Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common gastrointestinal disorder that affects 1 out of 10 people in the United States each year. With symptoms like cramping, diarrhea, gas and bloating, it’s no surprise that living with IBS can have a significant effect on a person’s quality of life.
Diet is one way people manage the symptoms of IBS. A common treatment approach is to avoid the foods that trigger symptoms. A new diet for IBS, developed in Australia, is showing promise in managing IBS symptoms. It’s called the low FODMAP diet.
What Is the Low FODMAP Diet?
FODMAP stands for “Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols. These fermentable short-chain carbohydrates are prevalent in the diet.
- Oligosaccharides: fructans and galactooligosaccharides (GOS)
- Disaccharides: lactose
- Monosaccharides: fructose
- Polyols: sorbitol and mannitol
Researchers suggest that the small intestine does not absorb FODMAPs very well. They increase the amount of fluid in the bowel. They also create more gas. That’s because bacteria in the colon they are easily fermented by colonic bacteria. The increased fluid and gas in the bowel lead to bloating and changes in the speed with which food is digested. This results in gas, pain and diarrhea. Eating less of these types of carbohydrates should decrease these symptoms.
So far, studies have shown that a low FODMAP diet improves IBS symptoms. One study even found that 76% of IBS patients following the diet reported improvement with their symptoms.
Eat Less Of These Foods
Cow’s milk, yogurt, pudding, custard, ice cream, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese and mascarpone
Fruits, such as apples, pears, peaches, cherries, mangoes, pears and watermelon
Sweeteners, such as honey and agave nectar
Products with high fructose corn syrup
Vegetables, such as artichokes, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, beetroot, garlic and onions
Grains such as wheat and rye
Added fiber, such as inulin
Chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans and soy products
Vegetables, such as broccoli
Fruits, such as apples, apricots, blackberries, cherries, nectarines, pears, peaches, plums and watermelon
Vegetables, such as cauliflower, mushrooms and snow peas
Sweeteners, such as sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, maltitol and isomalt found in sugar-free gum and mints, and cough medicines and drops
Eat More Of These Foods
- Dairy: Lactose-free milk, rice milk, almond milk, coconut milk, lactose-free yogurt; hard cheeses such as feta and brie
- Fruit: Bananas, blueberries, cantaloupe, grapefruit, honeydew, kiwi, lemon, lime, oranges and strawberries
- Vegetables: Bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, bok choy, carrots, chives, cucumbers, eggplant, ginger, lettuce, olives, parsnips, potatoes, spring onions and turnips
- Protein: Beef, pork, chicken, fish, eggs and tofu
- Nuts/seeds (limit to 10-15 each): Almonds, macadamia, peanuts, pine nuts and walnuts
- Grain: Oat, oat bran, rice bran, gluten-free pasta, such as rice, corn, quinoa, white rice, corn flour and quinoa
The idea behind the low FODMAPs diet is to only limit the problematic foods in a category — not all of them. (After all, they do have health benefits.) You may tolerate some foods better than others.
Meet with a registered dietician if you are considering this diet. It’s important to make sure your eating plan is safe and healthy. He or she will have you eliminate FODMAPs from your diet. Then you gradually add the carbohydrates back in one at a time and monitor your symptoms. A food diary and symptom chart may be helpful tools.
The Bottom Line
The low FODMAP diet has shown potential in helping people with IBS. Some health professionals believe it’s too restrictive. Proponents of the diet report that people stick with it because of how it improves their quality of life.