Look for Gluten… or Rather Fructans
Many people choose to eliminate gluten for all kinds of reasons. The most common one? To improve their well-being and stop digestive disorders. A large majority of these people see their symptoms improving. It is, therefore, easy to make a direct link between stopping gluten consumption and the reduction of symptoms. Hence the name non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS).
But is gluten really the ingredient causing symptoms?
New scientific evidence has identified that fructans (a type of carbohydrate found in some foods that also contain gluten) might actually be responsible for the gastrointestinal symptoms that have been attributed to gluten thus far.
Gluten vs. Fructans
What is the difference between gluten and fructan? In fact, they are two completely different molecules. Gluten is a protein found in some grain products including barley, rye, oats (if not labeled gluten-free), wheat (BROW is often used as a mnemonic to remember cereals that contain gluten).
Fructans, on the other hand, are carbohydrates. They are part of the FODMAPs* family, short-chain carbohydrates that ferment in the digestive system and cause gastrointestinal symptoms. They can be found in cereal products that contain gluten, but also in many fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts.
The main foods containing fructan are nectarines, peaches and watermelon, onions and garlic, wheat, barley and rye, kidney beans, pistachios and cashews.
So What Do We Do?
As in many cases, there is no single solution, or one type of diet, that works for everyone…
If you eliminate gluten from your diet and have seen an improvement in your intestinal well-being, but without completely fixing the problem, it may be worth exploring the low FODMAP diet. In this way, you will be able to identify the “real” foods responsible for your symptoms and then reintroduce certain foods into your diet over time.
*FODMAPs are fermentable carbohydrates that are partly responsible for causing symptoms in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). For more info, read this article.
- Leonard, MM., Sapone, A., Catassi, C. and Fasano, A. (august 2017). Celiac Disease and Nonceliac Gluten Sensitivity: A Review. JAMA, 318(7):647-656. DOI: 10.1001/jama.2017.9730
- Skodje, GI., et al. (november 2017). Fructan, Rather Than GLuten, Induces Symptoms in Patients With Self-Reported Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity. Gastroenterology. DOI:10.1053/j.gastro.2017.10.040