Maybe gluten isn’t the problem? A gluten-free diet is a diet which has many people experiencing a massive reduction in their gastrointestinal symptoms. They report that their bloating, indigestion, pain and bowel functions all improve when they avoid gluten.
There has been a lot of debate about the validity of gluten intolerance in those who are not diagnosed as having Celiac disease. The medical community now recognises that Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS) is a condition that many people suffer from.
But is gluten solely responsible for all your digestive woes?
Gluten is the protein found in grains such as wheat, rye, barley, spelt, farro, Kamut and bulghur. In the past few years, scientists have begun to suspect that there may be other elements in these grains which are causing digestive issues.
What they have found is that a group of sugars, collectively referred to as FODMAPs, are causing much gripe when it comes to gut health. When too many FODMAP containing foods are eaten, they ferment in the gut, resulting in bloating, pain, gas, reflux and altered bowel motions in those who are sensitive to them.
FODMAPs refer to fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols, which are all sugars in which humans don’t possess the enzymes to digest them.
FODMAPs include the fructose found in fruits and vegetables, the lactose in dairy products, the galactans in legumes, and the fructans in wheat and rye (as well as in other foods like artichokes, asparagus, leeks, garlic, and onions).
Fructans are found in many of the same grains as gluten. This is what led scientists to explore how fructan effected those with NCGS.
*image source Monash University
In a placebo-controlled, crossover study participants were given food that had either gluten, fructans or neither. What was found was that the participants reported more digestive symptoms from the fructan food than either gluten or placebo. Another interesting result was that the participants were in the placebo group, meaning no gluten or fructan, they reported more symptoms than when eating gluten.
If you suspect that fructan may be causing your symptoms, then avoid the following foods for 2 weeks. After this, reintroduce them one by one and see how you react. To determine if it is gluten or fructans, introduce foods that contain fructan, but not gluten and see how you feel.
FRUCTAN CONTAINING FOODS
Spelt (currently Spelt is listed as being low in fructans when made from Australian spelt)
If you are eating traditionally fermented sourdough bread from these grains, most of the fructans will be eliminated as they are eating by the yeast during the fermentation process. Gluten is also reduced in a two-day fermentation process to make sourdough bread.
Fibre-enriched foods or foods containing inulin
Another little thought to consider… If you do react to fructans then you need to assess how you tolerate fructose. Fructose is the sugar found in fruits and can cause bloating, pain, gas and reflux in those who can’t tolerate it. Fructans are made up of fructose molecules, so if you react to fructans then chances are you might react to fructose too. Likewise, if you know that you react to fructose, then you should experiment with removing fructans from your diet.
This doesn’t mean that you need to avoid fruit, you just need to limit the amount of high fructose-containing fruits.
This includes –
It can be a mine-field trying to decipher if you have a food intolerance, and what it is that you might be reacting to. The gold standard for food intolerance testing is the elimination diet. There is no clear scientific evidence for the validation of blood tests to determine food intolerances. You are best to work with a qualified health practitioner who can guide you along your journey of tolerance testing.
Oh and another thing to consider.
When it comes to assessing gluten intolerance, studies have shown that consuming organic grains that contain gluten are far less reactive than the non-organic equivalent.
This is due to the spraying of glyphosate (Round-Up) on crops to dry them out before harvesting. It has shown that glyphosates reduce our ability to digest gluten. Glyphosate kills bacteria, and it preferentially kills the good bacteria in your gut. One of those is bifidobacteria, which are needed to digest gluten. When they’re destroyed by glyphosate, then the wheat suffers not being fully digested properly, such that it remains in the allergenic forms in your gut and causes this reaction.
So before you give up on gluten altogether, experiment with organic wheat compared to non-organic wheat. Choosing organic is always to better choice as it supports better farming practices and reducing your chemical load.
Having said this, gluten will induce a temporary state of intestinal permeability (leaky gut) in EVERY SINGLE PERSON who consumes it. When we are constantly eating gluten at most meals, you run the risk of developing a permanent state of intestinal permeability. This in itself is a major cause of food intolerance, and a whole other topic to write about.
Is it time that you try and crack the code to your food intolerances? Grab a copy of my Elimination Diet E-book to guide you through a comprehensive elimination diet to reveal any potential food intolerances that you might have.