Gluten sensitivity may be a carb sensitivity instead

Gluten free food

Gluten-free diets are all the rage, with many people reporting improvements in their health after ditching wheat and other gluten-containing foods like barley and rye. Many people assumed, and doctors believed, they had a sensitivity to gluten not unlike those who suffer from celiac disease. But new research indicates that gluten may not be the bad guy for everyone.

NPR's The Salt reports on new science by researchers who have been trying to unlock the secrets of the gluten conundrum. These scientists and doctors are "increasingly convinced of two key things: One is that the number of people who are truly non-celiac gluten sensitive is probably very small. Second, they say that the people who say they feel better on a gluten-free diet are more likely sensitive to a specific kind of carbohydrate in the wheat - not the gluten protein."

This specific carbohydrate, known as fructan, is part of a larger group of carbs called fermentable oligo-di-monosaccharides and polyols (FODMAPs). Fructan has been "irritating the guts of a lot of people, causing gas, diarrhea, distention and other uncomfortable symptoms."

After scientists at Monash University in Australia, led by Peter Gibson and Susan Shepherd, linked FODMAPs to IBS in 1999, they developed a low FODMAP diet. The diet has proven to be as effective in treading IBS (irritable bowel syndrom) as most drugs on the market. (About 70 percent of patients see an improvement in on the low-FODMAP diet.) Despite these results, the gluten-free diet remains more popular than the low-FODMAP diet. That is what led researchers to try to separate the effects of the gluten protein from the FODMAPs in foods like wheat where both are found.

While it may be good news that gluten sensitivity isn't as widespread as originally believed, the FODMAP sensitivity involves many more foods, so just cutting gluten out of their diet may not be enough for those with sensitive stomachs.

Photo courtesy The Salt from NPR

3 Comments

  • MaxLisaSophie  on  5/26/2014 at 4:49 PM

    The link is broken.

  • Cubangirl  on  5/26/2014 at 9:11 PM

    Here's the link [url=http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/05/22/314287321/sensitive-to-gluten-a-carb-in-wheat-may-be-the-real-culprit] corrected link [/url]

  • darcie_b  on  5/27/2014 at 11:02 AM

    The link is fixed now.

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