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What is a low FODMAPs diet and how does it help with Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome or ‘IBS’ can be an incredibly frustrating condition for someone to manage. People who experience it often try many different treatments before they find the right one for them. If you have IBS your gastroenterologist or GP may recommend that you trial a low FODMAPs diet.

What is a low FODMAPs diet?

The word ‘FODMAPs’ stands for types of ‘sugars’ that come in our diet. These include Fermentable Oligo-saccharides, Di-saccharides, Mono-saccharides And Polyols. So, a low FODMAPs diet restricts some or all of these types of sugars.

These sugars are restricted as they might be the cause of the symptoms of bloating, wind, and abdominal discomfort that are experienced by many people with IBS. These symptoms can occur when these sugars are malabsorbed from the gut - that means they are not broken down and absorbed properly, so travel to your large intestine where they are fermented by bacteria.

What are the benefits of following a low FODMAPs diet? 1,2,3

Studies show that following the low FODMAPs diet can reduce symptoms in up to three quarters of patients with IBS. A low FODMAPs diet typically provides the greatest relief for bloating, excess wind, and abdominal discomfort.

What does following the low FODMAPS diet involve?

This diet involves removing certain foods such as grains, fruits, vegetables, and foods containing lactose and replacing them with ‘lower FODMAPs alternatives’ within the food groups they come from. The process of elimination is typically completed over a 6-8 week period. At the end of this time each type of sugar from the different FODMAP groups are reintroduced in turn (‘a food challenge’) to determine whether this is a problem sugar for you. We ask you to retry these foods to help you avoid an overly restrictive diet long term and to find the best balance for you between symptom management and having the foods you love – we do not want you to cut out ALL the FODMAP sugars if only some cause you to have the symptoms.

How should I go about trying this diet?

You should have your symptoms evaluated by your GP or gastroenterologist to exclude any other diagnosis before you try a low FODMAP diet. If your doctor feels this diet is appropriate for you, please seek out an experienced accredited practising dietitian (APD) for advice. We have several experienced dietitians at Health and Wellness Clinic at Mater Hospital that can provide guidance on a low FODMAPs diet for you.  Phone Health and Wellness on 07 3163 6000 for more information or to make an appointment.

References

1.        Staudacher HM, Whelan K, Irving PM, Lomer MCE. Comparison of symptom response following advice for a diet low in fermentable carbohydrates (FODMAPs) versus standard dietary advice in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2011 Oct 24(5):487-95. Abstract available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21615553

2.        Halmos EP, Power VA, Shepherd SJ, Gibson PR, Muir JG. A diet low in FODMAPs reduces symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Gastroenterology. 2014 Jan;146(1):67-75.e5. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2013.09.046. Epub 2013 Sep 25. Abstract available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24076059

3.        Marsh A, Eslick EM, Eslick GD. Does a diet low in FODMAPs reduce symptoms associated with functional gastrointestinal disorders? A comprehensive systematic review and meta-analysis. Eur J Nutr. 2015 May 17. [Epub ahead of print]. Abstract available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25982757

 

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