IBS stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome and if you were medically diagnosed with IBS, you should know that you are not alone, as one in seven adults in the world suffer from this disease.
The typical characteristics of Irritable Bowel Syndrome are chronic and relapsing symptoms including: lower abdominal pain and discomfort, bloating, wind and distension and altered bowel habit (ranging from diarrhea to constipation) but with no abnormal pathology.
But one of the major problems that comes with IBS is the large panel of symptoms it covers, some of them even being totally opposed, like diarrhea in certain cases and constipation in others.
IBS is a tricky syndrome that is still not fully understood by the medical sphere and so far, many explanations have been offered but none of them seems to fully satisfy everyone.
One thing where everyone agrees though, is that the harm caused by abdominal pains, discomforts and various painful symptoms, definitely have an impact on social, professional and private life.
We do insist on “medically diagnosed” as you should definitely not self-diagnose yourself with IBS. Instead, see a medical doctor who will assess your symptoms, run any tests needed to rule out other conditions and give you a clear diagnosis of IBS before you start this diet.
How does the Low-FODMAP Diet work?
Developed by a team of researchers from the Monash University in Melbourne, the Low-FODMAP Diet™ limits foods that have been shown to aggravate the gut and cause Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) symptoms like intestinal bloating, gas and pain.
The principle of this diet is to target what kind of food triggers IBS symptoms the most.
Instead of guessing which one is the culprit, the diet consists of eliminating all FODMAP for a period of 6 to 12 weeks in order to get rid of all the possible triggering factors.
The IBS symptoms will eventually get better for most people suffering from IBS.
If no improvement occurs then the Low-FODMAP Diet™ is probably not the right solution for you and you should consult with your medical doctor.
If the symptoms tend to reduce or disappear, it is time to move on to the next part of the diet.
What does FODMAP mean?
FODMAP is the acronym for:
Fermentable Oligosaccharides Disaccharides Monosaccharides Polyols.
Put simply, FODMAPs are a collection of short-chain carbohydrates (sugars) that aren’t absorbed properly in the gut, which can trigger symptoms in people with IBS.
When FODMAPs reach the small intestine, they move slowly, attracting water.
When they pass into the large intestine, FODMAPs are fermented by gut bacteria, producing gas as a result. The extra gas and water cause the intestinal wall to stretch and expand and because people with IBS have a highly sensitive gut, “stretching” the intestinal wall causes exaggerated sensations of pain and discomfort.
The first step in the Low-FODMAP Diet™ is to cut off all the triggering foods that have one of the FODMAP elements, as those are a part of a special type of carbohydrates that are known to favorise IBS symptoms.
Here is where you can find those trigger foods for example:
- Oligosaccharides, that includes wheat, rye, legumes and some fruits and vegetables. Beans, onions, garlic, asparagus are part of them.
- Dairy products, that means no milk, ice cream, yogurts or cheese. They all contain lactose which is a major IBS triggering carb.
- Monosaccharides which means fructose. Mangoes, figs are some of the most well-known sources of this carbohydrate.
- Polyols that are usually used as a low-calorie sweetener and sugar-free candies and gums.
Following the Low-FODMAP Diet™:
The Low-FODMAP Diet™ is best supervised by a qualified dietician, medical doctor or healthcare professional who is experienced in this specialized area.
This method requires discipline and a strong monitoring in order to get conclusive results.
Cutting all FODMAP altogether by yourself is not a good idea as not all FODMAP are bad for your gut and this is why the assistance of a professional is definitely recommended.
The diet begins with a 2-6 week period of high restriction and then transitions to a more relaxed diet where certain foods are gradually re-introduced.
A Low-FODMAP diet also does not improve symptoms in ALL people with IBS.
In these people, other diet therapies may be needed in addition to, or replacement of a low FODMAP diet.
Other IBS therapies to consider include stress reduction, gut directed hypnotherapy, over-the-counter medications such as laxatives, fibre supplements, or prescription medications.
Talk to your doctor about which other therapies you should try.
Despite including the word “diet”, a Low-FODMAP approach to eating is not intended as a weight loss plan.
In conclusion, a Low-FODMAP diet is not a miracle cure but it will definitely help you to:
Reduce pain and discomfort, reduce bloating and distension, improve your bowel habit (reduce diarrhea or constipation) and improve your quality of life.