Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common condition that affects roughly 10% of people worldwide. The most common symptoms of IBS are cramps, bloating, gas, and diarrhea. Research has long supported the theory that symptoms of IBS are exacerbated by certain foods that cause inflammation of the digestive system. In recent years, a new diet has been developed by a team of researchers at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, which aims to tackle the symptoms of IBS by circumventing the foods that trigger it. This is known as the FODMAP diet.
FODMAP stands for “fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols”, which are all particular types of molecules found in common food items that causes IBS to flare up. Foods that are high in these molecules are said to be “High FODMAP”, while those that are not are “Low FODMAP”. Although the exact causes of IBS are unknown, it is widely accepted that diet is the best way to manage the condition, and the FODMAP diet aims to give people maximum control over how their condition is managed.
Since those following a FODMAP diet will eliminate certain foods from their diet, it is not generally recommended for long-term use. In some cases, you may talk to your doctor or registered Dietitian and find a way to create a balanced diet for long-term use, such as by including certain foods or taking supplements, but typically the diet is only adhered to for a few months.
The first of the three stages in a FODMAP diet is the elimination phase. This is where a person eliminates all high FODMAP foods from their diet until the symptoms have subsided noticeably. Reaction times will vary from person to person, but usually this stage takes less than 2 months.
The second stage involves the person reintroducing high FODMAP foods to their diet gradually, adding no more than one or two a week. Staggering the consumption of various food items apart like this allows the person to see how they react to each one individually, and identify which items trigger their IBS symptoms.
The final stage is the maintenance stage, which is where the person will begin to resume a their normal diet, but limiting the intake of their trigger foods. The number of food items and the severity with which they trigger symptoms will vary from person to person, so while some people may find that they can eat most things in moderation, others will find that there are just some types of food they should avoid entirely if they do not want to trigger their IBS.
You can find a comprehensive list of low and high FODMAP foods here. You will know when you review it which of the high FODMAP foods you consume often, and you can begin to build a picture of what may be triggering your symptoms. If you have not yet been diagnosed with IBS, but suspect you may have it, it is important to get checked by a doctor. Failure to do so will only give the condition more time to deteriorate and will make treatment more difficult further down the road.
For more information on beginning a low-FODMAP diet, please contact us and our registered Dietitians will be able to guide you through the process.