Can Fructan, Not Gluten, Be Responsible For Your Stomach Issues?

You hear from many people that they are suffering from gluten intolerance and are unable to consume many foods. Due to this, in recent years, gluten-free diets have become a major trend. Celiac disease is the term given to gluten intolerance and it remains a controversial topic amongst many researchers. However, what if we told you that gluten is, in fact, not what is causing your symptoms? New research is now suggesting that fructans, and not gluten, is actually the source of gastrointestinal problems in many people.

Can Fructan, Not Gluten, Be Responsible For Your Stomach Issues?

Can Fructan, Not Gluten, Be Responsible For Your Stomach Issues

A new study published in the Gastroenterology by researchers at the University of Oslo in Norway and Monash University in Australia claims that rather than gluten, it is actually fructan that causes symptoms in those suffering from gluten sensitivity and is responsible for stomach issues. So what exactly is fructan? Fructan is a carbohydrate that is found in some vegetables and is present in wheat. Due to the confusion between fructan and gluten, many people are not getting diagnosed properly, and thus not receiving the correct treatment.

In this study, researchers from both these universities looked at 59 people who were on a gluten-free diet, but did not have celiac disease. These participants were randomly assigned diets that included gluten, fructan, and a placebo, for a period of one week. They then used a gastrointestinal rating scale. It was observed that the participants who had fructan diets had higher scores as compared to the ones who were on a gluten and placebo diets. The interesting part of the study was that participants only reported bloating and stomach pain while being on a fructan diet, and not on the other two diets. So what exactly are fructans and why are they a problem?

What are Fructans and Why are they a Problem?

Fructans are polysaccharides and oligosaccharides that store carbohydrates. Fructans can be described as a type of carbohydrates. Fructans are found in vegetables such as onions, garlic, artichokes, etc., and in fruits such as bananas. They are also present in cereals. Fructans are also added to processed foods.

The reason fructans cause problems and can be responsible for your stomach issues is because humans lack the specific enzyme that is needed to break down the fructose molecule chains which make up fructans. This means that our body is not able to absorb fructan and they do not get absorbed by our small intestines. The gut bacteria then ferments the fructans, causing bloating, gas, pain, acid reflux, and altered bowel movements.

Adding fructan to many processed foods has become the latest trend in the food manufacturing industry. This is because fructans can be considered to be a functional ingredient owing to the fact that it consists of soluble fiber and therefore, can increase the fiber content of processed food. This fermentable fiber is promoted to help boost the growth of gut-friendly bacteria as they act like prebiotics. However, while it is great news for normal people, but for people who are unable to tolerate fructan, it gives rise to various digestive problems and stomach issues. Therefore, make sure you check the labels of processed foods for added fiber, fructans, and inulin (a type of fructan).

How Does This New Development Affect Food Sensitivities?

This new research is definitely going to have an impact on the future of food sensitivities, beginning with the medical community looking to change the nomenclature of non-celiac gluten sensitivity. The name being suggested is non-celiac wheat sensitivity. This is because fructan is a component of wheat, and other components of wheat such as amylase-trypsin inhibitors (ATI) proteins are also known to cause sensitivity.

So now until the time, you figure out if your actual tolerance levels to fructans, you should avoid high fructan foods. Remember to check all processed foods for added fructans. Your doctor or nutritionist will be able to help you put in place a diet plan that includes fructan-free foods.

There is no doubt that this new research is going to change the way in which we look at gluten intolerance and related stomach issues. As it is a recent research, the exact impact on the food manufacturing industry and on our diets still remains to be seen.

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Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:November 11, 2019

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