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Managing the symptoms of IBS with a low FODMAP diet

FODMAPs - What is it?

FODMAPs stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols, and they are a collection of poorly absorbed simple and complex sugars that are found in a variety of fruits and vegetables and also in milk and wheat. After digestion of a meal, they pass through the stomach and small intestine unchanged and are fermented by gut bacteria releasing gas or expelled together with fluid.  

 

Whilst a regular balanced diet consumed by a healthy individual would contain a moderate-to-high level of these fermentable carbohydrates (FODMAPs), the increased hypersensitivity in IBS patients, means the fermentation and osmotic changes in the gut caused by these foods, begin to trigger and worsen symptoms such as pain, bloating, flatulence, diarrhoea and constipation.

 

IBS is a condition which can go untreated for many years or patients decide to ‘self treat’ rather than seeking a referral to a dietician. The solution for many could be a FODMAP diet. The diet involves restricting various foods including those grains, fruits and vegetables that are high in FODMAPs. A low-FODMAP diet avoids foods containing certain sugars and certain fibres capable of causing diarrhoea, constipation, gas, bloating and abdominal pain in people with IBS.

 

So what exactly are FODMAPs? And which foods do they represent?

Figure 1

For a full list of the foods to avoid and those which are good to eat: http://www.ibsdiets.org/fodmap-diet/fodmap-food-list/

 

By eliminating high FODMAP foods for a period of 4-8 weeks, you can tackle the symptoms on IBS head on. Under close supervision of a FODMAP-trained dietician you’ll be able to identify which FODMAPs are triggering your symptoms, what the dose of these ‘trigger’ food causes problems and learn how the food you eat will affect you so you can enjoy a balanced diet being symptom free.

 

How do they trigger the symptoms of bloating, pain and wind?

Figure 2

 

Thinking about trying the low FODMAP diet? Here’s what to do: 

The FODMAP diet is complicated and requires an in-depth patient consultation so it can be implemented, monitored and evaluated correctly. A FODMAP-trained dietician can alleviate symptoms in three out of four patients in an average of three consultations! Specialist advice and support will ensure that the patient can eventually reintroduce the higher FODMAP food and enjoy food again without any pain or bloating. At the beginning, you may  be advised to limit all of the FODMAPs in your diet. Then over time, you can reintroduce FODMAPs, one type at a time. You may find that only one or two FODMAPs are responsible for most of your symptoms. For many, you can still have your favourite high-FODMAP foods, just in moderation and knowing the impact. For instance, if you discovered high-FODMAP fruits are a problem area but apples are your favourite food, this new insight enables you to choose how to handle it: you may decide to choose smaller apples, eat just a few slices, eat them less often or eat it anyway and endure the resulting belly ache. The ultimate goal is for each person to eat the most varied diet that you can tolerate, not to restrict the diet with a one rule for all diet. The low FODMAP diet is effective for about 70% of people with IBS who try it. It works by improving the gut symptoms associated with IBS and will help regain confidence and trust in food.

 

For more information on FODMAP and treating IBS, contact your GP for a referral to a dietician.

 

Disclaimer:                                                                                                                                                                                   

This information is intended solely for the general information of the reader and is not a substitute for medical care provided by a licensed and qualified health professional. Please consult your GP/health care provider for a formal diagnosis.

Date: 30/08/2016
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