Gluten is the protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. You may have gone to the local supermarket and saw “Gluten Free” labels, or noticed at a restaurant where they have “Gluten Free” options. So is gluten that bad for you? The simple answer is no… that is unless you are allergic to wheat, have a gluten intolerance or have a fructose/fructan FODMAPs (Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides,Monosaccharides,and Polyols) intolerance. So let’s explore each of these.
So when someone says they have a wheat allergy, they may mean they have celiac disease. However, a wheat allergy is normally found in children and outgrown by adulthood, and is easily tested for with a skin prick test. Celiac disease however is an abnormality of the small intestine which is triggered by gluten, whereby antibodies attack the intestine. Over time this causes damage to the villi (finger like ridges of the small intestine lining). Such damage impairs the body’s ability to properly absorb nutrients.
Is found in 1-2% of the population
Is treatable only by avoidance of gluten
In addition to celiac disease there is another so called gluten imposed condition called nonceliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). It is called nonceliac because it does not generate the immune/antibody response as that of celiac disease. Symptoms are similar to celiac disease and include: abdominal pain, bloating, and altered bowel habit and can be accompanied by fatigue, headache, bone or joint pain, mood disorder and skin disorder such as eczema or rash.
It is believed 6-7% of the population suffer from NCGS
There are no measurable blood or tissue criteria that can be used to definitively diagnose NCGS
Fructose, Fructan, and FODMAPs are carbohydrates found in wheat (and other grains), various fruits, vegetables, and in high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
Fructose, Fructan, and FODMAPs intolerances are common
Symptoms of intolerance include: bloating, belching, gas, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and nausea
Breath testing after ingestion of fructose can help identify malabsorption or intolerance
Many that have self-reported themselves with NCGS or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) have experienced improvements in symptoms by reducing or removing the FODMAPs from their diets
Elli, L., Branchi, F.,Tomba, C., Villalta, D., Norsa, L., Feretti, F., et al (2015). Diagnosis of Gluten Related Disorders:Celiac Disease, Wheat Allergy and Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity. World Journal of Gastroenterology, 21, 23, 7110-7119. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4476872/