Your "Gluten Intolerance" May Actually Be From Something Else in Wheat

Illustration for article titled Your "Gluten Intolerance" May Actually Be From Something Else in Wheat

Oh gluten, the least trendy protein of our time. As gluten-free has transcended science and exploded into diet fad, scientists increasingly suspect that gluten intolerance—apart from actual celiac disease—doesn't exist at all. The true culprit could be a group of carbohydrates, including one in wheat called fructan.

A new story from NPR's Eliza Barclay does an impressive job of summarizing the recent history of gluten research, which you can be forgiven for finding confusing. In fact, Peter Gibson, the very professor behind the first study with major evidence of non-celiac gluten intolerance, published a paper in 2013 that debunked his earlier study. That's right, the guy who first came up with gluten intolerance has reversed course.

But where are these "gluten intolerance" symptoms—pain, nausea, bloating—coming from if not gluten? Gibson's 2013 study also put patients on a diet low in FODMAPs, or a group of carbohydrates called fermentable oligo-di-monosaccharides and polyols. Gluten-free diets didn't help these patients, but a low FODMAP diet did.


Now FODMAPs is a real mouthful, so here's what the group of carbohydrates include. In wheat, the predominant FODMAP is fructan, but it's found in other foods, too. "FODMAPs include fructose (found in some fruit), lactose (found in some dairy products) and galactans (found in some legumes)," writes to Barclay.

Gluten sensitivity may not have to do with gluten, but it may not totally be a nocebo affect either. "FODMAP-free," though, doesn't really roll off the tongue. [NPR]

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Actually, I don't have an issue with this article—the author is correct that for a large majority of people *with IBS* it's the fructans that are the issue.

The reason I'm so vehemently hating on it, is that I am a celiac, and I've dealt with gluten issues as a serious problem for years, up to and including getting peripheral neuropathy, infertility, and high range deafness as a consequence of being undiagnosed in my twenties.

The more articles like this get published, the more doctors don't take celiac, seriously. Because I am from a family of people with celiac, and at the time I was diagnosed I did not have health insurance, I never got an endoscopy and all the tests. I just stopped eating gluten, became something other than anemic, stopped showing signs of kidney failure, and gained 120 pounds, most of it muscle.

The problem with articles like this, is depending on how your celiac got diagnosed, you could be a canary-in-a-coal-mine-reacts-to-15ppm-gluten-celiac, and doctors start saying, "Well, you don't have the biopsy, so it must be gluten-intolerance, but gluten-intolerance isn't real, so it's just IBS, and that's what we'll put on your chart."

Which means you can't get gluten-free medicines like antibiotics—they won't even prescribe them. Basically, the more articles like this that get published, the more people with celiac-diagnosed-without-health-insurance are going to have serious doctor-caused medical issues.

The medical profession is gullible to the point of idiocy, and articles like this reinforce their, "Oh, but that's rare," theme.