According to Dr. Francesco Russo and colleagues from the National Institute of Gastroenterology “S. de Bellis” Research Hospital in Castellana Grotte, Italy, recent research has potentially linked cereal consumption with gastrointestinal (GI) and extra-GI symptoms in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Following those hypotheses, Russo and colleagues designed a 12-week diet that replaced wheat cereals with Tritordeum-based foods—a new Spanish cereal species with a different composition than classic wheat—and evaluated its effect on GI symptoms and GI barrier health in patients with IBS-(D)iarrhea. The article, published in Frontiers in Nutrition, suggested that “Tritordeum may be a viable option for general food processing and those IBS patients who experience symptoms due to the ingestion of traditional wheat and cereals.”

Dr. Russo went on to suggest that the alleviation of GI symptoms, “appears to occur through an overall improvement of the GI barrier, as demonstrated by the reduced intestinal permeability and the decreased levels of markers of intestinal mucosal integrity, mucosal inflammation, and fermentative dysbiosis.”

Patients were examined by a gastroenterologist and interviewed by a nutritionist at baseline, and those with a total IBS-Symptom Severity Score (IBS-SSS) > 125 after one week of daily food intake and intestinal habit tracking were eligible for recruitment. Recruited patients provided stool, urine, and blood samples, underwent the sugar absorption test (SAT), and began the assigned diet. IBS-SSS questionnaires were completed throughout the 12-week intervention period, after which responses were collected and patients were reassessed for IBS-D symptom improvements. The final analysis included eligible 16 patients with IBS-D who had wheat-based breads, bakery products, and pastas in their diets replaced with Tritordeum-based substitutes.

According to the authors, the long-term intervention significantly reduced both single-item and total scores of the IBS-SSS questionnaire, and generally appeared to significantly reduce the symptoms of patients with IBS-D. Additionally, the study’s authors observed significant reductions in weight, BMI, and abdominal and waist circumferences after the intervention diet, however, they qualified that “these reductions were likely due to duration and diet restrictions,” and that “weight loss and reduced BMI should be considered a consequence of a long-term personalized diet, even if the diet’s energy intake has not been significantly reduced.”

In closing, Dr. Russo and colleagues theorized that “this positive action on the intestinal barrier may add host protection against the invasion and translocation of pathogens by contemporary contributing to the prevention and treatment of functional GI diseases,” and ultimately judged that “the dietary use of Tritordeum-based foods could be a promising approach for improving and supporting epithelial barrier function and integrity.”