I find that the application of a low FODMAP diet is quite successful (when followed appropriately!) and it is one of the most rewarding experiences for me as a dietitian to work with these clients as a common response is usually along the lines of “I can’t believe how good my tummy feels, why didn’t I try this sooner”.
The important thing to note is that IBS is a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning that a doctor must rule out Coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel disorders (Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis) and bowel cancer before giving you the diagnosis of IBS.
What are FODMAPs?
FODMAPs are fermentable carbohydrates. They are found in all food groups (apart from foods that do not contain carbohydrates e.g. meat, chicken, fish, eggs, oils) and are fermented in the large intestine by the normal healthy bacteria as part of the digestive process.
This fermentation process is completely normal and gas is the normal by-product of all fermentation reactions, but for some reason (not yet completely understood), some people are more sensitive to the process.
FODMAP stands for:
Oligosaccharides (fructans e.g. wheat, onion, garlic and some other vegetables and GOS found in legumes)
Disaccharides (lactose in dairy products)
Monosaccharides (excess fructose e.g. honey, dried fruits and some fresh fruits)
Polys (sorbitol and mannitol e.g. some fruits and vegetables as well as artificial sweeteners)
If you are suffering from any of the above symptoms of IBS, I would urge you to make an appointment with your local GP who can arrange the simple tests required to eliminate the possibility of Coealiac diseas, IBD and bowel cancer.
Once a diagnosis of IBS is made, a dietitian with experience in the application of a low FODMAP diet will assess you and will be more than happy to work with you to identify what foods are causing your discomfort.
The aim of the process is to identify what foods are causing symptoms and typically for most people this will be only a handful of ‘trigger foods’. Each individual is unique and will have a unique threshold to the identified foods.
An experienced dietitian can provide you with a complete list of foods that need to be eliminated, provide suitable meal and snack options, assist you with the challenge process and ensure your diet is nutritionally adequate during the lengthy process.
The whole process will take a minimum of 12 weeks from start to finish (longer in some cases) but will be well worth the symptomatic relief if FODMAPs are responsible for your symptoms!