This April, we recognize National Irritable Bowel Syndrome Month. The International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) began this campaign almost 20 years ago to help bring awareness to a common and often undiagnosed disorder. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a condition in which people experience hypersensitive guts, which causes a variety of digestive issues, such as chronic abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea or constipation. These symptoms can be severe and affect quality of life.
Traditionally, IBS symptoms have been managed through the use of medications; however, many patients find that medications don’t alleviate their symptoms or restore their quality of life. In the past few years, research has begun to shine a light on a new dietary management for IBS. Called the low FODMAP diet, it has proven to be highly effective in managing IBS symptoms.
What are FODMAPs?
FODMAP is an acronym for “fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols.” FODMAPs are sugars in our diet that are poorly digested and absorbed in patients with IBS. Eating certain FODMAPs or eating too many FODMAPs in a day can trigger symptoms, such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloating, cramping or constipation, in IBS patients.
What foods are high in FODMAPs?
Listed according to different food groups, below are examples of foods high in FODMAPs and which therefore may trigger symptoms in IBS patients:
• Fruits: Apples, cherries, blackberries, apricots, nectarines, plums, peaches, mangos, pears, watermelon
• Vegetables: Artichokes, asparagus, cauliflower, garlic, onions, shallots, mushrooms, snow peas
• Dairy: Milk, yogurt, ice cream, custard, soft cheeses (e.g., ricotta or cottage cheese)
• Nuts and Legumes: Cashews, pistachios, legumes
• Grains: Wheat, rye, barley
• Sweets: Honey, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), sugar alcohols (sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol)
How does the FODMAP diet work?
Patients with IBS can work with their doctor and a dietitian to complete a FODMAP diet challenge. This can be done either by following a diet low in the high-FODMAP foods or by doing an elimination challenge where a patient will follow a strict FODMAP-free diet for 4 to 6 weeks. After this time, one FODMAP food or food group is introduced at a time to see if any symptoms are triggered. If not, then the patient can add that food group back into his or her diet.
Following a FODMAP diet can help relieve the symptoms IBS patients experience and improve their overall quality of life. To learn more, contact your doctor or dietitian and visit the IFFGD website.
For the tech savvy, The Monash University Low FODMAP diet app lists different foods and their FODMAP content in a very user-friendly layout ($9.99).
To find an excellent doctor who is right for you, please call our Physician Referral Service at 866.804.1007.