An explanation of gluten and FODMAPs

Gluten

From pasta, to bread, and even to cupcakes, gluten-free foods are suddenly the rage but it’s not always necessary to ditch gluten permanently. Here we’ll discuss what gluten is, why some people can’t eat it, and a group of sugars called FODMAPs (Fermentable, Oligo-, Di-, Monosaccharides, and Polyols) that might actually be causing discomfort for others.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. It provides structure and elasticity to breads and dough and is a component of many packaged foods. There are a few different conditions in which a person would benefit from gluten-free diet.

Physical reactions

Celiac disease is a genetic, autoimmune condition triggered by gluten that affects about 1% of the population worldwide. When a person with celiac disease ingests gluten, the small intestine inflames, leading to intestinal damage and possible complications. A person could also have a wheat allergy.

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Picture: Abdominal pain is a typical symptom of gluten intolerance

FODMAPs

Doctors are now looking at a different condition that might be mixed up with gluten sensitivity: FODMAP intolerance. FODMAPs are a group of sugars found in certain foods that, when eaten in excess, pull water into the intestine, may not be digested or absorbed well, and are fermented by bacteria in the intestinal tract. People who are sensitive to FODMAPs may experience cramping, gas, bloating, or diarrhea after eating foods high in these sugars.

Pay attention to proper nutrition

Low FODMAP foods include poultry and fish; oats and rice; lactose-free dairy or dairy alternatives; most vegetables; and fruits such as bananas, pineapple, raspberries, and kiwi. Apples, watermelon, mango, and blackberries are high in these sugars and should be avoided on a low FODMAP diet.

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Picture: Foods containing gluten from wheat, rye and barley

Is gluten-free food a must have?

If you do not experience uncomfortable symptoms after eating foods with gluten, there is no reason to eliminate it from your diet. If you do experience discomfort after consuming foods with gluten, speak with your doctor about how to best treat your condition.

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