Why Your Probiotic Should be Gluten-Free

Probiotic formulations are no longer just limited to acute use, such as replacing the good bacteria in the gut destroyed by antibiotics. They are being increasingly used to keep the gut generally healthy regularly, thereby contributing to overall better health and wellness.

However, according to Professor Leon Dicks, head of the probiotic and antimicrobial peptide laboratory in the Department of Microbiology at Stellenbosch University, your probiotic  should be gluten-free. This is especially true for those suffering from gluten-related disorders or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

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He says, the spectrum of gluten-related disorders has widened in recent times and includes celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity and wheat allergy.  Symptoms of gluten-related disorders include diarrhoea constipation and abdominal pain.

Gluten sensitivity and probiotic use

Celiac disease is a serious chronic, multi-system autoimmune disease which affects the small intestine and is triggered by the intake of gluten. Non-celiac disease, also referred to as gluten sensitivity, is less well defined but generally refers to people without proven gluten intolerance or wheat allergy, whose symptoms improve when following a gluten-free diet.

As the in-take of wheat and other gluten-containing cereals spreads around the world, the prevalence of gluten-related disorders is growing. Recent research shows that improvements in testing methodologies for identifying people with celiac disease reveal greater prevalence in developing countries than previously thought. This includes countries where bread is widely consumed.

Professor Dicks points out that anyone suffering from a gluten-related disorder should ensure the probiotic they take is gluten-free so as not to aggravate their symptoms.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome and probiotic use

Another illness creating discomfort for many South Africans is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). IBS is a chronic condition and a common gastrointestinal disorder.

According to the 2017 Cipla Digestive Health Survey, conducted among 400 health conscious South Africans, 22% of respondents said that they definitely suffer from IBS, while 35% of respondents were unsure. Professor Dicks says that a good quality, daily probiotic can decrease the symptoms of IBS as the microorganisms found in probiotics support the maintenance of a healthy gut flora balance.

Gut Health

“It is really important for anyone suffering from IBS to choose a probiotic that is gluten-free,” he explains. “This is because there is growing evidence that a gluten-free diet can help alleviate the symptoms associated with IBS.

The 2017 Cipla Digestive Health Survey also revealed that only 61% of survey respondents know what a probiotic is, while 54% know what the function of a probiotic is. It is therefore not surprising that many misconceptions exist around probiotic usage.”

He suggests that a lack of awareness around how to identify and use probiotics prevent many sufferers from unlocking the full benefit of probiotics.

“Daily use of a quality probiotic can offer multiple benefits, particularly for those suffering from IBS. However, Professor Dicks concludes,  it’s important to make sure the probiotic is gluten-free.”

Professor Leon Dicks, University of Stellenbosch