If you suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), you’re not alone. It’s estimated that up to 15% of the world’s population is affected by the condition , while many more may be silent sufferers who don’t have a diagnosis.
IBS is a chronic disorder of the gastrointestinal tract that causes abdominal pain, bloating, and changes in bowel habits; and it tends to be divided into three different categories: IBS-C (IBS with constipation), IBS-D (IBS with diarrhoea) and IBS-M (IBS with both constipation and diarrhoea).
The challenge with diagnosing and treating IBS is that the causes are not fully understood, while it being classified as a syndrome basically means that it’s a collection of symptoms rather than a diagnosed ‘disease’ like other intestinal disorders such as Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis.
One of the diets that have been shown to be effective in managing IBS symptoms is the Low FODMAPS diet. FODMAPS stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols, a collection of carbohydrates that are not well absorbed in the small intestine and can be fermented by gut bacteria, leading to gas and bloating .
The Low FODMAPS diet is an elimination diet that involves avoiding foods high in FODMAPS for a period of time, typically 2-6 weeks, to identify trigger foods that exacerbate IBS symptoms . After the elimination period, FODMAPS foods are gradually reintroduced to identify which foods are problematic and which can be safely consumed .
A Low FODMAPS diet has been shown to be effective in reducing the symptoms of IBS in many studies. A systematic review of 22 randomised controlled trials found that a Low FODMAPS diet was effective in reducing IBS symptoms in 50-80% of participants . The same review found that the Low FODMAPS diet was more effective than traditional IBS dietary advice.
A Low FODMAPS diet can be challenging to follow as many high FODMAPS foods are common in the Western diet, including wheat, dairy, and onions. However, with the help of a health coach or a nutritionist, it is possible to identify low FODMAPS alternatives and create delicious, healthy meals .
If you suffer from IBS, it may be worth considering a Low FODMAPS diet under the guidance of a health professional. While it may be challenging to follow initially, many people find that the benefits are worth it. With the right support and guidance, a Low FODMAPS diet can help you manage your IBS symptoms and improve your quality of life.
Low FODMAPs foods that may help those with IBS:
Vegetables: carrots, zucchini, cucumber, lettuce, spinach, eggplant, bell peppers, tomatoes, green beans, and potatoes (without skin)
Fruits: bananas, blueberries, cantaloupe, grapes, honeydew, kiwi, lemon, lime, orange, pineapple, raspberries, and strawberries
Proteins: chicken, beef, pork, turkey, fish, eggs, tofu, tempeh
Grains: rice, oats, quinoa, corn, gluten-free bread and pasta, and cereals made from rice or corn
Dairy alternatives: lactose-free milk, almond milk, coconut milk, and lactose-free yogurt
Fats: olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, and butter
Trigger foods high in FODMAPS:
Vegetables: garlic, onion, asparagus, artichokes, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, peas, and beans
Fruits: apples, apricots, cherries, mangoes, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums, and watermelon
Proteins: processed meats like sausages and salami, and some types of legumes like chickpeas, lentils, and kidney beans
Grains: wheat, barley, rye, and products made from these grains like bread, pasta, and cereal
Dairy: milk, ice cream, cheese, and yogurt made from cow’s milk
Sweeteners: honey, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners like sorbitol, xylitol, and mannitol.
Keep in mind that the Low FODMAPS diet is an elimination diet and should be undertaken under the guidance of a health professional.
Canavan, C., West, J., & Card, T. (2014). The epidemiology of irritable bowel syndrome. Clinical epidemiology, 6, 71-80. doi: 10.2147/CLEP.S40245
Gibson, P. R., & Shepherd, S. J. (2010). Evidence-based dietary management of functional gastrointestinal symptoms: The FODMAP approach. Journal of gastrointestinal and liver diseases, 19(2), 137-146.
Halmos, E. P., Power, V. A., Shepherd, S. J., Gibson, P. R., & Muir, J. G. (2014). A diet low in FODMAPs reduces symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Gastroenterology, 146(1), 67-75.e5. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2013.09.046