IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome, is a relatively common condition and characterized by constipation, diarrhea or a combination of both. It is often accompanied by abdominal pain, irregular bowel movements and bloating. It is usually diagnosed when all other possible conditions affecting your gastrointestinal tract, such as celiac disease, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, thyroid problems, diabetes and cirrhosis of the liver, have been ruled out and excluded. The best treatment for IBS is identifying trigger foods and eliminating them from your diet. Some people may experience relief from eliminating gluten.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition in which gluten damages the gut lining, causing serious health issues. It is diagnosed in 1 out of 133 Americans, according to a 2003 study conducted by the Center for Celiac Research. In addition to this condition, gluten intolerance, also called gluten sensitivity, touches 6 percent of Americans, or a total of 18 millions people, according to 2011 information from the Center for Celiac Research. People who are sensitive to gluten may experience a variety of symptoms, including brain fog, fatigue, headaches and weight loss or weight gain, as well as autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. Exposure to gluten can also trigger IBS.
Gluten is abundant in the foods Americans consume on a daily basis. Grain products, such as breakfast cereals, crackers, granola bars, breads, pasta, pizza dough, tortillas, pretzels, breading, cookies, muffins, cakes and other processed grains, are almost always prepared with wheat or other gluten-containing flour. Moreover, small amounts of gluten may be present in foods where you would not suspect it such as soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, textured vegetable protein, marinades, beer, food starch and seasoning blends. Carefully reading ingredient lists and avoiding processed foods is essential to keep gluten out of your diet.
Other Potential Causes of IBS
Many different foods can trigger IBS. In addition to gluten, the most common intolerances include dairy, eggs, nuts, bananas and soy. An overgrowth of yeast, a parasite infection or an imbalance in your gut flora may also be the cause for your IBS. Speaking with a doctor or a gastroenterologist specializing in IBS can help you get the appropriate tests to determine the exact cause of your discomforts, so you can either eliminate the problematic foods or get rid of any potential infections.
Trying a Gluten-Free Diet
You can undergo different tests to determine whether you are sensitive to gluten, but because these tests are not always accurate and may be expensive, an elimination diet is an inexpensive and effective way to achieve the same result. Eliminate all sources of gluten from your diet, from the obvious to the least obvious gluten-containing foods, for a minimum of a month, ideally two, and track your IBS-associated symptoms to see whether they improve while following a gluten-free diet. Then slowly add foods back into your diet, one at a time, and note your symptoms to determine what foods trigger your symptoms.
- University of Maryland Medical Center; Study from University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research Places Gluten Sensitivity on Center Stage of Spectrum of Gluten-Related Disorders; March 11, 2011
- "Healthier Without Wheat"; Stephen Wangen; 2009
- "The Irritable Bowel Syndrome Solution"; Stephen Wangen; 2006
- IBS Treatment Center: IBS Fact Sheet