Should you commit to a gluten-free diet if you have SIBO?
It’s one of the most common questions we hear from the SIBO SOS™ community.
Some practitioners think only those with Celiac Disease need to be gluten-free.
Others think gluten is evil and should be avoided by everyone – especially those with gut issues like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO).
So what is the truth about gluten and SIBO?
Today, I’m going to explain Celiac Disease, non-Celiac gluten sensitivity, their connection to SIBO, and (hopefully!) empower you to make the right decision for you about gluten. This blog post is based on information I have learned from interviewing Dr. Lisa Shaver, ND.
What Is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, rye, barley, and spelt. It also is a common contaminant in grains that don’t naturally contain gluten, like oats. Gluten is a large molecule with two sub-molecules: gliadin and glutenin.
Many foods are naturally gluten-free – even some grains like rice, corn, and quinoa. Other foods, like oats, can be gluten-free if they are properly handled. But gluten can’t be removed from gluten-containing grains like wheat or rye. Gluten-containing grains must be avoided 100% by gluten-free people.
What Is Celiac Disease?
Celiac Disease is an autoimmune condition that causes damage to the small intestine. When someone with Celiac Disease eats gluten, their immune system reacts by damaging the small intestine.
About 40% of the population has the genes for Celiac Disease. You can have the genetic test easily with just a cheek swab. But, having the gene for Celiac doesn’t mean you necessarily have the disease. Only about 1% of the population actually has Celiac Disease.
But, about 5% of people who DO have Celiac Disease don’t have the gene for it, either.
Basically, this means having the gene for Celiac isn’t a sure way to know if you do or don’t have Celiac Disease. Instead, you need to be tested for Celiac Disease specifically using either a blood or stool test.
For a blood test to be accurate, you have to be eating gluten regularly. For the stool test, you don’t have to be currently eating gluten for the results to be accurate.
If you DO have Celiac Disease, you must stop eating gluten. You need to stay on a gluten-free diet for the rest of your life.
Beyond Celiac Disease
If only 1% of the population has Celiac Disease, does that mean only 1% of us need to avoid gluten?
It’s not quite that simple.
Doctors once believed that either you had Celiac and must avoid gluten, or you could tolerate it without any adverse symptoms. What the evidence shows, however, is that someone can have non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and that can cause a whole range of symptoms.
As mentioned earlier, gluten has two sub molecules, gliadin and glutenin. As a molecule itself it’s already very large and hard to digest for a vast majority of people.
While you may not think you have a gluten sensitivity, you really need to test for it to be sure. Cyrex is one laboratory that does offer the non-celiac gluten sensitivity panel along with the celiac panel. It may be an extra cost, but arming yourself with information could definitely be worth it, especially if your results are positive.
The Role of Gluten When It Comes to SIBO
SIBO, celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity appear to intertwine. While you may eliminate gluten, if you’re still heavily eating carbs, you may still have symptoms.
In many instances, patients who were celiacs, or who had non-celiac gluten sensitivity who eliminated gluten, may have felt great for a long time. But after eating gluten-free foods like cookies, English muffins, tortillas and gluten-free cakes, or even rice, sorghum, millet and nut flours like almond or cashew flour, found that they still had bloating and diarrhea.
If you have SIBO, indulging in a gluten-free carb-heavy diet might be the cause of a whole list of uncomfortable symptoms: burping, reflux, heartburn, abdominal pain, stomach pain, gurgling, distention, bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, alternating diarrhea constipation, and painful bowel movements.
This shows that it isn’t just gluten, but processed grains in general that people with SIBO really struggle with in terms of digesting them properly.
Another issue is mis-diagnosing a gluten intolerance or Celiac Disease as SIBO.
Gluten & Leaky Gut
Why doesn’t everyone with the gene for Celiac Disease actually develop the condition?
It’s because for Celiac Disease to develop, leaky gut must also be present. If you have the gene for Celiac Disease but never develop leaky gut, you will not develop Celiac Disease.
Sounds great, right?
The only problem is that leaky gut is incredibly common and can be triggered by everything from medications, to environmental toxins, to diet (yes, eating gluten!), and stress.
Should I Go Gluten Free?
Even with all we know today, there still isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to this question.
However, there are certain steps you should take BEFORE eliminating gluten. If you eliminate gluten without testing for Celiac first, for example, you will never know if you have just a sensitivity or a potentially life-threatening autoimmune condition.
And even if you decide to go gluten-free, replacing gluten-containing foods with GF replacements may make your SIBO symptoms WORSE!
Do you have questions? Need more information about gluten, SIBO, and leaky gut?
Join Us For An All-New Masterclass with Dr. Lisa Shaver About Gluten
Introducing an all-new SIBO SOS™ Masterclass:
Taught by Dr. Lisa Shaver, ND
Masterclass On-Demand | Live Q&A Nov 1. At 3 PM Eastern
Dr. Shaver is a naturopathic physician, licensed acupuncturist, and holds a master’s degree in Oriental Medicine. She specializes in Celiac Disease and non-Celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS).
In this all-new Masterclass, Dr. Shaver will explain the way gluten impacts the digestive system, the different ways a gluten intolerance can manifest, and how gluten intolerance can interplay with Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth and leaky gut.
And the best part? We’re offering a special price for this Masterclass: just $27. This information is critical to healing (and so misunderstood) so we are lowering the price to make it accessible to as many people as possible.