Gluten May Not be to Blame for Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity

Fagjun | Published 2017-11-19 04:31

Short-chain carbohydrates, not gluten, may be what’s triggering your non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

Can't have what your friends are having at brunch? Gluten may not be to blame.



How bad is gluten for you? Maybe not so bad after all. Still, it’s the culprit behind celiac disease, a condition which triggers sufferers to have an immune response to gluten. Gluten refers to a group of storage proteins commonly found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. Most people can consume gluten without any problems, but about 1.3% of the population has celiac disease. Celiac disease is a digestive disorder that exhibits symptoms when sufferers eat foods containing gluten.


However, significantly more than just 1.3% of the population reports adverse symptoms due to the consumption of wheat and other glutinous foods, even though they don’t have celiac disease. It’s possible that up to 13% of the population suffers from non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). However, there is growing evidence that gluten sensitivity may not be a real thing.

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Thus, scientists have been looking for another thing to blame for sensitivity to glutinous foods. Still, there are plenty of people who report feeling ill after eating bread. It’s unlikely that they’re all making it up, so scientists have been looking at possible culprits other than gluten. They found that short-chain carbohydrates called Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols (FODMAPs) may be what’s causing people to experience gut problems.


Monash University’s Peter Gibson and his colleagues have been studying non-celiac gluten sensitivity extensively. For their latest study, they gathered 59 non-celiac adults who don’t consume gluten because they experience gut problems when they do. The researchers asked the participants to eat three types of cereal bars that contain gluten, fructan (a FODMAP), or neither one. The participants had to eat one type of these bars each day for seven days. They then had to take a week-long break before starting on eating the next kind of cereal bar. The participants had no idea what kind of bar they were eating, and all the bars looked and tasted the same.


According to the results of the study, the participants experienced 15% more bloating and a 13% increase in overall gut problems when they ate the fructan bars than when they ate the bars without fructan or gluten. The gluten bars, meanwhile, were found to have had no effect.

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If you have NCGS, you may have noticed that while avoiding gluten has improved your health, it hasn’t completely gotten rid of the symptoms you experience. Sticking to a gluten-free diet may cut out most foods that contain fructan. However, fructan isn’t confined to wheat or gluten-containing foods alone. You can also find it in foods such as garlic, onions, cabbage, asparagus, chickpeas, and artichokes.


These findings may now explain why people who don’t have celiac have a sensitivity to gluten-containing foods. It’s not the gluten itself that’s the problem; thus, the term “non-celiac gluten sensitivity” may actually be a misnomer for the condition it seeks to name.


However, this doesn’t mean that you can now consume gluten-rich foods if you have NCGS. If you’re sure that you don’t have celiac disease, you may still have to eliminate these foods from your everyday menu. This time, however, it won’t be to get rid of gluten. It will be to get rid of fructan.

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