An intro to IBS and FODMAPs

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If you have experienced the effects or irritable bowel syndrome (or IBS), you would have some familiarities of the symptoms it causes. For some, it is a gentle rumble in the stomach followed by some gas for what seems like endless hours, but for others, it can be a debilitating amount of pain, and endless trips to the toilet that leave you housebound. But for IBS sufferers, it can be very challenging to find relief from symptoms, and there are a variety of strategies out there that are used.

One very successful treatment for IBS is the low FODMAP diet, which has gained the popularity amongst the medical and dietetic community as significantly reducing symptom occurrence and severity. For individuals who trial the low FODMAP diet, 75% of them report better symptom control and are more aware of their food triggers. There is relief out there!

IBS has no known cause, and can be diagnosed through a set of criteria by a GP. Symptoms can include, but are not limited to constipation, diarrhoea, pain, gas, bloating, tummy noises, and generally feeling unwell. IBS happens when the gut is hypersensitive, which means it is more reactive than a non-IBS sufferers gut. The nerve endings are more easily stimulated, which can trigger symptoms, and further research has indicated that certain types of carbohydrates can be more problematic than others. This is where the low FODMAP diet comes into play!

Before seeing a dietitian for a low FODMAP diet, you should be diagnosed by a GP or specialist.

The low FODMAP diet is based on the temporary removal of a variety of fermentable carbohydrates which are not digested within the large bowel. As these carbohydrates are non-digestible, they absorb water in the bowel (which can cause diarrhoea), and produce gas as they are unable to be fermented. This can in turn cause pain and bloating, and the variety of other negative symptoms.

The low FODMAP diet is broken down into 3 stages: the elimination phase, the challenge phase, and the liberalisation phase. The elimination phase should be utilised for 2 – 6 weeks based on symptom relief, and your dietitian will tailor to your needs. It involves reducing/removing the fermentable carbohydrates. Then the challenge phase commences which can take up to 10 weeks, where each of the FODMAP food groups are challenged individually to test tolerance, and the liberalisation phase is working with your dietitian to understand your triggers, have symptom control, and to ensure your diet is nutritionally complete.

Keeping in mind that the low FODMAP diet may not work for everyone, and there are many other strategies to trial for symptom relief. For more information on these, book into see one of our Accredited Practising Dietitians, and see that change.