Coeliac struggling with high fibre – is it soluble or insoluble!?

Okay, so coeliacs know that high levels of fibre in food is good for them. It can help prevent heart disease, diabetes, weight gain and some cancers, and improve digestive health.

10256045 - white rice and food ingredients
(c) 123RF and aopsan

Gluten free food can be nutritionally poor and so nutrients and fibre are added to many gluten free staple foods such as bread, pasta, breakfast cereals. Over the last year, I’ve seen an increase in the levels of fibre that is being added and I do wonder whether this is becoming too much of a good thing for some of us?

I decided to look more into fibre and what I found has surprised me a bit.

High fibre diets aren’t necessarily right for everyone!

You might have thought high fibre was best but high levels of fibre, particularly insoluble fibre, can cause bloating and too loose stools or too frequent urges to go to the smallest room.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t tolerate high level of fibre and now believe that many intestinal disturbances I’ve had over the last year or so were actually due to high levels of fibre and not gluten contamination as I’d believed!

You might have heard of soluble and insoluble fibre and most foods which naturally contain fibre contain both soluble and insoluble fibre.  My layman’s understanding of their effect on our bodies is as follows:-

Insoluble fibre

Insoluble fibre isn’t digested, it pretty much goes straight through our intestinal tract. It’s action is to bulk up our stools and in general it speeds up progress which is helpful in combating constipation but can be too helpful!

The food groups that are high in insoluble fibre are typically what you might regard as breakfast cereals – so grains, perhaps nuts and seeds but also whole grains, many vegetables and their skins have high proportions of insoluble fibre.

Soluble fibre

Soluble fibre is digested and counts in terms of calories. It dissolves in water and becomes a gel in the intestines which makes stools easier to pass and can slow down progress through the gut.

The food groups that are high in soluble fibre are typically fruits and root vegetables but specifically:- citrus fruits, apples and pears; beans and pulses; white rice and pasta; soy, quinoa, corn meal; root vegetables such as potatoes; winter squashes.

Additionally, eating soluble fibre before insoluble fibre can slows down the the transit speed of food through your gut, not to the degree of constipation but it can tame the sometimes too-fast speed produced by high levels of insoluble fibre.

What’s in your gluten-free staple foods?

Whilst many gluten free food providers provide the levels of fibre in their nutrition information, this isn’t split between soluble and insoluble. It’s not a statistical analysis but I decided to ask what this proportion is of a few suppliers for specific products:-

  • Breakfast cereals – Juvela said their Fibre Flakes have around 90% insoluble fibre and 10% soluble fibre
  • Bread – Glutafin said they don’t analyse fibre at this level but helpfully added that seeded loaves would have a higher proportion of insoluble fibre. Genius said they don’t test for this but their ingredients suggest that mostly their fibre is insoluble from psyllium husk.

Small changes I’m making which may be helpful

  1. Coffee is known to speed up progress through the gut particularly at breakfast time so coffee is now for afternoons. This hasn’t anything to do with caffeine btw.
  2. Chocolate, prunes, figs and curries have legendary effects as moving everything along the gut too which you may like to avoid or encourage!
  3. I’m moving to Glutafin Select fresh brown bread (now free of codex wheat) as it has a moderately high level of mostly soluble fibre at 7.4% and not the too high (in my view) level of 10% of Genius fresh brown bread from mostly insoluble psyllium husk.
  4. Have an orange before anything else at breakfast time
  5. Adding a small portion of beans or pulses daily to lunch or dinner


  1. Look up typical soluble and insoluble proportions in different foods:-

About me: I’m just a coeliac sufferer in the UK trying to find my way and asking questions.



Gluten, Malt Whisky and Beer

Being diagnosed with coeliac disease in recent years, I miss many things I used to enjoy to eat and drink. For coeliac sufferers gluten isn’t a lifestyle choice it has to be avoided at all costs. Coeliac is an autoimmune disease so the damage occurs from our own immune system attacking ourselves when it encounters gluten.

(c) 123RF and Hayes Ng

Gluten is the protein in Wheat and is used as a generic term for the similar proteins found in some other grains – Rye and Barley being it’s close cousins. Some also react to Oats!

People with coeliac disease get varied symptoms which are particular to themselves and can range from mild to very debilitating. The autoimmune reaction however seriously damages the small intestine and increases the risk of bowel cancer significantly so coeliacs must avoid gluten even if they are only aware of mild symptoms.

Gluten-free beer – can you drink it?

44463005 - beer and hops
(c) 123RF and Yuliya29

The grain used to make most beers is barley. Its protein is called hordein but it can be regarded as gluten. Brewers can create specifically “gluten-free beer” by chemically neutralising the protein to reduce its content to levels that most coeliac sufferers won’t react to. Or at least that’s the theory!

I’ve tried around half a dozen different gluten-free beers more than once and have decided I can’t tolerated gluten free beer at all. I get symptoms which are much like I did before I was diagnosed. My Dietician gave me the not so great news that some coeliac sufferers also react to gluten-free beer and that if they do it is likely that they are having an autoimmune reaction which is every bit as dangerous to them.

I’ve tried to understand why some coeliacs react to gluten-free beer and the suggestion is that although deglutenising the hordein protein in barley will show the beer to have gluten levels that are below 20ppm, there are still likely to be high levels of fragments of its DNA left in the beer. Some coeliacs, like me, are sensitive to these fragments.

Whisky – is it gluten-free?

18372945 - shot of a cut crystal glass containing brandy.
(c) 123RF and Igorr

Whisky is produced by first creating a product similar to beer in many ways and then distilling it. The distillation process drives off alcohol vapour which is then captured and condensed. Distillation should remove the gluten from the product and so whisky, or any spirit on its own, be drunk by coeliacs.

The flavour of whisky has a lot to do with what happens next. Whisky is stored in oak barrels that may have previously contained sherry or brandy. Typically the barrels are  burned on the inside which contributes to the complex flavours tasted in whisky.

Single-malt whisky is the safest form of whisky to drink and should be gluten-free. I asked Glenfiddich about their process; their whisky is gluten-free and they don’t use any barley based products to colour the whisky.

Colouring the whisky with barley derived colour can be an issue apparently. Single-malt whisky is nearly always safe from this practice. Blended whisky may have barley based colouring added as the producer creates a standard product in terms of taste and colour regardless of the originating whiskies that have gone into making it.

My conclusion

For me, I mostly drink wine and cider. Spirits such as single-malt whisky, brandy, gin and rum are fine for me but I won’t go anywhere near gluten-free beer!

About me: I’m just a coeliac sufferer in the UK trying to find my way and asking questions.