Gluten Free and Still Feeling Sick?

November 19, 2014

Are you on a gluten free diet and still experiencing unwelcome symptoms? Gluten may not be your issue. Find out what might be causing your symptoms here.

It is estimated that 18 million Americans suffer from some kind of gluten sensitivity, resulting in uncomfortable symptoms ranging from GI upset to insomnia to anxiety. Unlike celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that damages the small intestines if gluten is consumed, there’s no lab test to confirm a sensitivity. An elimination diet, eliminating all gluten for at least 3 weeks, is a good indicator.  

In dollars and cents, sales of gluten-free products were expected to total $10.5 billion last year, according to Mintel; the firm estimates grater than $15 billion in annual sales in 2016. But are all the shoppers that are keeping the gluten free market alive truly sensitive to the protein, or is it something else about the food that we’re reacting to? Emerging research points to an intolerance to FODMAPs, Fermentable Oligo-Di-Monosaccharides and Polyols.  Specific types of carbohydrates found in all different kinds of foods, including certain fruits and vegetables.

The FODMAP diet isn’t entirely gluten free but does eliminate wheat, barley and rye, as they contain one of the FODMAP carbohydrates.

Here are the basics and some of the foods that contain FODMAPs:

Fructose: high fructose corn syrup, honey and certain fruits like apples, blackberries, boysenberries, dates and figs.

Lactose: milk, soft cheese, sour cream, chocolate, buttermilk and custard.

Fructans: wheat, barley, rye, garlic, onions, and inulin (found in leeks, artichokes, and asparagus).

Galactans: beans, lentils, chickpeas and soybeans.

Polyols: avocado, apricots, cherries, nectarines, and plums, as well as artificial sweeteners with isomalt, mannitol, sorbitol and xylitol.

One theory behind FODMAP-caused irritation is that these carbs draw excess water into the intestines, which are then fermented by gut bacteria in the large intestine. The excess water causes diarrhea, while the fermentation causes gas and bloating.

If you’ve eliminated gluten but are still experiencing GI symptoms, it might be worth exploring the FODMAP diet to see if those carbs are the culprits.  Speak with your health care professional before making any changes to your diet as there is still a lot of unknown about cutting the FODMAPS from your diet, as it might be challenging to make sure you are getting the full spectrum of vitamins and minerals. The FODMAP diet is usually intended for a short period of time, and after several weeks adding back restricted foods one at a time to see if there is an effect is the typical protocol.

Full list of FODMAPS can be found here.

For more information click here.