Millions of people avoid gluten, a protein found in wheat-based foods. The most common sources of gluten include bread, pasta, cereals, beer and cake.
Those with coeliac disease and specific autoimmune conditions are required to avoid gluten. This is because the body attacks the gluten, causing inflammation, gut distress and unpleasant symptoms.
However, estimates show that 12% of the population voluntarily avoids gluten.
New research from Norway suggests that it is not gluten that causes a problem. It’s fructan, a FODMAP found in carbohydrates.
What are fructans?
Fructans are short-chain carbohydrates that belong to the FODMAP family. This carbohydrate type can cause uncomfortable symptoms for those with irritable bowel syndrome.
Common sources include:
If you experience bloating, pain and an upset bowel, you may have a fructan intolerance.
What about non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS)?
NCGS (aka gluten intolerance) describes a reaction to wheat-containing foods without a diagnosis of coeliac disease. Yes, this is real, but it’s rare.
Research shows that 16% of people that respond positively to a gluten-free diet are genuinely sensitive. The remainder of people suffer from other sensitivities (the common being fructan) or a placebo response.
So why do you feel better on a gluten-free diet?
The answer is straightforward!
Gluten-free foods are automatically low in fructans. So when people follow a gluten-free diet they’re cutting out fructans and finding symptom relief.
So what’s the problem with following a gluten-free diet?
A gluten-free diet can be an overly restrictive approach to reducing your fructan intake. For instance, you’d be unnecessarily cutting out sourdough, soy sauce and beer.
Another issue is that a gluten-free diet would not solve all of your digestive issues, and in some cases make them worse! This is because you would need to avoid specific high-fibre products, which act to strengthen your gut health.
Lastly, it may increase your overall sugar intake. A gluten-free diet is generally higher in carbohydrates, due to the removal of protein (gluten) and the replacement of sugar. If you’re at risk or live with diabetes, unnecessarily swapping to a gluten-free diet can have devastating impacts.
So where to from here?
If you suffer from digestive symptoms after bread, garlic, dates or cashews… you likely have fructan intolerance.
To confirm a diagnosis you need to touch base with a dietitian or your local GP. From here, education and a personalised meal plan can be tailored to your intolerances.
If you’re after one-on-one support, I would be more than happy to help you. Follow the link on my booking page to get in touch.
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