The benefits of gluten-free diets have been prescribed and understood for years for people whose digestive systems can’t handle the ingredient. It has long been followed by people who suffer from celiac disease or a doctor diagnosed non-celiac gluten sensitivity, but is becoming much more popular in those with self diagnosed sensitivities as well. While the diet is crucial for some, many doctors are advising against self diagnosing sensitivities and starting a gluten-free diet. For those without a diagnosis of celiac or a sensitivity, it might not even be gluten that’s causing gastrointestinal discomfort.
What’s Causing My Gastrointestinal Distress?
Due in part to increased knowledge and understanding of this diet for those who require it, gluten has become a buzzword and an easy ingredient to blame for discomfort, bloating, or gastrointestinal distress. Gluten is found in many foods, most notably wheat products like bread and pasta, baked goods, or other common grains. It can also be found in less obvious places like seasonings, sauces, soups, or even candy. For those who experience discomfort after eating those foods, gluten seems like the easy answer. However, there is another ingredient found in similar sources that could be responsible for this discomfort. Fructan, a carbohydrate found in wheat and certain veggies, could be the source. A study conducted at the University of Oslo in Norway and Monash University in Australia analyzed the two different ingredients to establish a connection between them and the effects that many people were reporting.
The study followed 59 participants who had chosen to eat gluten-free diets, none of which had been diagnosed with celiac disease. All participants were on self-instituted gluten-free diets due to a self diagnosed or assumed sensitivity. Over the course of roughly a year and a half, researchers followed the participants as they ate muesli bars and recording their digestive reactions. The double blind study was divided into three groups, each eating the bars that contained either gluten, fructan, or a placebo. They ate one of the bars for seven days, then took seven days off from eating them, and moved to a different group after that time had passed. They recorded their symptoms on the GSRS-IBS scale, which measures gastrointestinal symptoms. When the results were analyzed, the researchers found that the bars containing fructan caused the most severe reactions in comparison to the gluten containing or placebo bars.
What Does All Of This Mean?
While this study was certainly an interesting one, and may indicate a need for further research, it doesn’t mean that you should automatically go out and change your diet. Any patient who is on a doctor prescribed gluten-free diet should maintain it unless otherwise directed. What we should take away from the study is that there is often more to gastrointestinal discomfort than meets the eye. If you’re experiencing pain, bloating, or discomfort, especially after eating certain foods, make an appointment to visit Associates In Digestive Health so we can help you determine the source and how we can help. You should also follow your diet and keep track of what foods affect you in order for us to aid in a diagnosis. For some, keeping a food journal with corresponding symptoms is helpful as you can track trends. Whatever the cause, our goal is to take that pain out of your life and help you focus on being healthy.