It would seem for most of us, myself included. Blaming gluten for my previous digestive issues or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) was a simple explanation. - I removed gluten from my diet and hey presto, my digestion/symptoms improved a little or did they?
Unfortunately, through social media gluten has got a bad reputation and although it can affect some individuals that suffer with specific digestive issues such as Celiac, for the vast majority of us it’s an unlikely culprit.
A recent study by Biesiekierski in 2013 performed a double-blind cross-over trial of 37 subjects with NCGS (non-celiac gluten sensitivity) and irritable bowel syndrome to investigate the effects of gluten. The placebo-controlled, cross-over re-challenge study “found no evidence of specific or dose-dependent effects of gluten in patients with NCGS placed diets low in FODMAPs”
Interestingly, this highlights that perhaps its not the removal of gluten that improves symptoms, but the foods it’s often found in - FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols) which are a collection of poorly absorbed simple and complex sugars that are found in a variety of foods.
The results shown in the graph attached show, “overall symptoms and pain significantly worsened compared with mean scores during the last week of each dietary treatment period, irrespective of the diet,” and “Bloating and tiredness significantly worsened during low-gluten and placebo treatment arms only.”
They summarised that "Alternatively, gluten might induce symptoms only in the presence of a moderate content of FODMAPs. Many gluten-containing cereals are high in fructans, which are a problem in patients with IBS15 and their concomitant reduction with the introduction of the GFD might lead to improved gut symptoms, wrongly perceived to be due to a reduction in gluten intake.”
So perhaps instead of giving Gluten a hard time, and avoiding all foods its contained in, give more consideration to the quality of the foods you consume day to day. A diet with a reduced mount of FODMAPs could be the right step to improving your digestion and health.