Do you suffer from bloating and discomfort when you eat bread or pasta?  Do you experience other painful and embarrassing digestive symptoms like wind, cramps and constipation or diarrhoea? Maybe you’ve even tried a gluten free diet.  For most people Fructans, not gluten, is likely to be the culprit. So what’s the difference?

What is Gluten?

Gluten is the protein found in wheat, rye and barley and oats.   This protein causes damage to the intestines in people with coeliac disease.  About 1 in 70 people have coeliac disease but up to 20% of these people don’t know they have it.  Symptoms of coeliac disease can include bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, infertility, headaches, anaemia, & nutrient deficiencies. Some people may have very mild or no symptoms.  People with coeliac disease must avoid gluten for life as there can be serious long-term health impacts.

Don’t stop eating gluten, until you have

a blood test for coeliac disease.

It can prevent you getting a clear result

What are Fructans?

Fructans are the carbohydrates found in foods such as wheat, rye and onion.  In people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) the gut doesn’t function normally and these foods are poorly digested causing symptoms.   About 1 in 7 or 15% of Australians suffer from IBS and get recurring symptoms which can include bloating or distention, excessive wind, constipation and/or diarrhoea and lower abdominal pain.  It is more common in women over 50 and people who have had past gut infections. It is often worse in times of stress and linked with anxiety, depression and fatigue.

Most people with IBS (about 80 %) can get a significant improvement in symptoms after just two weeks of limiting Fructans, and other FODMAPS, in the diet.

What are FODMAP’s ?

  What does it mean?
Fermentable   Undigested carbohydrates are fermented by bacteria in the gut
Oligo-saccharides, e.g. wheat, rye, onions, garlic and legumes (beans & nuts), dried fruit, inulin
Di-saccharides, e.g. lactose in dairy products (milk, ice cream, custard, soft cheeses)
Mono-saccharides e.g. fructose in apples, pears, mango, tomato paste, honey, agave,

high fructose corn syrup and rum

Polyols e.g. sorbitol, mannitol & xylitol – found in stone fruit & some veges

& ‘sugar free’ chewing gum & lollies

Trialling a Low FODMAP diet

The specific foods and amounts that cause IBS symptoms in can vary from person to person.  A dietitian can help you to investigate your specific trigger foods and tolerance levels to ensure you are not restricting any foods unnecessarily and are still getting enough of important nutrients like fibre.

Unlike a gluten free diet for coeliac disease, people with IBS do not need to follow a low FODMAP diet for life.  By following the diet for 4-6 weeks, the damage and inflammation in the gut is able to heal and tolerance levels are generally increased.  This means that most people can tolerate these foods again and just need to limit how much and how often they eat them.  Following a strict low FODMAP diet for too long can lead to nutrient deficiencies, reduce good bacteria in the gut and make it hard to enjoy a meal with friends and family.


IBS symptoms can be similar to more serious medical conditions so it’s important to see your GP first to rule out coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel diseases and bowel cancer.  A number of tests will need to be done to rule out these more serious conditions before a diagnosis of IBS can be made.

Test options can include

  • Blood Test – to check for nutrient deficiencies, coeliac disease and inflammation markers in the blood
  • Colonoscopy – under anaesthetic, a specialist examines the bowel (I promise you won’t feel a thing) for structural issues, tumours or damage.
  • Stool test – to check for parasites in the gut
  • Breath testing – to check for bacterial overgrowth or malabsorption

Other Strategies

Drinking lots of water Stress
Heat packs Caffeine
Relaxation techniques Carbonated drinks
Probiotic supplements Alcohol
Increasing fibre intake Spicy food
Peppermint tea Fatty processed foods
Increasing physical activity

(e.g. walking, cycling, yoga)

Eating too quickly

Want more info?

About the Low FODMAP diet:

Low FODMAP recipes:

Find a Dietitian:

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