We all know someone who is gluten-free or gluten-intolerant, or just avoiding gluten. And, while annoyed while trying to dine out with them at a restaurant, we understand that food sensitivity is rife, causing suffering for some and discomfort for others.
According to, “today, some 3.1 million people across the United States follow a gluten-free diet. 72 percent of them are classified as “PWAGs” – people without celiac disease avoiding gluten. The number of PWAGs has risen steadily over the past five years amid increasing public suspicions of health problems brought on by gluten sensitivity.”
But, have people been blaming the wrong item to blame for their digestive discomfort?
It’s no surprise that experts set out to try to get to the bottom of the problem and solve eating issues that many American are facing today. Now, it seems possible many folks don’t have a problem with gluten. In a new study published online in Gastroenterology study reveals issues may stem from fructan, a carbohydrate in wheat, garlic, onions and some other vegetables.
Questions arose over whether fructan, rather than gluten, was responsible for bloating and other digestive problems when it was discovered it might contribute to irritable bowel syndrome. Subjects in an experiment were given muesli bars containing either gluten, fructan or neither ingredients. Only those who ate bars with fructan suffered a digestive upset, despite having diagnosed themselves as having an intolerance to gluten.
According to this Newsweek report, “results revealed that the overall consumption of fructan was associated with higher scores on the IBS test than both gluten and placebo consumption. For example, out of the study participants, 24 had the highest GSRS-IBS (gastrointestinal symptom rating scale, irritable bowel syndrome (GSRS-IBS)) scores after consuming fructan, compared to only 13 with gluten and 22 with the placebo. Personal accounts from volunteers showed that they only reported bloating and stomach pains while eating diets that had fructan, not those with gluten or placebos.
What are fructans?
Fructans are carbohydrates that exist in certain foods naturally and are added to others to increase fiber intake. They make your gut stretch when consumed since they attract water and ferment due to gas-producing bacteria. Sometimes they are beneficial, but not in large amounts. Small quantities can increase good gut bacteria and help you feel full.
Plenty of processed foods, including ice-cream, contain fructans. If you don’t absorb them well, the result is likely to be gas, discomfort, and bloating. Many people mistakenly believe they have a gluten-intolerance since cutting out wheat improves digestive distress. However, studies show the fructans the wheat contains are probably to blame for symptoms.
The good news is that people who have been misdiagnosed with a gluten intolerance can eat soy sauce and sourdough bread again as they don’t contain fructans. These individuals do, however, need to avoid onions, garlic, broccoli, and cabbage. Also, if you suffer from celiac disease, gluten will still be problematic and needs to be avoided.