Gut Health 101: The Role of FODMAPs & Gluten
New wellness products and headlines emphasize our need to prioritize ‘gut health,” but what does that really mean?
“The gut” is another way to describe the millions of bacteria that reside in our small intestine and are responsible for various protective, immune-supporting mechanisms, such as regulation of inflammation and maintenance of normal digestion. Changes in the gut microbiota have been linked with chronic inflammatory diseases and may increase the risk of triggering autoimmune diseases.
What are FODMAPs & Gluten?
Many wheat-based products, which provide fibre, are also sources of gluten and FODMAPs. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, while FODMAPs are carbohydrates found in a range of foods including wheat, some fruits and vegetables and milk-based products. For those with diagnosed celiac disease, a strict gluten-free diet is necessary. Gluten and wheat products may also trigger an allergic or inflammatory response in some with sensitivities, causing digestive pain. FODMAPs, on the other hand, are poorly absorbed carbohydrates that can drag water into the intestine if they are not fully digested. This increase in water distends the gut and causes pain and bloating, as well as sometimes diarrhea, constipation or both.
A gluten-free or low-FODMAP diet can help alleviate the distress these food compounds may cause. Responses to these diets and unique foods will be individualized, meaning what makes one person feel energized and pain-free may have a very different effect for someone else.
Eating for Gut Health
Diets rich in fibre promote a healthy digestive system, but eating enough fibre while eliminating gluten or FODMAPs can be challenging. Look for high-fibre gluten-free products, like Schar Multigrain Ciabatta that contain psyllium, a bulk-forming fibre. Psyllium serves as a prebiotic, supporting growth of healthy colonies of probiotics in the gut (those immune-supporting bacteria we mentioned). Probiotics promote bowel regularity and digestive health.
Sourdough bread is another great gut-friendly option. The process of sourdough fermentation uses cultures that contain a mix of enzymes that break down some of the proteins and carbohydrates naturally found in bread. This makes sourdough bread easier to digest than breads that do not undergo a fermentation step in their baking process. Schar Deli Style Bread Sourdough is a delicious, versatile bread for everything from lunchtime sandwiches to savoury open-faced toasts for breakfast. Many breads and crackers are certified low-FODMAP, which can make it easier to identify products that meet the needs of this complex diet.
The Bottom Line
A balanced, nutritious diet for gut health will emphasize whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, while keeping intake of refined foods that are high in sugar and saturated fat low. Before implementing any diet changes, consult a health care professional for guidance. Gluten-free and low-FODMAP products may help alleviate some digestive distress, but it is important to ensure adequate intake of fibre when following both a gluten-free or low-FODMAP diet.