This post, Crap, I Was Glutened!, is not a substitute for medical advice. Please see my disclosures. This post contains affiliate links.
We’ve all been in that horrible position of an accidental glutening. Maybe you ate something without checking a label, or a trusted restaurant caught you off guard with the wrong dish. Ug.
Gluten happens, and when it does, it can feel like a ton of bricks.
I’ve written in the past about what to do when you’ve been accidentally glutened, including some home remedies many gluten-free people I know utilize to lessen their symptoms.
However, you might be wondering just how long do you have to wait it out until the gluten passes through your system.
The answer to this question isn’t as cut and dry as we all would hope, but I will try to shed some light on the topic nonetheless. Additionally, I will offer some tips to improving your digestive system at the end of this article to help you recover faster the next time you get glutened.
Digestion Process and Duration
To understand how food moves through your body, you must first understand the digestion process.
Once you eat something, it typically takes six to eight hours for that food to pass through both your stomach and small intestine. The food then enters your large intestine (colon) before the undigested food is finally eliminated.
The Mayo Clinic conducted research to measure the precise total transit time – from eating to elimination in stool – and found that it took an average of 53 hours for the food to fully clear your body. The majority of the transit time was through the large intestine (40 hours), although for women it’s 47 hours and men averaged 33 hours of transit time through the colon.
The transit time will vary depending on the food you eat. Sweets and refined carbohydrates digest more quickly than protein-rich or high-fiber foods.
Additionally, digestive diseases can disrupt and slow the digestion time significantly.
Celiac disease, as you might know, is one of those so-called “digestive” diseases. When someone with celiac disease ingests gluten (protein), the body spits out antibodies to attack the protein, resulting in damage to the small intestine.
The small intestine is responsible for absorbing and distributing nutrients from the food you eat to the rest of your body, and when damaged, it can throw the digestive process in a tizzy.
I was unable to find any studies saying if this disruption extends digestive time, but I can assume it does.
How Long Until Gluten Clears Your System?
It can take up to 72 hours for gluten (and any food) to clear your system. If you’ve been accidentally glutened, your symptoms can linger, unfortunately.
This might also depend on how much gluten you had. Did you get a little cross contamination or did you eat an entire pizza before the symptoms emerged? Again, more gluten in your system may result in a longer digestive period.
For many people with celiac disease, the symptoms are fast and done. Some have an immediate reaction and suffer from vomiting or diarrhea and soon after, feel better.
Others can have a nagging stomach ache or chronic bloating for a few days, while others will experience acne, migraines, joint pain or a slew of other symptoms related to celiac disease.
I believe, however, the healthier your digestive and immune system are, the easier recovery may be. If your gut is still “leaky” and damaged, and you’re not properly managing your celiac disease, then the recovery can be longer. But if you’re sipping on green juices and taking those probiotics and multivitamins daily, you might be able to bounce back within a few hours vs. a few days or weeks.
Gluten, for all intents and purposes, is a difficult protein for humans to digest. It causes inflammation in anyone who eats it – true fact! So if you’ve been glutened, it can take some time to move through your system.
Tips for Improving Your Digestion
The key with digestion is to keep things moving through your body. We don’t want any clogged “pipes,” so to speak. Here is how to keep digestion running smoothly:
Eat Plenty of Anti-Inflammatory Foods: There’s a reason they say an apple a day keeps the doctor away. It does, along with kale, spinach, broccoli, mushrooms and a slew of other fruits and vegetables. These foods build immunity and stave off disease. Eat plenty of them to build your defenses against digestive and immune system attacks.
Chew Your Food: Digestion begins in the mouth. As you chew your food, your saliva creates a digestive enzyme called amylase, which helps to break down your food. Chewing upfront will mean your digestive system will have to work less in the long run.
Mind Your Gut Health: If you’re not in charge of your gut, the bad bacteria will happily take over. Take a high quality probiotic (I take 50 billion CFUs DAILY), eat those fermented foods and drink that kombucha – love!
Get Plenty of Fiber: Fiber is essential to keeping things moving. Read my article about why fiber is essential to the gluten-free diet, and the best foods for keeping things moving smoothly through your digestive track.
Eat Less Meat: Too many people think eating meat is healthy, but I assure you, meat is not a health food. Meat is an inflammatory, highly acidic food. When you eat meat, you can sway your body’s delicate ph balance to slightly acidic (which is ripe for disease) instead of perfectly alkaline. Meat is also low in fiber and often tough to break down fully (just think about how much work goes into fully chewing a piece of steak!). Common sense tells us that larger particles of food take longer for your body to break down, digest and eliminate.
Exercise: Go for a walk after you eat to help food move down through your digestive system (gravity can help!). Studies show that a brief 15 minute walk after a meal can aid in digestion as well as improve blood sugar control.
Drink Plenty of Water: Water will help flush toxins from your body, so drink plenty of it. It’s zero calories and free. And it will help encourage gluten out of your digestive system faster. Bottoms up!
Don’t Sip While You Eat: While you need to drink plenty of water, don’t do it while you eat. Your stomach acid works hard to break down your food. This “fire” in your belly helps break down large particles of food into digestible bits. However, if you pour water on the “fire,” your digestive juices won’t be as strong. Wait 30 minutes after you eat to drink before putting out your digestive “fire.” This will vastly improve your digestion in the long run.
As you can see, the digestive system is an amazing system that help us break down food into the fuel our bodies need. Unfortunately, if you cannot eat gluten, and you accidently did so, your body will go into a little shock and take some time to get over it.
Follow my tips to recovering from an accidental glutening, work hard at improving your digestive system in the long-run, and remember, this, too, shall pass (literally).