Monthly Archives: November 2010
The line between irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and wheat intolerance symptoms can seem very blurry. IBS is a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning it only applies after other diagnosable conditions have been eliminated. Because the symptoms of IBS can be very similar to celiac disease, celiac disease is one of the diseases which must be investigated before a diagnosis of IBS is given.
People with wheat intolerance symptoms who don’t have celiac disease may want to investigate some of the other tests used to obtain a diagnosis of IBS. These include tests for lactose intolerance, parasitic infections, and fructose malabsorption. The last test, in particular, may be of interest to those who can’t tolerate wheat. Because wheat contains high levels of fructan, it is often a problem for people with fructose malabsorption. However, fructose malabsorption cannot be effectively treated by simply removing wheat from the diet; there are other high-fructose and -fructan foods that also trigger symptoms.
So, if a person knows they can’t tolerate wheat, but also has symptoms after eating a variety of other foods, fructose malabsorption is a possibility that should be checked. If that test comes up negative, further testing may eventually result in a diagnosis of IBS. Unfortunately IBS, like fructose malabsorptin, cannot be cured, only managed. And that management includes avoiding foods which trigger symptoms… like wheat.
With that in mind, are you really any further ahead with a diagnosis than you would have been just cutting out any foods that bother you and cause symptoms? The answer is yes– probably. Because IBS involves eliminating curable and treatable conditions, you will know that there isn’t a simple solution to your digestive issues. How bad would you feel, for instance, finding out years later that all of your problems could have been permanently solved with a round of anti-parasitics?
This must be balanced against the medical costs involved in testing. It may not be practical for someone with poor– or no– medical insurance to pay for all the tests and office visits involved in an IBS diagnosis. In that case, if symptoms can be managed with control of the diet, even with no diagnosis, that’s certainly better than nothing.
One of the decisions you may wish to make is whether or not the entire family should go wheat and gluten free, this is a decision that is entirely up to each family and it is not necessary – although it might make things a little easier and less prone to mistakes. If you choose to NOT go completely gluten-free then making sure that items in the pantry and refrigerator are properly labeled, and this practice is adhered to, can make life much simpler than guessing all the time.
When it comes to talking about celiac disease and wheat intolerance with your kids, the best results I have seen are when parents start talking to them about their diet right away whether they are three years old or 13 years old. Don’t be afraid to use some of the bigger, or more medical terms and of course don’t make up any words either. The whole point of this is to give your child an understanding of the situation so that they can control their diet themselves instead of their diet controlling them.
Regardless of your child’s age they will obviously have been aware by now after being sick for an extended period of time, and seeing concern with you as their parents, in addition to multiple visits to the doctor that those times are behind them now and soon they are going to start feeling much better.
As your discussions progress with your kids, there’s going to be a steep learning curve for everyone. Most families don’t realize initially the implications of having someone with a dietary restriction and living wheat free. Usually these issues emerge over time and just need someone to take ownership of ongoing communication and reinforcement. The best advice I have ever heard when dealing with someone young in the family recently diagnosed with celiac disease or wheat intolerance is to always have an alternative and better tasting snack on hand.