Is Gluten Free Diet Ok For IBS?
So, here is the deal: Low FODMAP diet is not the same as a gluten free diet.
While it looks like you are being wise, by following a gluten free diet, as you are avoiding Oligos-fructans and Galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) contained in wheat, barley and rye (just to mention a few), what you are trying to avoid is also fructose, polyols and lactose, which are often present in gluten free foods. This means your diet in itself is a failure for IBS control. Are you shocked? Well to be honest some gluten free foods are low FODMAP, but not all.
Food that is gluten free (free of wheat, barley, rye which are identified as the culprit mostly), may not be free of components that cause IBS symptoms. Gluten is a protein and IBS is due to carbohydrates. When you have food with gluten and have a reaction, it does not mean that gluten was the reason for your IBS. It means, that that food you just ate, also had a FODMAP component that triggered your reaction. For instance, wheat has Oligos-fructans and GOS, which are the causes of IBS symptoms, not the gluten present in wheat.
Can IBS sufferers be intolerant to wheat or to gluten (or both)?
IBS sufferers react to the Oligos-fructans in the wheat, not the gluten. Although it might be a possibility that you also suffer from gluten intolerance or you have coeliac disease too, in which case, gluten might also be a problem. However, if like me, you have been diagnosed only with IBS, your dietitian would advise you to stay away from high FODMAP food and not gluten rich food. It is hence essential to identify the cause before resolving the problems.
What other grains should be avoided by IBS sufferers?
Wheat, Rye and Barley are the major grains with fructans in them, present in the form of dietary fiber. IBS sufferers are advised to stay away from them, depending on the severity of their reactions. Ideally, avoiding wheat or rye or barley (a staple component of most diets), does not mean a Oligos-fructan free diet. There might be other ingredients in your diet that has fructans or the FODMAP components in it. Oats, on the other hand, although it may have gluten due to cross-contamination from other grains, it’s a good low FODMAP option for most IBS sufferers, who are not sensitive to gluten. So, always get your dietitian to chalk out your diet till you get a hold of your IBS.
IBS and coeliac disease – what are the differences?
Although IBS and celiac disease have some symptoms in common, IBS mainly involves the large intestine or colon. As high FODMAP food goes through the colon of a subject with IBS, the colon becomes “irritable” and that is when the symptoms appear. IBS does not cause damage to the intestines.
Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disorder, which mainly affects the small intestine. When a person who is celiac ingest food containing gluten, this causes the immune system to attack and damage the small intestine.
Some people may not be celiac, nevertheless they can suffer from NCGS (Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity) and therefore they need to avoid gluten.
Conclusion: Is a gluten free diet healthy or not for IBS sufferers?
Gluten free diet is very popular at the moment and more known than the low FODMAPs diet. Gluten free diet is for those who cannot have gluten, like coeliacs and NCGS individuals, low FODMAP diet is for those who have IBS. Gluten free products can be consumed by IBS sufferers, only when the ingredients are confirmed to be low FODMAP, so as to stay away from IBS symptoms.
The bloating and pain will still be there if you have a gluten free diet, but the nasty symptoms of IBS are usually gone or at least reduced on a low FODMAP diet. By restricting your gluten intake when you only have a FODMAP requirement, may lead to over restriction and lesser dietary choices. It might also lead to not meeting normal dietary requirements, as you might be missing out on other nutrients essential for your health.
Remember this is my opinion, my research and my experience with IBS and the low FODMAP diet. Always consult a doctor if you are unsure whether you are allergic to gluten or have IBS or have both. The dietary requirements are different in each case. Make sure a qualified dietitian chooses your food regime, in any case, to be on the safer side.
Sue Shepherd has created a range of FODMAP friendly products which can be found in Australian supermarkets, and having tried a few, I can surely recommend them, especially when you don’t have the time to cook from scratch.
Food products that have been certified FODMAP Friendly can be easily recognised by the green logo on the product package.
FODMAP Friendly is the only registered certification trademark worldwide certifying FODMAP levels in food products that have been laboratory tested to be low in FODMAPs.