our systems are compromised. Its abilities include healing the gut lining, reducing inflammation and improving immune function for warding off infections.
It’s becoming widely known that healing the gut is essential to having good health. Toxins and inflammation alter the balance of “good” and “bad” gut bacteria, but by supplementing with probiotics you can restore a healthy ratio of good bacteria. I recommend taking at least 30-90 billion a day during this time. It's good to continue with supplements if you don't have fermented foods in your diet.
8. Practice gentle yoga.
If you're up for moving a little, this can facilitate some movement in the intestines to clear out toxins. Yoga can not only help your body, but can also help you to get your mind off things and feel better.