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It Might Be Fructan, Not Gluten, That Is Giving You Stomach Troubles

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It Might Be Fructan, Not Gluten, That Is Giving You Stomach Troubles

Feb 05, 2018

It seems like everywhere you look, new food trends include a wide array of gluten-free options. You can find these products in the grocery store, health food stores, and even on special menus at many of your favorite restaurants. With all of this attention being paid to gluten-free food options, it might have a lot of people wondering what health benefits can come from a gluten-free diet. While a gluten-free diet is advised to patients with doctors diagnosed celiac disease, it shouldn’t be implemented as a fad diet for someone without a diagnosed digestive disease.

While a gluten-free diet is necessary for celiac patients and has been recommended for years, new research is showing that it might not be the gluten that’s causing the bloating and discomfort that follows non-celiac patients eating food such as bread, pasta, or other wheat based foods. A lesser known ingredient, fructan, might be the culprit.

Nobody Talks About Fructan. Is It Different Than Gluten?

While gluten is certainly a heavily discussed word in dietary and gastrointestinal health conversations, fructan is a lesser discussed ingredient. Fructan is a type of carbohydrate that can be found in wheat, as well as certain veggies. There has been evidence in the past that this carbohydrate, as opposed to the more commonly known protein gluten, might be causing certain pain, discomfort, or bloating that occurs after eating. A recent study from the University of Oslo in Norway and Monash University in Australia examined the correlation between eating gluten, eating fructan, and the digestive health symptoms that occurred as a result of different dietary choices.

What Were Reactions To Gluten Vs. Fructan?

The study was conducted using 59 participants who were all on gluten-free diets. It is important to note that none of the participants had been diagnosed with celiac disease. All 59 members of the study were on gluten-free diets due to self-diagnosed sensitivity to the ingredient. The study was conducted over the course of roughly a year and a half and involved group participants eating muesli bars and recording their digestive reactions after eating them. The double blind study included three different groups, all eating the bars that contained either gluten, fructan, or a placebo. The participants ate the bars for seven days, recorded any symptoms, and moved on to a different group after an additional seven days which allowed any trace of the previous ingredient to be cleared from their system.

Once the study results were analyzed, they indicated that the control group where the participants ate fructan showed the highest measured symptoms on the GSRS-IBS scale, a method of measurement for gastrointestinal symptoms regarding IBS.

What Should We Take From This Study?

As usual, we shouldn’t change all of our thoughts on health and diet based on one study. But, it certainly is worth discussing with your doctor. While some may find benefits in switching to a gluten-free diet, there are actually some complications that could arise. If you experience gastrointestinal discomfort after eating certain foods, you should schedule visit with Carolina Digestive Health Associates for a diagnosis and to discuss your dietary needs and options.