Thanks to one of my readers for asking:
I have heard of many people saying that they are “gluten intolerant”. They do not have celiac disease though. Is there really such a thing as gluten intolerance or is this a trendy thing? If it is real, what can be done for this intolerance? Do these people need to follow a gluten-free diet?
This is a question that I get asked often in my clinic. Being diagnosed as celiac means that you are developing an “immune reaction” to gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley). An “immune reaction” is when your immune system tries to destroy the gluten as though it were a virus or toxin. Your poor gut becomes an innocent bystander, the middleman between gluten and the immune system. The treatment is, of course, to avoid gluten.
Many people have sensitive bowels (pain, bloating, diarrhea and constipation) and some of them have tried the gluten-free or celiac diet and felt better. Why? Well, while we have been around for many thousands of years, we’ve only been milling wheat for the past hundred years or so. Humans were simply not designed to eat as much wheat as we currently consume. Eating a gluten-free diet means no fast food, having to prepare most of your meals at home (no preservatives) and placing a higher priority on food. All of us would probably feel better if we went on a gluten-free diet!
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a frequent diagnosis for people who have symptoms similar to gluten-intolerance: bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea and/or constipation. If you suffer with these symptoms yet have normal test results, the FODMAP diet might be right for you.
Fermentable, Oligo-, Di- and Mono-saccharides and Polyols. These are types of sugars found in our food. If you eat too much (i.e. bread) the undigested sugars make their way to your large intestine. The bacteria here eats the sugars and produces gas (pain) mucus (constipation) and secretions (diarrhea). Therefore people who aren’t celiac but feel better on the gluten-free diet may just be eating less undigested sugars.