Gluten free and the low FODMAP Diet – Understanding the difference

Low FODMAP Diet, Charlene Grosse FODMAP Dietitian Perth

Gluten and FODMAPs are becoming household terms and are often used interchangeably. But are they the same thing? The simple answer is NO. Gluten free does not mean FODMAP friendly, as you will soon learn.

What is the difference between a gluten free diet and a low FODMAP diet?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat (including spelt), barley, & rye that people with coeliac disease cannot digest. If a person with coeliac disease consumes gluten it results in an immune reaction with inflammation and damage to the small bowel. Coeliac disease affects 1 in 70 in Australians and needs to be ruled out when gastrointestinal symptoms occur.

FODMAPs are poorly absorbed sugars that can cause gastrointestinal symptoms like bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, excessive wind and abdominal discomfort/pain commonly seen in IBS. IBS affects 1 in 7 Australians and is the most common condition presenting to gastroenterologists.

differences in gluten free and the low FODMAP Diet FODMAP Dietitian Perth

Wheat, barley and rye contain both gluten and one of the FODMAP sugars called fructans resulting in an overlap. By removing these gluten containing grains some people with IBS will feel an improvement due to a reduction that also occurs with the fructans but this does not hold true for everyone.

Non Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity

‘Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity’ describes a set of symptoms people attribute to dietary gluten, but the cause and treatment is not well understood. Emerging research indicates it may not be gluten that is the problem and that the malabsorption of fermentable sugars (FODMAPs) may be the culprit in those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. A gluten free diet is not the same as a FODMAP friendly diet and symptoms can still persist despite the avoidance of gluten.

Gluten free does not mean FODMAP friendly

Gluten is not a FODMAP.

A gluten free diet can still be high in FODMAPs explaining why some people will continue to have an unhappy gut.

Many gluten free foods are high FODMAP foods some examples include:

  • Fruits – Apples, pears, watermelon, stone fruits , dried fruit
  • Vegetables – mushroom, cauliflower, snow peas, asparagus, artichokes, sugar snap peas, garlic, onion
  • Nuts – Cashews and pistachios
  • Milk, yoghurt – lactose and inulin
  • Some gluten free breads
  • Gluten free crackers containing inulin, onion or garlic
  • Gluten free cereals with apple juice, dried fruit, high fructose corn syrup

A low FODMAP diet is the first line therapy treatment for a person diagnosed with IBS – there is no evidence to support the use of a Gluten free diet in this condition. If you are experiencing gut symptoms ensure you see your GP before making any dietary modifications to allow the correct diagnosis and management to be made.

by Charlene Grosse
FODMAP Dietitian Perth
Accredited Practising Dietitian

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