Anyone who has Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) will know how difficult it is to manage the symptoms. One of the ways some have had success is through a special diet called the ‘low FODMAP’ diet. Here I provide some information about the diet, and whether I believe it is suitable for managing IBS symptoms.
What are FODMAPs?
FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Di-saccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. The gut doesn’t properly absorb these are short-chain carbohydrates, which can trigger symptoms in people with IBS. You can find FODMAPs naturally in many foods and food additives. We only call some carbohydrates FODMAPs.
Some FODMAPs attract additional water into the bowel and others become fermented in your intestinal tract by bacteria, resulting in gas production. The presence of additional water and gas causes IBS-type symptoms such as intestinal bloating, gas and pain.
How does the Low FODMAP Diet work?
Developed by researchers from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, the Low FODMAP Diet limits consumption of these short-chain carbohydrates in order to ease IBS symptoms.
The diet is best overseen by a qualified dietitian or healthcare professional who has experience in this particular area. It starts with a high-restriction period of 2-6 weeks and then very gradually shifts to a more relaxed diet where the patient reintroduces foods one at a time to identify which particular FODMAPs an they can and cannot tolerate. A low FODMAP eating approach is not a weight loss plan, despite including the term ‘diet’.
Here are some common low FODMAP foods that can be included in the diet:
- Kiwi fruit
- Almond milk
- Maple syrup
In the initial stages, at least, here are some foods that will need to be excluded:
- Wheat, rye and barley
- Beans and pulses
- Onion and garlic
- Apples and pears
Of course, these are by no means exhaustive lists. Very detailed lists of permitted and non-permitted foods are available online, but every single ingredient in each food item needs to be checked by a qualified dietitian.
Does it work?
A recent study on the efficacy of the low FODMAP diet on IBS symptoms reported that after 4 weeks, the low FODMAP diet managed to improve gut symptoms in around 60%-70% of patients.
The downside is that the diet is very complicated, time-consuming and potentially expensive. The full exclusion and re-introduction process can take six months or more. What’s more, if the low FODMAP is undertaken without the supervision and guidance of a qualified dietitian, it can result in malnutrition from an overly restrictive diet.
Although the latest studies show it is very effective, I hesitate to recommend it to everyone. The low FODMAP diet is a serious undertaking and should definitely not be tried until the more straightforward solutions to IBS have been explored.
Most of my patients benefit from the ‘first-line’ advice which does not involve complicated exclusion diets such as these! On the other hand, if you have tried other IBS treatments without success, then the low FODMAP could be an option for you.
If you are struggling with IBS symptoms and considering this treatment, why not contact me for a free five-minute consultation? I am fully trained to deliver the low-FODMAP diet and can advise you on whether it could be something that could work for you.
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