About 10-15% of people in the U.S. suffer from IBS or irritable bowel syndrome. IBS symptoms include abdominal pain/discomfort, gas, bloating and changes in bowel habits. Some people may experience constipation or diarrhea or both.
A person with IBS experiences:
IBS is not a life threatening condition but it is uncomfortable and negatively impacts quality of life. It is important to note at this point that not everyone who experiences these symptoms has IBS. Your provider will need to make this diagnosis. Treatment for IBS can vary from patient to patient and can include dietary changes, medications, and stress management. Let’s look at dietary changes that work for many patients to alleviate IBS symptoms.
Dietary Changes to Alleviate Symptoms
Dietary modifications often help to alleviate IBS symptoms. Patients may be asked to increase their intake of fiber and also drink more water. They may also be asked to avoid high fat foods and also those that produce a lot of gas such as onions, garlic, cabbage and beans. Eliminating caffeine and alcohol is also helpful.
Recent research suggests that avoiding certain carbohydrates can also minimize the symptoms of IBS. More and more providers are recommending the Low FODMAP Diet. While this diet does not work for all patients, it does offer substantial relief for many.
What is a Low FODMAP Diet?
FODMAPs are carbohydrates (sugars) that are found in certain foods: fermentable oligo-, di-, monosaccharides and polyols. These carbs are not bad and do not cause problems for most people. However, some people are sensitive to them. The FODMAPs include:
FODMAPs are not absorbed in the small bowel and travel to the large bowel (colon) where they serve as food for naturally occurring gut bacteria. This causes the sugars to ferment, releasing gas which causes bloating, distension, and pain. Reducing FODMAPs decreases the fermentation process and unnecessary gas, which can offer relief for many people with IBS symptoms.
Food Choices on the Low FODMAP Diet
You can eat eggs, meats, poultry and fish. There are many good fruits and vegetables available on this diet; however, there are many that you will avoid. The Low FODPMAP Diet overlaps with other popular diets in some ways. It has elements of lactose avoidance (avoid cow’s milk, ice cream, some cheeses) and gluten avoidance (avoid wheat, barley and rye). You will be limiting fiber since many higher fiber foods are high in FODMAPs. This link offers food guidelines for the Low FODMAP Diet: http://www.ibsgroup.org/brochures/fodmap-intolerances.pdf
At the end of this article, you will find two delicious recipes from “The Low-FODMAP Diet Cookbook“ by Sue Shepherd, PhD.
How Long Do I Follow the Low FODMAP Diet?
You will be asked to strictly follow the diet for 4-6 weeks. There are many food options on this diet; however, you must be willing to do a lot of label reading and planning. Many people find that a dietician can offer help with meal planning and nutritional guidelines. After the initial 4-6 weeks, the higher FODPMAP foods will be slowly re-introduced. Your provider will guide you during this phase. The re-introduction of carbs is a process that may take some time. The good news is that we often see that patients are sensitive to just one or two of the FODMAP carbs; not all of them.
The Benefits of the Low FODMAP Diet
The Low FODMAP Diet may be a big life-style change, but its potential is also just as great. For patients that have long suffered chronic or recurring IBS symptoms, this diet is worth a try considering the good results that many receive from following it. If you try the diet with no success, do not give up. Your provider will continue to work with you to find the best treatment plan.
If you have concerns about your IBS symptoms, contact Richmond Gastroenterology today.
Try these recipes from “The Low-FODMAP Diet Cookbook” by Sue Shepherd, PhD.