Lately, there has been a lot of fuss about the FODMAP diet, and it is easily confused with a gluten-free diet. Both of these diets are therapeutic and are aimed at alleviating the symptoms of people who have specific digestive or autoimmune disorders.

However, contrary to popular belief, a gluten-free diet is NOT the same as a FODMAP diet. Here we explain what each diet entails, why you would follow them, the advantages and disadvantage of each one.

Gluten-Free Diet



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What is a Gluten-Free Diet?
A gluten-free diet is a diet that excludes foods that have the protein gluten. Gluten is a plant protein that is found in wheat, barley, rye, and triticale among others (5).

Wheat-free foods don’t necessarily mean they are gluten free. Not only wheat contains gluten, so it is important to look for the gluten-free label, or read the ingredients carefully.

The Celiac Disease Foundation as published a list of foods to avoid if you are following a gluten-free diet:

  • Wheat
  • Varieties and derivatives of wheat such as:
    • wheatberries
    • durum
    • emmer
    • semolina
    • spelt
    • farina
    • farro
    • graham
    • KAMUT® Khorasan wheat
    • einkorn wheat
  • Rye
  • Barley
  • Triticale
  • Maltin various forms including malted barley flour, malted milk or milkshakes, malt extract, malt syrup, malt flavoring, malt vinegar
  • Brewer’s Yeast
Foods That You Should Look Out for

Have you ever Considered Taking Gluten Free Products?

Why Would Someone Follow a Gluten-Free Diet?
The gluten-free diet was developed for people with celiac disease. According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, “Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that can occur in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. It is estimated to affect 1 in 100 people worldwide. Two and one-half million Americans are undiagnosed and are at risk for long-term health complications” (6).

When a person with celiac disease eats gluten, their body’s immune system attacks the small intestine, which damages the intestinal lining and can lead to poor nutrient absorption.

According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, some of the symptoms of celiac disease in adults include:

  • unexplained iron-deficiency anemia
  • fatigue
  • bone or joint pain
  • arthritis
  • bone loss or osteoporosis
  • depression or anxiety
  • tingling numbness in the hands and feet
  • seizures or migraines
  • missed menstrual periods
  • infertility or recurrent miscarriage
  • canker sores inside the mouth
  • an itchy skin rash called dermatitis herpetiformis (8)

It is also possible to have gluten sensitivity without necessarily having celiac disease. This is call non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). Unfortunately, it is a poorly understood condition and is often misunderstood and misdiagnosed. Researchers are still unsure whether it is a reaction to the gluten itself or another carbohydrate found in foods that also contain gluten (9).

The main difference between NCGS and celiac disease is that NCGS is not an autoimmune disorder and it is not inherited. No damage is caused to the intestine, but there are still many uncomfortable symptoms that present themselves after having eating gluten-containing foods, including:

  • mental fatigue
  • lack of energy or lethargy
  • gas
  • bloating
  • abdominal pain or cramps
  • diarrhea
  • constipation

Unfortunately, there is no test that can determine NCGS. After ruling out celiac disease and a wheat allergy, NCGS might be diagnosed by exclusion. It is very important that, if you suspect having an adverse reaction to gluten, to get tested for wheat allergy and celiac disease before initiating a gluten-free diet (9).

What are the Advantages of a Gluten-Free Diet?

If you have celiac disease, a wheat allergy, or a non-celiac gluten sensitivity, a gluten-free diet might be able to alleviate your symptoms completely. You will feel less bloated, not experience diarrhea or constipation as a result of the disorders, and function better on a daily basis. Most importantly, you will be protecting your gut health and longevity through ensuring you are getting the right nutrients in your body.

What are the Disadvantages of a Gluten-Free Diet?

A gluten-free diet is not easy to follow. This is especially true in North America where gluten-containing foods are very common.

Because gluten-free diets restrict many common foods, it is also important to get guidance from a registered dietician in order to make the best food choices and avoid falling into nutrient deficiencies.

