GF Resources, Healthy Living, New York City, Travel

The Glutening

18 Comments 24 May 2016

The Glutening

It began the way most of my favorite New York evenings begin. A much anticipated evening with friends, a train ride with laughter, a new restaurant selected, and theater tickets. This evening was particularly exciting, because our train was taking us out of the city to see a play starring a friend of ours. When I made these plans, I had no idea that the evening would end with a pineapple-infused cloud of impending doom hovering over my head.

The Glutening

I’m not going to slam this restaurant. I’m not even going to mention its name. Despite the fact that I was horribly glutened, the waitstaff and manager did the best they could in the moment, and they did comp the entire dinner for four.

We selected this cute little pizza joint because they had gluten-free pasta, not pizza, but pasta, and it was walking distance to the theater. My friends ordered pizza, and I ordered the gluten-free pasta. I clearly ordered gluten-free pasta. When the pizzas arrived, I assumed my pasta would follow shortly. When my friends had almost finished their pizza, I inquired about my order. “Don’t worry,” the waiter reassured. “Gluten-free pasta takes a little longer to prepare.”

I felt confidentbecause clearly the waiter remembered that I had ordered gluten-free. Clearly the staff knew enough to prepare a new pot of water instead of tossing gluten-free pasta into boiling poisonous wheat water. I sipped my wine, and minutes later a plate of pasta was placed in front of me. I didn’t even question whether this dish was mine. I was the only one without food, I had just asked about my meal, and this plate was served to ME. Clearly, it was mine.

The first bite only served to verify that this pasta was gluten free, because it was a bit chewy like bad gluten-free pasta. It wasn’t going to be a great meal, but I wasn’t going to complain. At least they offered a gluten-free option. I was a little confused about the sauce as it didn’t seem like the marinara and veggies that I’d normally order, but I had hemmed and hawed over the three vegetarian options on the menu. Maybe I didn’t realize I’d ordered a dark sauce. It was marked gluten-free, so I didn’t worry.

I ate the entire plate of pasta minus a few spoonfuls shared with those who wanted a taste. As soon as I put my fork on my cleared plate, a waitress appeared announcing, “And here’s the gluten-free pasta!”

That’s when my memory gets a little fuzzy.

I remember the waitress confirming that I’d just eaten a full plate of gluten-filled wheat pasta.

I remember involuntarily saying a word that I never say.

I remember everyone asking me, “What’s going to happen to you?”

I had no earthly idea what was going to happen to me. I hadn’t ingested that much gluten since before going gluten free 12 years ago. Was I going to get violently ill? Did I need to take the hour-long train ride home right now instead of staying for the show? Did I need to remain close to a bathroom? Was this going to get ugly and embarrassing?

I remember the waiter asking, “What can I get for you?”

He wanted to bring me more pasta on the house! That wasn’t going to make anything better. And I wasn’t going to put another piece of food in my stomach since I had no idea if the food already in there was going to stay put.

I remember the waitress suddenly realizing the severity of the issue and saying, “I will go to CVS and get whatever you need!”

I remember the Husband flying like a superhero to the manager. Their words were lost in the buzzing restaurant noise as the waitstaff swirled around my already spinning head. I just needed them to leave me alone so I could think. And within 60 seconds of hearing the news that sent this perfect New York evening careening off the magical evening track and into unknown waters, my head cleared enough to have the wisest thought of the evening.

I remembered Shirley. I had a blessed vision of Shirley. If you’ve been gluten-free for more than 12 seconds, you most likely already know Shirley of Gluten Free Easily. Shirley is the mama of the gluten-free bloggers, the teacher of newbie gluten-free eaters, and an inspiration to the gluten-free community as she demonstrates to her readers, year after year, that eating gluten free is easy, healthy, and delicious if you focus on foods that are naturally gluten-free. And I’m lucky enough to have Shirley as a friend.

The Rescue

I sent an SOS email to Shirley. Then the Husband and I walked to CVS and found this.


