Episode 56 – Why Do I Feel Better After Having Gluten/Wheat

Key Topics Covered

Background  

  • Gluten is a type of protein found naturally in wheat, rye, and barley. 
  • Generally, there is a lot of unwarranted fear-mongering around gluten and most people do not need to exclude or limit it in their diet.  
  • Although the 2016 Australian Dietary Survey reported that 12% of their respondents were avoiding either wheat or gluten. 

So, Why are people opting to go gluten-free? 

  • In my experience, a lot of people report feeling better when going gluten-free – reduced IBS symptoms, skin conditions, energy/brain fog 
  • Even if they don’t have something like coeliac disease which would clearly explain it 

You have coeliac disease or are allergic to wheat 

  • Let’s get the most obvious things out of the way first. If you are allergic to wheat products or have coeliac disease. You are definitely going to feel better after ditching wheat and gluten.  
  • Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease that causes the body to react abnormally to gluten consumption. Even very minute amounts can cause a reaction. 
  • Wheat allergy, on the other hand, is an IgE-mediated response to gliadins in wheat products. The symptoms of wheat allergy are typically noticeable within minutes to hours after ingestion and look like typical allergic reactions. A severe reaction could even result in life-threatening anaphylaxis.  
  • For these two severe conditions, removing wheat/gluten from the diet is a no-brainer and will obviously have a positive impact.  

You have IBS & are sensitive to wheat products 

  • Cross over between gluten and fructans  
  • It is common for people to refer to a fructan sensitivity as gluten intolerance,  
  • However, when it comes to IBS, gluten itself is not the culprit. Although going gluten-free and in the process eliminating wheat products, may reduce symptoms in these cases.  

You have non-coeliac gluten sensitivity 

  • Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity is a tough one. There is still a lot of debate about what it is and its diagnostic criteria.  
  • It typically manifests with both IBS-like gut symptoms as well as non-gut symptoms such as migraines, headaches, fatigue, ‘foggy mind’, heartburn, musculoskeletal pain, itchiness and rashes, dermatitis, and forgetfulness.  
  • So if you have ditched the gluten and are no longer experiencing some of the above symptoms, it may be that you have non-coeliac gluten sensitivity.  
  • However, due to the lack of diagnostic criteria for the condition, you can’t know for sure. 
  • Discuss the prevalence of NCGS to fructan-related IBS  

You improved the quality of your diet  

  • Typically, habit and dietary changes aimed at improving our health don’t happen in isolation. If someone wants to feel better, lose weight, or generally better their diet, they will often make many changes. 
  • If you happen to ditch gluten and wheat products but also, increase fruit and vegetable intake, reduce alcohol consumption, exercise more, and cook more meals at home, of course, you are going to feel better. 

It might be a placebo effect  

  • When it comes to messages around food elimination resulting in better health and a reduction in symptoms, it isn’t uncommon for people to experience a placebo effect. 
  • If you truly believe that removing gluten from your diet will benefit you, sometimes that is strong enough to elicit a beneficial feeling.  
  • On the contrary, if you really believe gluten is going to cause you some kind of symptom, you can create a nocebo effect which may result in that symptom occurring.  
  • Now, this isn’t to say that, it is all in your head, for many people, removing gluten from the diet can absolutely have a beneficial effect. But it is important to consider that this may be a factor for some people.  

Final Words

  • There is no doubt that ditching wheat or gluten-containing products can have a beneficial effect for some people even without the diagnosis of coeliac disease or a wheat allergy.  

But it isn’t always the fault of gluten that you felt a certain way before going gluten-free. It’s important to consider that you may:  

  • Have IBS & benefit from limiting fructan consumption 
  • Have created a self-fulfilling prophecy where the benefits from going gluten-free are secondary to a placebo/nocebo effect   
  • Have improved the overall quality of your diet in the process which has positive outcomes  

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