Another disadvantage is the many people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity doesn’t find symptoms relief even after following a strict gluten-free diet. If this is the case, it might be important to take the next step and talk to your registered dietician about starting a FODMAP diet, explained below.

The FODMAP Diet

What are FODMAPs?

Unfortunately, FODMAP doesn’t stand for anything too easy to remember. FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. All of these elements are commonly found in many foods, and they share small chain sugars and fibers that some people may have trouble digesting, resulting in gas, stomach aches, bloating and diarrhea (1).

Oligosaccharides are a carbohydrate that is poorly absorbed, and is found in:

2

Fodmap diet. Considering it?

  • wheat
  • beans, peas and pulses
  • foods in the onion family
  • certain food additives like inulin and fructooligosaccharides (2).

Disaccharides are carbohydrates found in milk, particularly lactose. Many populations that aren’t of European descent absorb these very poorly. And should avoid milk and milk products or limit intake to 50 milliliters (2).

 

Fructose is the main monosaccharide that should be avoided when following an FODMAP Diet. Fructose is a carbohydrate found in fruits and honey. While limited amounts are okay, too much can cause glucose problems. This include:

  • apples
  • blackberries
  • grapefruit
  • honey
  • fructose (as an additive)

Polyols are sugar alcohols that are often added to sugar-free foods in order to lower the calories without sacrificing taste. When added you can often find them on the label as sorbitol and xylitol. They are also found naturally in some foods like:

  • peaches
  • plums
  • mushrooms
  • cauliflower

Why Would Someone Follow the FODMAP Diet?
The FODMAP diet was developed by Dr. Sue Shepherd, who is a dietitian and nutritionist. She estimates that about 20% of the population in the US suffers from chronic digestive illnesses (1).

21

FODMAP Should be taken?

The FODMAP diet has been found to be particularly helpful for people suffering from IBS. According to NHS Choices of the UK, the typical symptoms of IBS include:

  • abdominal (stomach) pain and cramping, which may be relieved by having a poo
  • a change in your bowel habits – such as diarrhea, constipation, or sometimes both
  • bloating and swelling of your stomach
  • excessive wind (flatulence)
  • occasionally experiencing an urgent need to go to the toilet
  • a feeling that you have not fully emptied your bowels after going to the toilet
  • passing mucus from your bottom

If you feel like you might have IBS, it is important to talk to a health professional before self-diagnosing and following a restrictive diet, such as FODMAP, without guidance (3).

What are the Advantages of a FODMAP Diet?

People who have debilitating symptoms of IBS may benefit greatly from following the FODMAP diet. The uncomfortable symptoms of bloating, gas, diarrhea or constipation often disappear after several days or weeks of following the FODMAP diet.

It is also beneficial for people with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity that don’t find relief following only a gluten-free diet.

What are the Disadvantages of a FODMAP Diet?

The FODMAP diet limits many foods (even some you wouldn’t think would have a negative effect on your bowel) and if you don’t have the right nutritional assessment, it is easy to have nutrient deficiencies. IBSdiets.org published a list of foods you should limit following the FODMAP Diet (4):