I’d never purchased the product before, but I was desperate to try anything that could help. The directions said to take the capsules before ingesting gluten. A little late for that, and confused as to why anyone with a gluten problem would willingly ingest gluten, but I figured it couldn’t hurt and I downed four capsules before even finishing the transaction with the cashier.

By the time we walked to the theater, my phone buzzed with a message from Shirley! With 8 minutes until the show started, my superhero Husband flew back to CVS to get Shirley’s recommended activated charcoal capsules and pineapple juice.

When was the last time that you purchased pineapple juice? At least at CVS, it still comes in a gigantic can that requires that special pointy-tipped can opener that you may remember from snack time in preschool. CVS didn’t have one of those. But the manager found a regular can opener for sale on a shelf and let the Husband borrow it to start the opening process. He ran with a semi-opened can of sticky juice to the theater parking lot.

This was the next step. Two minutes before show time, standing in the rain, we dripped the juice from the can into a water bottle so that I could smuggle it into the theater. Frustration and anxiety turned to hilarity as we realized that at this drip rate we’d be lucky to get to the show by intermission. Thankfully, my superhero made the hole a little larger with a key.


We did make the show, during which my friend wowed us all with her talent, and I slugged water and straight pineapple juice until I got home.

The Recovery

I firmly believe that Shirley’s timely answer to my frantic email took days off my recovery time. The pineapple juice provided enzymes to break down the gluten, and the activated charcoal helped to absorb it.

For the next week, my body was shock. I wasn’t hungry. I didn’t feel sick to my stomach. I didn’t feel like I had a digestive system at all. When I’ve been glutened in the past from cross-contamination, my biggest symptoms have been irritability, tiredness, and a brain fog that lasted a day or maybe two. This time, I felt like I had mono. I woke up exhausted after sleeping for 8-10 hours each night. Moving from the bed to the couch felt like I had just climbed a flight of stairs. The weirdest symptom I had was the sensation that my entire body was buzzing. If I had a normal job, I would have taken multiple days off. But I taught school that week through a mental haze because there was something I had to take care of each day that was beyond the scope of a substitute teacher. So I fumbled for words, lost papers in front of my face, and did the best I could to shape the minds of our future. I really can’t remember much of that week, sorry students. Thankfully I have great support teachers that helped me keep the class running.

And I had Shirley’s wise counsel ringing in my ears to take care of myself. I came home by 4:00pm each day and napped with Maggie until bedtime.


I continued taking enzymes, activated charcoal, probiotics, epsom salt baths, and I flooded my body with juices and water. Just when I was wondering if I’d ever feel like myself again, some energy and clearer thinking returned. It took six days for any improvement. I still don’t think I’m back to normal. Shirley warned me that it could take weeks, not to be discouraging, but to remind me to be patient and take time to take care of me. So I’m listening to my body, getting lots of rest, and eating well.

I want to thank my two superheroes. My number one hero is always the Husband. I’ll never forget him running to my rescue with a dripping can of pineapple juice. My number two hero is Shirley. After my brain fog lifted I remembered that Shirley wrote a post in 2011 called How to Recover After Being Glutened that you must read so you’re prepared for that inevitable moment when you will say, “What do you mean this isn’t gluten free?”

Your Comments

18 Comments so far

  1. Lynne L says:

    Oh wow so sorry to hear about your misadventure! I totally forgot about pineapple juice although I remembered activated charvoal. L-Glutamine helps tremendously & I carry it with me. Also digestive enzymes. It hits me differently…Montezuma’s revenge, nausea, cramps & brain fog. Must get some more charcoal just in case. I can’t believe they served you regular pasta!
    Yay for Shirley…she’s 1 of my heroes too! Stay well! -Lynne

    • Heather says:

      Lynne, thanks for the L-Glutamine tip. I was so glad to read that as I take it every morning. I am so thankful for all of the tips that Shirley and her site gave me. I truly believe it cut the duration of the worst of it.

  2. Linda says:

    Oh, Heather! I’m so sorry that happened to you. You are right that your husband and Shirley are both heroes. But so are you for going to work that week! I pray you continue to feel better, and I look forward to seeing you in July!

