Exploring the low FODMAP diet for management of IBS
According to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, IBS affects about 1 in 7 Americans, with even more individuals suffering without a diagnosis. The disease can cause varying symptoms from gas or bloating to constipation or diarrhea. In recent years, many patients have seen a reduction or resolution in symptoms with assistance from a low FODMAP diet. Read on to find out more.
What is a low FODMAP diet?
“FODMAP” is an acronym for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols. These are carbohydrates thought to be poorly digested and absorbed in individuals with IBS. If these sugars are not properly absorbed, they remain intact in the small intestines. Here, they become a food source for bacteria and produce gas, or they draw water into bowel causing diarrhea.
A low FODMAP diet is a type of short-term elimination diet that begins with the removal of FODMAP food sources for several weeks. If an individual experiences an improvement in IBS symptoms, this is a good sign that a low FODMAP diet may be effective.
The diet continues with a pre-planned and structured reintroduction of high FODMAP foods. Because the diet is quite restrictive, it should never be expected to follow a low FODMAP diet long-term. Instead, the goal is to identify foods that may contribute to IBS symptoms and limit offending foods only.
What foods are restricted on a low FODMAP diet?
There are numerous foods that contain FODMAPs including:
- Green peas
- Apples and apple juice
Dairy and dairy alternatives
- Cow’s milk
- Ice cream
- Soy milk
- Processed meats
Breads and grains
- Wheat, rye, or barley-based grains
- Breakfast cereals
Fortunately, there are low FODMAP alternatives that can be substituted once the trigger foods are identified in the elimination diet.
Dietitians are allies in treating IBS
Patients interested in following a low FODMAP diet should be under the supervision of a dietitian. Why? A low FODMAP diet is very restrictive by nature. A dietitian can ensure the patient is meeting all of his/her nutritional needs, particularly during the elimination phase of the diet. Once the patient begins reintroducing foods back into the diet, a dietitian should guide this process, helping to identify problematic foods and customizing a long-term diet that will assist in symptom management.
If you have more questions about IBS or a low FODMAP diet, it’s always a great idea to speak with a registered dietitian. Registered dietitians are the only credentialed experts qualified to address your unique health questions.
April is IBS awareness month. International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders website https://www.aboutibs.org/ibs-awareness-month.html. Updated April 2, 2018. Accessed April 11, 2018.
Starting the low FODMAP diet. Monash University website https://www.monashfodmap.com/i-have-ibs/starting-the-low-fodmap-diet/. Updated 2017. Accessed April 11, 2018.
Try a FODMAPs diet to manage irritable bowel syndrome. Harvard Health Publishing website https://www.health.harvard.edu/diet-and-weight-loss/a-new-diet-to-manage-irritable-bowel-syndrome. Updated July 29, 2015. Accessed April 11, 2018.
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