There's unfortunately no easy way to ease the misery of a glutening once your body's reaction gets set in motion, it generally needs to run its course (learn more in What Happens When You Get Glutened?).
However, there are some basic ways to help yourself feel better during the process. A while ago, I asked my readers on Facebook to share their best approaches to gluten recovery. Here's what they told me:
- Rest, rest, rest. For many of us, the overwhelming fatigue of a glutening trumps all the other symptoms in the "most miserable" category. Lots of readers say they simply take to their beds when they get glutened. "Rest!!!!" says Sharon. "I treat it just like flu. Warm bath, lots of fluids, lots of rest. It generally passes in 48 hours or so."
- Get out and exercise. Counterintuitive? Maybe not if you suffer from gluten-induced sleep problems (as so many of us do), exercise can help you sleep. Just don't try to set any records or pick up a new activity: if you do yoga, Melissa recommends practicing it, while Love says easy jogging can help — assuming you're already a runner. I find a simple, short walk in the fresh air can improve my mood and help me sleep that night.
- Clean up your diet. Your grandmother might have recommended chicken soup for all that ails you, and readers agree: Chicken soup is a good choice when you're suffering from a glutening. Just make sure it's gluten-free (and many also preferred organic). Other popular dietary choices include fresh, homemade juices (Paula makes vegetable juice with ginger, which is said to have beneficial effects on your digestive system), quinoa (which would be easy on a queasy stomach and would suit the carb craving many experience with a glutening), and a little extra protein.
- Drink lots of water. My body seems to crave water when I get glutened in fact, unusual thirst is frequently my first sign of a glutening. Amy agrees: "I drink LOTS of water, since I get very dehydrated." Try to keep a water bottle or a cup of water near you at all times, and sip whenever you think of it this way, you drink more without really trying.
- Avoid caffeine. This is a tough one for me ... actually, the truth is, this is impossible for me. When I get glutened, I must have caffeine or I cannot function. But one reader noted that caffeine can make you feel more tired as its effects wear off, and that she actually feels better if she goes without. Caffeine (when consumed in large quantities) can also be dehydrating. If you can give it up, it might help.
- Take probiotics. There's little medical research backing up the use of probiotics in celiac disease (and absolutely none for non-celiac gluten sensitivity). However, the question of how the microorganisms in our guts influence our health is quite hot right now. Several readers recommend taking gluten-free probiotics to speed glutening recovery.
- Dip into a hot bath, possibly with Epsom salts. "Baths are always my first go-to heal time," says Rachel. Other readers recommended adding Epsom salts to the bath Epsom salts contain magnesium, an important element in your body's energy production, and there's a bit of evidence indicating magnesium can be absorbed through the skin when you add Epsom salts to your bath water. (Full disclosure: I've tried this, and it did make me feel better...but it could have just been the soothing effects of the hot bath.)
- Indulge in a sauna. If you have access to a sauna, at least two readers raved about saunas for glutening detox. "I found that going to a hot steam sauna helps soooo much!" said Emily. "It may be my little secret but no more!! Try it!" On the other hand, some report not doing well with saunas, which goes to show how individual our reactions (and recoveries) can be.
- Wear comfortable clothes. And by this, I mean the comfiest, largest pants and top in your wardrobe. Now is most definitely not the time to sport anything form-fitting or (gasp!) revealing calling attention to your bloated gut will just make you feel worse (even if you're really the only one who notices). "Dress for comfort when you're glutened, not for looks," says Deana. Most definitely.
More on glutenings and how to recover: