There are people who have varying degrees of discomfort when they eat bread, crackers, cookies, cakes–foods that also happen to bear gluten within them. Their symptoms, collected, have been dubbed “gluten intolerance” or “gluten sensitivity” because they are not celiac sufferers and gluten will not kill them quickly with an acute allergic reaction, but they will feel bloated, get diarrhea, get ‘foggy-headed’ perhaps get headaches.
I just read a lengthy article (find it here) that says that these symptoms may not be from gluten, but instead may be their body’s reaction to FODMAPs that are in these same processed foods. A FODMAP is not a thing, it is a collection of related things:Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. An oligosaccharide is a saccharide polymer containing a small number (typically three to ten) of simple sugars (monosaccharides). A Disaccharide contains two monosaccharides. A monosaccharide contains one. Polyols in food science are Sugar alcohols, and are commonly added to foods because of their lower caloric content than sugars; however, they are also, in general, less sweet, and are often combined with high-intensity sweeteners.
One would think that if folks ate gluten-free foods and still developed the symptoms that that would be enough to convince sufferers that their problems are not gluten related, and perhaps some are thus convinced. I don’t know why there are still so many gluten-free labels on store shelves.
I am not here today to argue for or against the hypothesis that undigested sugars or sugar-alcohols in your guts are causing you pain and discomfort. I wholeheartedly believe that to be true. When you eat beans that is exactly what is causing you pain and discomfort. You know this from your youth, so you don’t go searching for something to pin your farting on, you know what is doing it. So, if you think about it, you know what it is in processed foods that is causing you pain and embarrassment…the complex sugars that you cannot easily digest. They ARE being digested, but not by you, and the bacteria that are doing the digesting are putting off gases. They are creating new and unique chemicals inside of you, some of which you may be having adverse reactions to. This all makes sense to me, and I do not debate any of it.
My debate is about what you should do about it. You can buy high-dollar ‘gluten-free’ products. That does not eliminate the FODMAPs from your diet, though. You still hurt and itch. You can eliminated breads and processed cakes, crackers, snacks from your diet. There is nothing wrong with this approach, because there is not much in processed foods to recommend them, and there is much in them to urge caution and moderation in your consumption of them. A third option, and one that I would urge you to consider before you write off an entire class of delicious foods, is that you ferment your breads.
I have written many, many words about the benefits of fermentation. When we ferment foods we give beneficial bacteria time and a suitable environment to pre-digest our foods for us. A person that cannot tolerate milk or mild products can eat yogurt without any discomfort, because the bacteria in yogurt have turned it’s disaccharide into something else, something that is then not available to bacteria in their guts that would give them intense pain as it digested those sugars.
I have been experimenting with real 100% whole wheat (ground by me from the wheat) sourdough bread. This bread is as different from any whole wheat bread I have ever eaten before as night is to day. It stays fresh for more than a week. I still don’t really know how long it would last without getting dry or molding, because I have yet to have it last long enough to tell you. It does not cause me any symptoms of carbohydrate overload. I can eat one or two big slices every day and I don’t fall asleep from the carb crash a couple of hours later. I don’t have any of my carbohydrate symptoms.
My guess is that if the bread I make, that I ferment for hours and hours, doesn’t have too many carbs in it, that it likewise doesn’t contain any FODMAPs. I certainly do not add any sugar to it, because my yeast and bacteria tag team do not need sugars to raise my dough. My starter can raise the dough without added sugar because I will give it plenty of TIME to do so. By the time my dough goes into the oven my guess is that it is FODMAP free. Another thing that my bread will contain that your FODMAP full bread does not will be bran. Since I start with whole unground wheat berries and grind it myself, the flour I make is not the same as the whole wheat flour you buy at the store. You cannot buy flour like mine because it does not keep for weeks or months on the store shelf. The oil in the wheat germ will spoil it. Mine will have it because I am not going to keep it for weeks or months, I am going to use it the day I grind it.
The gluten in my bread does not cause my dear and lovely wife to have any gluten-sensitivity issues. We both have some ‘wow there is a lot of bran in that bread’ issues–meaning that our waste products are bulky and pleasing to get rid of. Sometimes we get gaseous buildups as these buses move through our lower bowel, but it’s not a sign of a problem. It is a feature of good, natural food.
I do not fear gluten and I never have. I do fear processed Franken-foods. I don’t trust the FDA to protect me from the polyols that are in my foods, by their permission. I don’t believe that anyone tests the food additives with my long term health in mind. When I make it myself I never put things in it that would make it last for a year on the grocery shelf. I am surprised at how long my bread lasts without any of these things. You would be, too. If I ever find out what the limit is on shelf life for my bread I will certainly pass that on.
Here is a chart of ‘low fodmap foods’ that you can look over.
Note that lots of the foods to ‘eliminate’ could just as easily be fermented and eaten. Any of the beans can be, the cabbage can be turned into sauerkraut. Imagine getting rid of onions from your diet AND garlic! No, I think if you get rid of processed food and all of the uncertainty that comes with that, and start eating fermented bread, pancakes and waffles, even fermented crackers, that you will have eliminated your gluten-sensitivity issues as well.