Accidentally Ingesting Gluten - Celiac Disease
Feb 18 2013

Accidentally Ingesting Gluten

My husband and I went out for a belated Valentine’s Day dinner on Saturday night at one of our favorite restaurants.  We dine at this establishment regularly, and we have been there many times since we began dating over 16 years ago.  It is truly “our place”.  Ninety percent of the time, I order the same thing.  While they do have enticing specials from time to time, I love filet mignon, and this place specializes in steaks. 


Saturday night started out like any other night.  We perused the menu and decided to order our “regular” meal.  We each order a dinner salad and then split a 12 oz. filet, large baked potato and steamed broccoli.  This allows us both to fully enjoy the meal, but not leave feeling stuffed.  It also allows me to order and enjoy one of my all-time favorite desserts – flourless chocolate cake. 

When my cake was served, my husband mentioned it looked smaller than it normally does.  I was okay with that, as I didn’t need a huge piece of cake.  It is extremely dense and fudgy, so a little goes a long way.  Additionally, the last time we dined here, we were there for a catered function, and they use a different version of the same cake for those events.  I dug into and fully enjoyed the entire piece of cake, oohing and aahing the whole way. 

As we left the restaurant and were driving home, I received a phone call from the general manager of the establishment.  She was calling to inform me that they had made an unfortunate mistake when serving me my dessert.  During busy holiday seasons (Valentine’s Day), they often order in desserts from an outside supplier because of the high demand.  It seems that the flourless chocolate cake that is not made on site does contain flour (gluten) in the crust, though it is marketed as “flourless”.  While the restaurant does have both versions in house, the one that is ordered in is used to cover the excess demand.  My server rang in and ordered the truly gluten-free version, but the person who delivered the dessert to me grabbed the wrong one.  Unfortunately the error wasn’t caught until after I had eaten the dessert and left for home. 

The manager was horrified and extremely apologetic.  She was calling to make me aware of the incident and to alert me so that if there was anything I could do to avoid a reaction, I could take immediate action.  I haven’t been through an experience where I have known that the food I just ate did in fact contain gluten, so I didn’t have a plan to put into action.  All I could do was hope and pray that I would not spend the rest of the night in the bathroom.  My brilliant teen son, Jon (also Celiac), suggested I go crazy and eat a bunch of gluten since I knew I had already ingested some.  No, thank you! – I’ll pass!

I am not going to lie; – the next few hours were long.  I did my best to keep my mind off of what happened, as I couldn’t go back in time and change it.  I went on about my evening and drank a ton of water.  One of the things I noticed within an hour was that my ears got a foggy/fuzzy feeling.  It is really hard to describe.  That is not my normal reaction, of which I will kindly spare you the details.  That feeling continued overnight and into the next day and spread to my head. 

When I shared my experience with friends on Facebook, I received some suggestions of what to do to lessen the reaction.  I didn’t have any of the below items on hand, but I plan on stocking up, because unfortunately this will very likely happen again.  So I choose to be realistic and be prepared. 

  • Epsom salt bath – Pulls out poisons
  • Gluten Defense or Gluten Ease – Enzymatic therapy to help break down gluten.  This is NOT a magic pill, but rather a tool to help with accidental gluten ingestion.
  • Drink water and lots of it

I am not going to identify the restaurant where this occurred because this was truly an accident and not the point of this blog post.  The manager immediately gathered the staff and lectured them on the importance of safety when serving those with food allergies and Celiac Disease.  She assured me that they will go above and beyond to see that this does not happen again.  I realize there are risks every time I eat out when the establishment is not 100% gluten-free; such restaurants are rare.  I choose (and it is a personal choice) to live and enjoy my life and take precautions where necessary. 

What is your go-to remedy if you accidentally ingest gluten?  Have you ever found out before experiencing symptoms?  How did you address the situation?

Article Written by:

Kyle Eslick is the founder of Gluten Free Media, as well as the creator of the popular Celiac Support Groups page. Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and now Google+!


  1. Katie Cameron says:

    Gluten Defense is the only thing I know that might help. You didn’t have any gastrointestinal reactions? Just your ears? Sounds impossible for a celiac patient. So happy for you but confused.

    • My impression is that some people with celiac NEVER have gastrointestinal reactions. There’s a whole gamut of symptoms people can have. Maybe it’s unusual not to react with GI symptoms when that’s what someone is used to experiencing, but everyone and every time is different, right?

      • Catherine Rapoport says:

        Please be aware that in Europe people are Dx as Celiacs for lesser sxs than in the United States. I do have all type of gastrointestinal symptoms when I consume Gluten… Extermely embarrasing … for more than 20 years I was diagnosed with IBS… which it was not correct… taking medication that made me feel worst. Once I started a gluten free diet the sxs were gone…

    • Janelle says:

      Some people have few, if any, GI symptoms! It’s really hard for me to tell if I’ve been glutened. Sometimes I wish that I did have more symptoms so that I could know if I accidentally ingested gluten.

    • Katie,

      One thing I have learned over the years since being diagnosed (and subsequently having my son diagnosed) is that my reactions have changed. Foggy head and dizziness is a common gluten reaction for many. What I do know is that I didn’t feel well and the only different food that I ate was when we dined out that night.


      • Katie Cameron says:

        I am so grateful for these forums, so I can continue to learn. Kimberly, you and your followers have been so knowledgeable and it helps me be a better mom to a celiac daughter. Thanks so much!

  2. Jennifer says:

    Thank you very much for the epsom salt idea! I’ve tried the others and like to have as many options on hand as possible!

  3. Just wanted to say that I’m sorry this happened to you, especially on a special occasion, but that I appreciate your reasonable reaction! Mistakes happen and sometimes I think there’s too much of a tendency to fly off the handle instead of accepting a (sincere) apology.

    • Molly,

      I have learned over the years to appreciate the honesty when a mistake is made (not just with gluten, but in life). Life is too short to get angry over something like this. What I hope is that the restaurant and staff learned from this – not only how to keep their customers safe – but that honesty is always the best policy.


  4. Krysten H says:

    So sorry you got sick! When I first got gluten truly out of my system, that is how my accidental glutening began with the weird dizzy head thing. After a few years when I would accidentally get some that weird spacy headache lasts longer. I actually had a couple weeks with that feeling plus the other unpleasantness that comes with gluten. Hope you feel better soon.

  5. Ann says:

    Hope you are feeling alright today. I am impressed that the restaurant did the right thing and called you.

  6. Elissa says:

    It was really awesome that the general manager called you! That is a step in the right direction. That person really bit the bullet and made a call that would be hard to make.

  7. Cathi Gross, Ventura, CA says:

    I have to say I am impressed with the resturant you ate at. I would personally go to that resturant because of it’s honesty. Last night my husband and I were eating at a new resturant down in L.A. and the waitress herself caught a mistake before I did and quickly took care of it, before I ever had to say anything. I will go back there because of her quick response and concern for me.

  8. Christin Acchione says:

    Drink a lot of water, bone broth and take Advil for the migraine.

  9. Sue Goedert says:

    The best thing I’ve found for allergic response is Alka Seltzer. A friend shared that with me probably 20 years ago, and it’s always been wonderful if I got MSG. With Gluten, it doesn’t fully stop the whole thing but it does let me continue life a lot sooner… I still get the IBS symptoms, but not as bad and the horrible smells dissipate faster. Hope that helps!

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