With the start of a new year, many people are focusing on self improvement and how they can make some positive changes in their diet, weight, or lifestyle. If you missed the resolution rush in January or fell off the wagon with your New Year’s resolution, 2018 is just beginning, so there is plenty of time to accomplish your goals. There is endless information available on all manners of diets, and it might be confusing for you to try and decide which one is the best. One diet that seems to be rising in popularity over the past several years is a gluten-free diet. If you’re diagnosed by a doctor as having celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, there is certainly a need for that diet. Approximately 1 in 100 people have celiac disease, which is an autoimmune disorder that results in damage to the intestines if you consume even small amounts of gluten. Additionally, research shows that 18 million Americans are thought to have a non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

Gluten can can be found in wheat, rye, barley, malt, types of yeast, and certain starches. That means that you can often pinpoint the biggest sources of gluten, like breads, pastas, crackers, cereals, beer, and baked goods. The lesser known offenders may also include energy bars, french fries, candy, soups, salad dressings, soy sauce, or even seasoned meats.

I’ve Never Heard Of Fructan

Gluten can cause very serious damage to anyone who has been diagnosed with celiac disease or even a sensitivity to gluten, but a new study has indicated that self-imposed gluten-free diets might not be the best route. For many, an assumed gluten sensitivity or allergy might bring about bloating, discomfort, and stomach pains after eating foods containing gluten. There is another ingredient, called fructan, that is found in the same type of foods that may be the culprit for those digestive troubles.

Fructan is a carbohydrate that is found in wheat, as well as some veggies. Fructan has recently been thought to be the cause of gastrointestinal issues that can affect some people after eating wheat based foods. A recent study from the University of Oslo in Norway and Monash University in Australia indicated a stronger relationship between consumption of fructan and gastrointestinal distress than when compared to consumption of gluten.

How Was The Study Conducted?

Researchers studied 59 men and women who had made the choice to go gluten-free due to self diagnosed sensitivities. None of the participants had received a diagnosis of celiac disease. The participants were followed for a year and a half while they recorded their reaction to eating various muesli bars in a double blind study. The muesli bars contained either gluten, fructan, or neither of the ingredients. The study participants recorded any reactions on a GSRS-IBS scale, which is used to understand symptoms of IBS. After the study was over, they found that the worst reactions came from the group who were eating the bars containing fructan.

Does That Mean We Should Cut Fructan Instead Of Gluten?

The most important thing we can say about this study is that you should never make modifications to your diet without consulting your doctor if you have been diagnosed with celiac disease or a sensitivity. This study only analyzed those who were self diagnosed. The study is interesting, though, since it changes some of the preconceived notions about what causes gastrointestinal distress after eating bread or other wheat products. If you have any questions about how your body is handling these wheat products, make an appointment with Asheville Gastroenterology Associates, a division of Digestive Health Partners, so we can discuss your health, run any necessary tests, and help you determine what sort of diet modifications may work for you.