The Low FODMAP Diet Is Not A Gluten-Free Diet
For several years I have been blogging about my experience as an IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) sufferer, who has found great relief in following a low FODMAP diet, and for just as long, I have been hearing the debate that a low FODMAP diet is also gluten-free.
It seems that there is a bit of confusion about this topic; even some of my family and friends sometimes offer me gluten-free food, such as biscuits and cakes, thinking they are suitable for IBS, unfortunately very often they contain high FODMAP ingredients.
For this reason, I thought it would be useful to shed some light on this topic.
What are FODMAPs?
FODMAP is an acronym that stands for:
Fermentable – produces gas in the intestines
Oligosaccharides – these are fructans (i.e. wheat, rye, barley, garlic, onion, watermelon, artichoke, beetroot, leek bulb, etc.) and galactans/GOS (i.e. artichoke, legumes such as dried lentils, chickpeas, red kidney beans, etc.).
Monosaccharides – fructose that is in excess of glucose (i.e. apples, pears, mango, honey, high fructose corn syrup, etc.).
Polyols – sugar alcohols such as sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, xylitol, and isomalt (i.e. mushrooms, cauliflower, stone fruits, artificial sweeteners, etc.).
No wonder they created an acronym, it took me a while to learn what those initials stood for!
Some food can contain more than one FODMAP type, for example, half a slice of watermelon (143 grams) contains a high amount of Oligos-fructans, fructose, and Polyol-mannitol.
I know that for most people this may sound very complicated, but you shouldn’t worry about remembering all types of food. You may find useful to consult the Monash University app for smartphone; this is one of my favorite tools, it has a long list of food that has been tested low, medium or high FODMAP, with their serving sizes and it is regularly updated with new food and products.
What is a low FODMAP diet?
The low FODMAP diet was created by Professor Peter Gibson and his research team at Monash University in Australia.
FODMAPs are short-chain carbohydrates (sugar). When we consume food and/or drinks containing FODMAPs, those carbohydrates are not properly absorbed in our intestines and trigger symptoms in people, who like me, are sensitive and suffer from IBS.
This diet consists of eliminating high FODMAP food for 2 to 6 weeks, followed by a gradual re-introduction of those foods.1
The low FODMAP diet is more than a list of high and low FODMAP food, and it should be followed with the guidance of a specialized dietitian or health professional.
Research on the low FODMAP diet and IBS symptoms
Several studies have been conducted on the low FODMAP diet, and these are some of the conclusions:
- Reducing the intake of FODMAPs can alleviate abdominal symptoms in patients with IBS.2
- Medical studies have confirmed that the low FODMAP diet has a beneficial effect in a majority of patients with IBS - and that it effectively reduces symptoms in 75 percent of patients.3,4
- In many parts of the world, the low FODMAP diet is now considered a front-line therapy for IBS.2
What is a gluten?
Gluten is a name for the proteins found in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale (a newer grain which is a cross between wheat and rye). Gluten helps food maintain its shape, acting as a glue that holds food together.
What is a gluten-free diet?
A gluten-free diet is a diet that excludes grains such as wheat, barley, rye, triticale, and food products where gluten has been added to thicken, bind, flavor, or color that product. Oats and oats products, if they are not labeled gluten-free, may contain gluten because of cross-contamination, even though naturally they are gluten-free.5
At present a gluten-free diet is considered the only available therapy for celiac disease.6
Who should follow a gluten-free diet?
People that have tested positive for celiac disease are recommended to follow a gluten-free diet. Celiac disease is an autoimmune reaction to the gluten protein, causing small-bowel mucosal lesion.
Although celiac disease and IBS have some symptoms in common, celiac disease it’s a more serious condition, as it causes damage to the small intestine.
In addition to celiac disease, there is a condition called non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), which can cause symptoms similar to celiac disease, but without the intestinal damage. Those who think they may suffer from celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should see a doctor before starting a gluten-free diet, as it will make it harder to determine if the person has celiac disease or NCGS when gluten has been avoided for a while.7
Are gluten-free products suitable for people on a low FODMAP diet?
Often gluten-free products are chosen because they don’t contain wheat, barley, and rye, but often those products contain high FODMAP ingredients such as honey, soy flour, apple juice, inulin, just to mention a few.
Where does the confusion come from?
Grains like wheat, rye and barley contain both gluten (a protein) and fructans (a carbohydrate) and this is the cause of the confusion.
The low FODMAP diet and gluten-free diets are two different diets, but there is an overlap between these two diets in the sense that gluten-containing grains such as wheat, rye, and barley also happen to be high FODMAP food.
It has been proven that the low FODMAP diet effectively reduces symptoms in 75 percent of IBS patients and it is about avoiding FODMAPs, which are carbohydrates, not gluten which is a protein.
The low FODMAP diet is continually studied and researched, and therefore it is important to follow the advice of dieticians and other health professionals, who are specialized in this diet.
Do you live with any sleep disorders (eg. insomnia, RLS, sleep apnea) in addition to IBS?