Are You Gluten-Intolerant Or Do You Just Have IBS?

Right now the medical community is waging war against gluten-free diets. They are seen as something of a dietary fad with many people who aren’t celiac jumping on board and avoiding bread and pasta for the sake of their health.

But it turns out that both celiac and irritable bowels syndrome have very similar symptoms, and this might be what is causing people to confuse one for the other. It is estimated that about one in ten people at the start of 2017 were on some form of gluten-free diet, avoiding things like bread, pasta, and oats (because of the risk that they might be contaminated with gluten). But according to physicians, only around one in one hundred people actually have genuine celiac disease – a condition that causes an immune response that destroys the lining of the stomach every time a sufferer eats gluten-containing grains.

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Wikimedia Commons

This has led to the accusation that people are ill-informed and are going along with gluten-free diets because of the current trend toward “clean eating” – whatever that actually means. Recently, the media has been doing the medical community’s bidding, releasing a series of articles imploring people to give up their gluten-free diets because they are unhealthy. They argue that eliminating things like wheat and rye from the diet and replacing them with substitutes does more harm than good because of the fact that many of these substitutes are highly processed or contain more sugar and salt. Gluten-free diets have been linked to all sorts of metabolic problems, including diabetes.

Of course, there is no reason why a gluten-free diet has to be unhealthy. Just like any other diet, the more it avoids processed foods, the better it is. If people are replacing their regular wholemeal bread with alternatives made from potato flour and tapioca, then it should come as no surprise that their overall health is deteriorating.

The faith, however, that a gluten-free diet will solve all problems is likely to be misplaced, especially if people are confusing gluten intolerance with IBS. It is estimated that around 5 to 20 percent of all people living in the US suffer from the condition. The causes of IBS aren’t fully known, but it is believed that it is linked to the quality of our gut flora. As such, the link between probiotics and IBS may be much stronger than the link between avoiding gluten and IBS. IBS is a more complex condition than celiac disease. Not only is it associated gut flora, but it’s also extremely common for women with depression. Like celiac, however, it’s characterized by loose stools, trapped wind, and cramping which may be why it is so often confused with celiac.

What’s more, doctors tend to confuse IBS for celiac. A study found that doctors were four times more likely to diagnose people with IBS who had celiac disease than those who didn’t.

Determining which condition you have, if you have either, is essential, since both imply radically different approaches. If IBS is the cause of your tummy troubles, then you might want to start doing some research on the microbiome.

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