Don’t Blame Gluten – It May be Fructan

December 26, 2017 in Foodland, General, Health, Nutrition, Uncategorized by Joyce Bunderson

About 1 in 100 people have the inherited autoimmune disease – celiac that causes damage to the small intestine when gluten is ingested. Another .4 percent of people have a doctor-diagnosed wheat allergy. Beyond this number there is a large group of people who have what is called “non-celiac gluten sensitivity.” This large group of people, who test negative for celiac disease, may have just gained valuable knowledge, enabling them to discover what is and is not causing their problem.

Certainly, this large group of people has caused nutritionist, dietitians and food scientists’ long-held doubts about their self-diagnosed gluten sensitivity. The problem of wrongly diagnosed gluten sensitivity is so prevalent that advertisers get a freebie by printing “Gluten Free” on packaging of items as different as Kool-Aid and canned beans, which never had it, ever). Oslo University Hospital has administered some clever double-blind crossover research and published their results in Gastroenterology. They designed a study that made each individual participant in the study their own control. The researchers spaced out the challenge by a minimum of a week, so the participants could recover from any symptoms. What they found was that fructan caused significantly more symptoms than gluten in the participants.

Why do so many people who test negative for celiac think they have gluten sensitivity? Well, this new study appears to uncover one of the chief reasons. They may have fructan sensitivity. It is a carbohydrate (a saccharide – a building block of carbohydrates like starch). At the bottom of this problem is the fact that foods are very complex; wheat for example, is not just gluten (a protein); wheat contains many other proteins and carbohydrates. Fructan, a fermentable carbohydrate, is one of the components of wheat starch.

When people remove wheat from their diet and feel better they assume, using invalid post-hoc logic, that they are gluten intolerant; but in actuality it may be that in avoiding gluten, they are also dodging the fructan found naturally in the wheat. The removal of fructan may be in reality what is relieving their symptoms.

Fructan is found in many foods in addition to wheat and is one of the FODMAP foods. FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligo-, Di’, Mono-saccharides and Polyols. I think it was clever for the scientists to think of an acronym that could be pronounced instead of the scientific names of the sugars (saccharides) that may cause digestive problems for some individuals. That set of scientific names is much less digestible mentally than the acronym FODMAP. The work on FODMAP foods is done primarily at Monash University (Australia) and King’s College London. If you’re not very familiar with the way these molecules are involved in the body, you could watch a very witty short video that will help you understand in about three minutes.