  3. Kathy says:

    So sorry to hear of your experience. I am sending you much love and light hoping you’ll start to feel better soon. Cats are the best! They heal us deeply and quickly. Hang in there and thank you so much for all that you shared to help us all. XO

    • Heather says:

      I am feeling so much better, thank you, Kathy. Our cats have always been super sensitive to illness. It’s like they can sense we aren’t feeling well and snuggle up. Or maybe its more like, “Look, she’s actually sitting still for a minute!”

  4. pdw says:

    The pineapple juice would send me into anaphylaxis, which would not be the least bit helpful! Hope you’re feeling 100% soon.

  5. Courtney says:

    Oh boo, Heather! So sorry! I’d be SO terrified if I ate that much gluten in one sitting. Using a shared toaster is enough to send me to bed (and the bathroom…) for a day and a half.

    Interested to try the pineapple juice/charcoal remedy when and if I have a run-in again. (Though I hope it’s a LONG time from now!)

    Glad you’re on the mend. You’re a hero for teaching through it!

    • Heather says:

      Oh Courtney, you would’ve been out for weeks. I know how sensitive you are. Shirley recommended keeping the activated charcoal capsules in my purse in the future. Done!

  6. Debi says:

    *big gentle hugs to you* I HATE that this happened to you. I actually had a place tell me something I wanted to order was safe. I was shoveling it in my face when Chaz noticed there were vermicelli noodles in it. It took 10 minutes for someone in the kitchen to tell me that they were made with wheat. It’s a real beotch, but I’m glad you’re on the mend!

    • Heather says:

      Thanks, Debi. Our experiences just confirm that we can’t ask too many questions. I always feel like an annoyance when I order. Do I really need to confirm that the gf pasta will be boiled in a fresh pot of water? YES!

      Feeling MUCH better. Thank you!!

  7. Johnna says:

    So sorry this happened to you! I cannot imagine the panic that would follow. Glad you are starting to feel a bit better.

  8. Oh my god… that’s crazy. You are a big person to not mention the restaurant in this post. I think you should send them the post though… they really need to know that this is NOT OK.
    I’m so sorry you had to go through this. Wow.
    I’m gluten free, but I have it from time to time and get minor symptoms for the most part. I can’t imagine having an entire plate of pasta like that though.
    Thanks for sharing this post – I didn’t realize there were things to do when you accidentally have gluten. I’m so glad that Shirley was able to respond so quickly!
    I’m glad you’re finally feeling a little better. *hugs*

    • Heather says:

      You know, Kimmy, the restaurant is in such a tiny town that I didn’t even want to mention the town or it would be clear which restaurant it was. They just bent over backwards afterwards to do everything they possibly could to make things right. One waitress even wanted to give me her cell phone number so I could call her later and tell her that I was okay!
      I love your idea about sharing this post with them though. If it could tighten up their gluten-free serving procedures and help future celiacs it would be completely worth it. Thanks for the idea!

  9. Thanks so much for your very generous words, Heather! I agree with Linda though. You’re the biggest hero here for managing to teach after being MAJORLY glutened. Amazing! Glad that you had your hero husband there to be your rock, too. That means the world! I love that Maggie also helped you get through the worst of it. Learning to let go and give in as you heal can be a hard thing to do, but knowing one’s fur baby will be there with you definitely makes the giving in part much easier! Hope you’re getting more and more back to normal each day, dear.


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A Curious Girl in the Gluten-Free World

I'm a curious girl, wife, teacher, fitness fanatic, gluten-free foodie, high-raw vegan, and Mama Cat living in NYC. I've made the transition from baking and cooking gluten-free to creating raw vegan recipes that are naturally gluten free. My gluten intolerance opened up my diet to a whole new world of nutritious plant-based foods. While I'm not 100% vegan, it's my favorite way to eat, and making and sharing raw foods makes me giddy. Living in the City has its joys and challenges, and I enjoy sharing my experiences with you.

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