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    Jefferson Adams

    Do Reduced Polysaccharides in Gluten-free Diet Promote Bad Gut Bacteria?

    Jefferson Adams


    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Caption: New BJN study on gluten-free diet and bad gut bacteria

    Celiac,com 10/08/2010 - Many people are familiar with probiotics, such as acidophilus, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Bifidobacterium longum, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus case, which promote beneficial gut bacteria, and are commonly found in yogurt, kefir and other fermented milk products.

    But how many of us have heard of polysaccharides, which are a particular kind of carbohydrate made up of of a number of monosaccharides joined together by something called glycosidic bonds.



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    On a simpler note, polysaccharides are also known as pre-biotics, because they serve as fuel for probiotic bacteria, and help to promote healthy ratios of beneficial bacteria to non-beneficial bacteria in the gut.

    It is well-known among scientists that diet has a major influence on the health and diversity of gut microbiota. People with celiac disease must follow a gluten-free diet in order to avoid associated damage and health disorders.

    When people with celiac disease follow a gluten-free diet, their celiac symptoms disappear and their gut begins to heal itself from the damage. The health effects of the diet for people with celiac disease are overwhelmingly positive.

    However, there is some evidence that by eliminating gluten, people with celiac disease are making themselves susceptible to a plunge in beneficial gut bacteria, and an elevated ratio of bad-to-good gut bacteria. This may have immune-system implications for those people.

    To test this hypothesis, a team of scientists recently conducted a preliminary study to determine if a gluten-free diet alone could change the make-up and immune properties of gut microbiota. The team included G. De Palma, I. Nadal, M. C. Collado, and Y. Sanz. Their full results appear in theSeptember, 2009 issue of the British Journal of Nutrition.

    To briefly summarize their study, the team enrolled ten healthy individuals without celiac disease, averaging just over 30 years of age. They put these people on a gluten-free diet for a month. Subsequent analysis of fecal microbiota and dietary intake showed a decrease in healthy gut bacteria, coupled with an increase of unhealthy bacteria that corresponded with reduced intake of polysaccharides after following the gluten-free diet. Another healthy control group that ate a diet that contained gluten, and thus provided polysaccharides. 

    In addition representing an adversely change in gut microbiota, the samples taken while the individuals followed a gluten-free diet also exerted reduced immune stimulatory effects on peripheral blood mononuclear cells than those of subjects on a regular gluten-containing, polysaccharide-rich diet.

    Should these findings be confirmed by subsequent studies, the results could call attention to a more comprehensive approach to proper dietary intake in people with celiac disease, including dietary counseling, and possible supplementation of the diet with polysaccharides.

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    I am not sure that a test of non-celiacs going gluten free has any relation to celiac. Obviously for starters, our guts work differently.

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    There are many sources of polysaccharides besides gluten-containing grains. Fruit pectin is a big one, and legumes like peas and beans. Also non-gluten grains like corn and rice. And mushrooms. And goji berries. And tubers like potatos. In fact, most plants store their energy as polysaccharides, so the moral of the story is that your mother was right: eat your fruit and vegetables.

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    I really believe this is true. I got off of gluten about 2-3 years ago after my stomach problems since childhood were getting so much worse--gas, diarrhea, and eventually constipation. I had been by my husband--a family doctor to try getting off dairy for 2 weeks, then try wheat for 2 weeks. It took getting really sick to be willing to try it. One day off wheat and I knew immediately that was the problem. No fun. Boy did I love pasta!

     

    But after getting off wheat, another problem developed--I started getting this terrible underarm odor. I tried giving up soy, dairy. I made improvements but couldn't get rid of the problem altogether. The first thing that made me think it was a gut flora problem was that when I tried a product called whey-low, the problem got better. I am getting some Align to try next and trying to be reasonable with my diet to ensure better gut health. I haven't started the Align yet, but one thing that has helped tremendously is eating lower fat, drinking lots of water, and limiting caffeine. I just can't eat like I did when I was a teenager! I have great hopes that the probiotics will allow me to eat a few more foods that I want. But this problem all started after getting off wheat! Obviously, I can't go back to wheat. Literally, if I even get a crumb I end up with terrible, foul gas and painful diarrhea. Fortunately it is over pretty quickly for me...unlike some people I've heard.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,500 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

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