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Your GI Distress May Not Be Due to Gluten

Diarrhea, bloating, gas -- just some of the uncomfortable symptoms associated with eating gluten -- may not be caused just by the gluten protein molecule in wheat, barley, and rye.

Researchers in Australia conducted two small trials that appear to show that fructan, a carbohydrate found in wheat, seems to be more often responsible for such gastrointestinal distress than gluten, the problematic protein found in wheat. The study targeted 37 subjects with non-celiac gluten sensitivity and irritible bowel syndrome (IBS), not celiac disease. 

Fructan is one of a group of carbohydrates called FODMAPS, which besides wheat are also in fruit, dairy and legumes. FODMAPS stand for: Fermentable Oligo-Di-Monosaccharides and Polyols.  Gastroenterologists recognize these carbs as a culprit in the discomfort felt by many of their patients with IBS.   Often these symptoms appear as gas, diarrhea, distention, etc.  Most folks can digest FODMAPs with no problem, but for many, they are only partially absorbed by the small intestine and what remains becomes "fermented" by bacteria which produces gas and some of those really uncomfortable symptoms.

The doctors at Monash University discovered that patients put on a low FODMAP diet felt better, but worsened after the diet included gluten.  It appeared that only 8% had negative effects due to gluten.

The jury on the research is still out, however, as skeptics point out that the symptoms worsened in all patients when gluten was returned to their diet.  People may be experiencing a "wheat intolerance" ; the question remains, is it due to a protein or carbohydrate?

To find out what might be causing problems in your gut, check out GFP's Low FODMAP Diet Overview.  

Sources: NPR blog, the Salt, green; Gastroenterology

Pamela Hasterok