Where to Find Your Fibre When Gluten is off the Menu
Getting a variety of health promoting prebiotic fibre in your day reduces inflammation and promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in your gut. This promotes diversity of your gut microbes to optimise your reproductive health.
Great sources of prebiotic fibre include wholewheat bread, oats, wheat cereals and barley, but these also contain gluten. Let’s look at how you can you can get enough prebiotic fibre in your day when Gluten is off the menu!
What is Gluten?
Gluten is essentially the ‘glue’ that holds cereal grains together. It is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, oats and anything derived from these gluten containing grains such as malt. Gluten is a common additive to many foods (sometimes as a thickener or colour) so you may find it in ice cream, lollies, processed meats, yoghurt and salad dressings.
For those diagnosed with Coeliac Disease, eating gluten disrupts the gastrointestinal tract and damages intestinal cells, stressing the immune system and reducing the absorption of nutrients. Untreated Coeliac Disease is a cause of ‘unexplained’ infertility, although the number of women with undiagnosed Coeliac Disease is low. If you are a Coeliac, you do need to remove gluten from your diet.
Is it Gluten or FODMAPs?
Some people who are not diagnosed with Coeliac Disease experience symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhoea, bloating and excessive wind and fatigue that they attribute to eating gluten or wheat. This has been termed ‘Non-Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity’ and emerging research in this field suggests that it is not gluten that contributes to these symptoms but rather the FODMAP content of the diet.
FODMAPs are short chain carbohydrates that may be poorly absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract. FODMAPs include fructose (when in excess of glucose), fructans, galacto-oligosaccharides, lactose and polyols (eg. sorbitol and mannitol) – hence the acronym! If you think you need to remove gluten from your diet make sure you find the cause of your symptoms with a proper medical diagnosis prior to gluten removal.
Is Eating 'Gluten Free' Healthier?
Somehow ‘gluten free’ has become synonymous with ‘healthy’, but is eating gluten free actually healthier? If processed foods are removed from your diet and you eat more whole foods when eating gluten free, then generally this will be associated with a reduction in dietary intake of sugars and saturated fats (including trans fats) which would be beneficial to health and fertility.
But, there may be some other dietary changes associated with removing gluten that are not so great for health, especially if you reduce your intake of grains. Removing gluten from your diet by cutting out bread, pasta and cereal may significantly reduce your dietary intake of fibre.
What's Your Gut Feeling?
The immune stimulating potential of gluten may be related to your gut microbiome. The HLA-DQ9 gene is the most commonly linked to Coeliac Disease yet some people carrying the gene do not have Coeliac Disease. Could the resident bacteria in your gut influence your propensity to develop Coeliac Disease or Non-Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity?
A study using mice looked at the impact of the gut microbiota on the response to gluten. Three groups of mice with three different microbiotas (different populations of bacteria and yeast in the gut) were exposed to gluten for two weeks. Mice with no microbiota (germ free) and mice with a microbiota that contained a number of disease causing species developed an adverse response to gluten, while mice with a healthy microbiota (free of disease causing pathogens) did not have an adverse response. There may be value in ensuring your microbiota is in top shape!
Historically, a gluten free diet has been associated with sub-optimal intake of protein, fiber, B vitamins, and iron alongside increased fat and sugar intake. In combination with possible micronutrient deficiency, removing gluten may have other adverse consequences. In healthy adults adhering to a gluten free diet for one month, numbers of healthy gut bacteria decreased, while numbers of unhealthy bacteria increased. Rather than removing gluten from your diet, if not medically necessary, a focus on pre-biotic foods and eating a variety of fresh whole foods will boost your microbiota diversity!
Gluten Free Sources of Prebiotics
You can still pack in prebiotic fibre to benefit your gut community, even if gluten is off the menu. Here are some great options:
Starchy foods. If you cook and cool pasta, rice and potatoes you can boost the resistant starch content by 20%! Try a healthy gluten free pasta salad for lunch or maybe a side of potato salad with dinner.
Swap white for brown. Replace white bread, white pasta and white rice with brown. You can even try a lentil or chickpea pasta for an extra prebiotic fibre hit.
Up your intake of legumes. Beans, chickpeas, soybeans and lentil are gluten free and a great source of prebiotic fibre. They come with the added bonus of protein, B vitamins and iron!
Eat a rainbow. Selected fruit and vegetables will increase your prebiotic fibre intake. Make sure you are eating lots of different coloured, fresh foods and you will also increase your dietary antioxidants.
Fertile Gut. The prebiotic fibres in Fertile Gut are gluten free and scientifically proven to promote the growth of your beneficial gut bacteria. This is a super easy way to top up your prebiotic fibre intake each day for optimal gut health.
Not all fibre is created equal. Look to include prebiotic fibres in your day that will boost the diversity of your gut community for optimal outcomes!