While only a small percentage of people suffer from Celiac Disease (aka a gluten allergy), many more claim to have “gluten sensitivity.” Typical reported symptoms include bloating and uncomfortable stomach feelings after eating wheat products, and staying away from those usually results in people feeling better.
Because of gluten’s reputation these days, it’s easy to point the finger at this protein network as the responsible culprit. However, new research suggests that a different molecule in wheat may be responsible for the reactions people are having.
The study, which was published in the journal Gastroenterology, postulates that fructan, a carbohydrate found in wheat and other items, is actually responsible for the self-reported bloating. Other foods that contain fructan include onions and chickpeas.
To back up their claim, researchers put 59 self-diagnosed “gluten-sensitive” participants through a rotating panel of muesli bars, with the treatment switching every 2 weeks. The bars either were a placebo (no gluten or fructan), had added gluten, or had added fructan.
Surprisingly, fructan actually had the highest reported scores for both bloating and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, a common symptom of self-reported gluten sensitivity. When it came to the number of participants, the greatest number reported their highest scores when eating the fructan bars, at 24 compared to gluten’s 13. Interestingly, 22 reported the placebo as having the most bloating/irritable bowel symptoms, however.
Nonetheless, fructan seems like it’s more significantly responsible for the bloating that gluten-sensitive people often have when they diagnose themselves. More research needs to be done to confirm exactly what fructan does to the body, but it now seems that for non-celiacs, gluten isn’t as bad as people think it is.