Gluten-free Diet Affects Gut Bacteria

Notable News – A few months back a study came out that found that the two most common (not to mention the most important!) types of healthy gut bacteria—Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli—were decreased in people on a gluten-free diet. My first thought was, “Oh great, now everyone is going to think the gluten-free diet is bad for you.” Not true!

The main difference between the gluten-free diet and the ‘normal’ diet in this study was the polysaccharide content (polysaccharides are just complex carbohydrates made of long chains of simple sugars). The gluten-free diet was lower in polysaccharides, which makes sense since polysaccharides often have a prebiotic effect. That means they nourish the good bacteria, or probiotics, and help them multiply, so a diet lower in polysaccharides might mean a decrease in the good bacteria that rely on them for food. But… THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT YOU SHOULD AVOID THE GLUTEN-FREE DIET! 

The gluten-free diet is essential for people who are gluten-sensitive or have a gluten allergy. And today more and more people are discovering that they’re sensitive to gluten and feel better on a gluten-free diet. So what should you do if you’re on a gluten-free diet but worried about a change in your gut bacteria? That’s easy—probiotics!

I can’t say enough about how important probiotics are. Not only do they help balance the good and bad bacteria in our intestines to help with digestion and immunity, but they also help to strengthen the protective intestinal lining, which can become damaged due to inflammation in people who are gluten-sensitive (including those with celiac disease).

The decrease in polysaccharides found in this study might also mean that those following a gluten-free diet were not eating enough gluten-free grains, which means they weren’t eating enough fiber. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Here she goes again, talking about fiber,” but this is important! On top of playing a vital role in overall health and weight loss, fiber has a beneficial effect on our gut bacteria, so it’s essential that people on a gluten-free diet eat enough fiber.

So as the old saying goes, don’t throw the baby out with the bath water! The gluten-free diet has helped so many people—the key is simply staying informed about the best ways to maximize your health when avoiding gluten.

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