Vegetables and Legumes Fruit – fruits can contain high fructose
Garlic – avoid entirely if possible Apples
Onions – avoid entirely if possible Apricots
Artichoke Avocado
Asparagus Blackberries
Baked beans Boysenberry
Beetroot Cherries
Black beans Currants
Black eyed peas Custard apple
Broad beans Dates
Butter beans Feijoa
Cassava Figs
Cauliflower Goji berries
Celery – greater than 5cm of stalk Grapefruit
Cho cho Lychee
Choko Mango
Falafel Nectarines
Haricot beans Paw paw, dried
Kidney beans Peaches
Lima beans Pears
Leek bulb Persimmon
Mange Tout Pineapple, dried
Mushrooms Plums
Peas, sugar snap Pomegranate
Red kidney beans Prunes
Savoy Cabbage Raisins
Soybeans / soya beans Sultanas
Split peas Tamarillo
Scallions / spring onions (bulb / white part) Tinned fruit in apple / pear juice
Shallots Watermelon
Taro
Cereals, Grains, Bread, Biscuits, Pasta, Nuts and Cakes Meats, Poultry and Meat Substitutes
Products with wheat: Chorizo
Biscuits including chocolate chip biscuits Sausages
Bread, wheat – over 1 slice Processed meat – check ingredients
Breadcrumbs
Cakes Drinks
Cereal bar, wheat based
Croissants Beer – if drinking more than one bottle
Crumpets Coconut water
Egg noodles Cordial, apple, and raspberry with 50-100% real juice
Muffins Cordial, orange with 25-50% real juice
Pastries Dandelion tea
Pasta, wheat over 1/2 cup cooked Fruit and herbal teas with apple added
Udon noodles Fruit juices in large quantities
Wheat bran Fruit juices made of apple, pear, mango
Wheat cereals Orange juice in quantities over 100ml
Wheat flour Rum
Wheat noodles Sodas containing High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
Wheat rolls Soy milk made with soy beans – commonly found in the USA
Wheatgerm Sports drinks
Almond meal Tea, black with added soy milk
Amaranth flour Tea, chai, strong
Barley including flour Tea, dandelion, strong
Bran cereals Tea, fennel
Bread, multigrain Tea, chamomile
Bread, naan, roti Tea, herbal, strong
Bread, oatmeal Tea, oolong
Bread, pumpernickel Wine – if drinking more than one glass
Bread, sourdough with kamut
Cashews Condiments, Dips, Sweets, Sweeteners, and Spreads
Cereal bar
Cous cous Agave
Einkorn flour Caviar dip
Freekeh Fructose
Gnocchi Fruit bar
Granola bar, wheat bread Gravy, if it contains onion
Muesli cereal High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
Muesli bar Hummus / houmous
Pistachios Honey
Rye Jam mixed berries
Rye crispbread Jam, strawberry, if contains HFCS
Semolina Pesto sauce
Spelled flour Quince paste
Relish / vegetable pickle
Stock cubes
Inulin
Isomalt
Maltitol
Mannitol
Sorbitol
Xylitol
Tahini paste
Tzatziki dip

Main Differences Between Gluten-Free and FODMAP Diets

People who have symptoms of IBS often first follow gluten-free diets and see some improvement. However, the FODMAP Diet is based on extensive research that shows that it isn’t necessarily gluten per se, rather specific carbohydrates that trigger the most uncomfortable symptoms of IBS (1). In some people who suffer from IBS, a gluten-free diet may not be enough.

Some people who have IBS and non-celiac gluten sensitivity may see improvement in their digestive symptoms after following the gluten-free diet. This is because restricting gluten also restricts many of the foods that contain FODMAPS (like wheat, barley, and rye), but not all of them (1).

Additionally, 20% of people with celiac disease that follow a gluten free diet continue to have some symptoms, similar to those who have IBS. Slightly more people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity don’t feel complete relief with a gluten-free diet. In these cases, a FODMAP diet might be the next recourse (7).

The main difference between FODMAP and gluten-free diets is that gluten-free is focused specifically on grains that contain the protein called gluten. FODMAPS target a range of carbohydrates found in many food groups, which, unlike the gluten-free diet, target fruits, vegetables, legumes, and dairy as well.

While many gluten-containing foods also contain FODMAPS, many foods not allowed in the FODMAP diet are allowed on the gluten-free diet. In short, the FODMAP diet is much more restrictive than the gluten-free diet.

As mentioned previously, both of these diets restrict the intake an important food group that tends to be an important element of our food culture. That is why it is important to seek out the guidance of a professional before taking on either of these diets to ensure that you do not have nutrient deficiencies as a result of improper food choices.

Sasha de Beausset

About Sasha de Beausset

Sasha de Beausset's life project is to become a leader in building solutions to food insecurity and malnutrition in Guatemala. She believes that recognizing community assets and being conscious of the role all sectors play in ensuring an equitable development is the key to building sustainable solutions. If you'd like to read more about benefiting from healthy eating, sign up for our newsletter and get the latest health research.

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