Cross contamination

Cross contamination

Help I have eaten gluten by mistake!

If you have coeliac disease, or are sensitive to gluten, the effects of accidentally consuming gluten will vary from person to person and depend upon how much gluten has been eaten, how sensitive you are and also how long you have been on a gluten free diet.

Reactions to gluten can vary from severe, unpleasant reactions which can develop quickly to those where the person does not even realise they have eaten gluten.

However, for people with coeliac disease who only experience a minor reaction to accidentally consuming gluten, it is important that a strict gluten free diet is still followed as the gluten still causes damage to the lining of the gut. By following a strict gluten free diet, the risk of long-term health complications associated with coeliac disease such as osteoporosis is reduced.

Case study

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Taken from a discussion in the DS-gluten free forum;

"Both me and my sister are coeliac, but both have very different symptoms when we have been 'glutened'.
She has been suffering for several years and generally has terrible stomach pains and is either sick or has diarrhoea within a few hours of eating anything containing gluten. Generally after a good sleep and some fluids she feels a lot better.

I on the other hand take between 12 and 24 hours to establish a reaction, and unfortunately for me I get horrific bladder pain and this can last for days at a time, and can be so painful that I am unable to function normally at all. Even once it starts to subside it takes about a week for my bladder to feel normal again. Because of the reaction I get it took a long time for the diagnosis because the doctors just kept prescribing me antibiotics for UTIs even though there were no bacteria present... I also have dermatitis herpetiformis."

What do I do if I have eaten gluten?

The important thing is to remember that following a gluten free diet is a learning process, try to define what it is that you ate that contained gluten or where cross contamination has taken place and avoid it in future. There is no specific treatment if you have eaten gluten by mistake it is just a case of waiting until the gluten leaves your system and continuing to follow a strict gluten free diet in the future.

Preventing gluten contamination in the future

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Gluten contamination or cross-contamination occurs when gluten free food comes into contact with food that does contain gluten. For someone diagnosed with Coeliac Disease or following a gluten free diet coming into contact with gluten can cause an adverse reaction.

Reducing the risk of cross contamination in the home:

  • Wipe surfaces after preparing foods containing gluten
  • Wash hands before handling gluten free food, especially after other food preparation
  • Cook gluten free food in separate pots and pans and serve with separate utensils
  • Use a separate toaster or toaster bags for gluten free bread, available from most major supermarkets. We would recommend the tostbag-500 from Lakeland.
  • Use separate containers for butter, jam etc. as knives can transfer crumbs from regular bread

Out of home:

  • Keep a few gluten free snacks (Schär portion packed biscuits are ideal) at work, in your car or handbag for any time of day
  • If your holiday involves a flight, try to pre-arrange a gluten free meal
  • When eating out explain your situation to waiting staff and ask them if they can check the ingredients of dishes with the chef
  • The website GlutenfreeRoads lists coeliac friendly hotels, pubs, restaurants and even places to shop and stay worldwide. Members can register to receive updates of gluten-free places in their local area and post reviews.