My last two blog posts attempted to answer two questions:
1. Is it really necessary for all or even the majority of the 18 million people who are eliminating all wheat and gluten from their diet to do so?
2. Are the adverse reactions to certain foods including those containing gluten that people are claiming to have really due to an old condition scientifically recognized in the early 20th century and known as dysbiosis – bacterial gut imbalance?
The questions were spurred on by my personal feelings of “another condition that is supposed to be the cause of all or at least most of the ills and afflictions of mostly members of the middle-to-upper class who can afford to embark on another cure-all diet craze.” Given that all the focus is on gluten sensitivity, one good thing is that it likely is uncovering more of the large numbers of people who may have real celiac disease and genuine gluten intolerance. It also offers the possibility that people will reduce their caloric intake and find real treatments for their digestive problems using probiotics, enzymes, herbal bitters and traditional formulas such as the Ayurvedic Triphala.
All of these questions were raised after learning about an Australian study in 2013 involving 37 patients of all ages suffering from IBS who felt that their symptoms were solved by adopting a gluten-free diet. This study pointed to the fact that with no difference in adverse reactions to gluten among these patients, that the adverse reactions they claimed to be having when they thought they were having gluten may have been partially psychosomatic but definitely, with the possible exception of one or two, not caused by gluten.
Besides its much-touted implications regarding the legitimacy of all the claims substantiating what could only be described as a worldwide gluten sensitivity epidemic, this study focused on patients with diagnosed IBS who had all their symptoms controlled with a special elimination diet called FODMAP. Ironically, in a recent TV episode, Dr. Oz described it as “The New Gluten Sensitivity Diet” even though the problem may not actually involve foods with gluten.
Regarding wheat, the widespread rumor is that the increase of gluten intolerance is due to genetically modified wheat. The fact is that there is no genetically modified wheat on the market today.
The 2013 study’s lead researcher, Peter Gibson MD, also happens to be the inventor of the FODMAP Elimination diet. Dr. Gibson and Dr. Sue Shepherd published their book “The COMPLETE LOW-FODMAP DIET that same year.
The book is now in circulation along with many others on the FODMAP diet and while it absolves gluten, wheat and other glutinous grains as the sole culprit of any number of GI disorders, especially IBS, it is far more restrictive than merely eliminating gluten from one’s diet. FODMAP represents a number of naturally occurring sugars (i.e. carbohydrates) and is an acronym for “Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols.” Its purpose is to restrict for a limited period a wide number of foods that contain forms of sugar that can be rapidly broken down and ferment in the gut causing any number of diverse reactions including gastrointestinal as well as neurological diseases.
By eliminating these foods for a minimum of two weeks, and then gradually introducing them again, one or two at a time, the hope is to identify which one is causing the reaction – and it may or may not involve either wheat or gluten.
At the least this supports my hotly contested claim in my previous blog that what people are reacting to is a curable condition of dysbiosis, bacterial imbalance in the Gi tract, which may include other suspect foods including fruits, broccoli, onions, garlic, mushrooms, chocolate, most beans, mushrooms, peas, alcoholic beverages and of course all dairy. The point is that it is not necessarily gluten and wheat exclusively but a large number of other ‘healthy’ foods that should be avoided as ‘high FODMAP,’ since it is not possible to eliminate all carbohydrates from one’s diet completely.
The bad news is that it requires the elimination of far more foods than just glutinous grains but the good news is that it is an elimination diet, especially designed for IBS patients, that is only intended to be strictly followed for a minimum of two weeks or slightly more. That the ultimate culprit(s) wreaking havoc with our health may be neither wheat nor gluten could be welcome news for the more than 18 million worldwide bread and pasta lovers and it certainly could slow down the fast growing 10 to 15 million-dollar ‘gluten-free’ industry.
After undergoing a systematic reintroduction of possible dietary offenders including wheat and other glutinous grains, and having discovered which foods may be causing a problem there is hope that with observing the restriction of those foods for anywhere from a few months to a year, they may actually cure themselves of their sensitivity and be eventually able to eat these foods again. This goes for many celiac suffers as well.
This seems much more reasonable to me and as an herbalist I can see how taking herbs such as Triphala and other gastrointestinal herbs and formulas over a long period may actually be able to hasten recovery.
Click the link below for a brief synopsis of the Low-FODMAP Diet as distributed by the Stanford Hospital and Clinics, Digestive Health Center Nutrition Services: