Now that we’ve looked at the symptoms and causes of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) let’s talk about one of the most promising nutrition therapies for this sometimes frustrating condition. A FODMAP-restricted diet has been shown to be effective in about 75% of patients who suffer from IBS. FODMAPS may cause IBS symptoms by either pulling more water into the intestine (which can lead to diarrhea) or by contributing to gas, bloating, and pain as these short-chain carbohydrates are fermented in the intest
ine by our gut bacteria.
What is a FODMAP?
The term FODMAP is an acronym for
Where are FODMAPs found?
They are found in many healthy foods that most people eat on a regular basis. A few examples:
Oligosaccharides: Artichokes, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, onion, garlic, beans, wheat, rye, watermelon
Monosaccharides: Apples, peaches, honey, agave, pears, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, dried fruit, fruit juices, sugar snap peas, watermelon
Disaccharides: Milk, yogurt, ice cream, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese
Polyols: Cauliflower, mushrooms, snow peas, apples, blackberries, pears, peaches. Sorbitol and mannitol (commonly found in sugar-free foods like candy, mints, and gum, as well as medications)
So I have to cut all those foods out forever?
No. In fact, the goal for a low FODMAP diet is NOT to stay on it forever. A low FODMAP diet is a “learning diet”—where you learn which FODMAPs you are most sensitive to. Ideally, this should be done with the guidance of a registered dietitian (RD) who is experienced in treating IBS patients. He/she can help you carefully plan the few weeks of dietary restrictions, and can give you meal ideas and shopping lists to get you started.
To assess whether you are sensitive to FODMAPS at all, it is only necessary to restrict the above foods for a few weeks to see if your IBS improves. If symptoms don’t improve at all and you’ve been faithful to the diet, FODMAPS may not be your issue. However, if you do see improvement, then it is important to begin adding higher FODMAP foods back in, in an organized manner (one group at a time) and assessing symptoms. The goal is to get back to as varied a diet as possible, and only restrict those foods which give you trouble.
Again, you should NOT stay on a completely low FODMAP diet forever. Many FODMAPs are very healthy and provide essential nutrients and prebiotics which are needed for good health of the intestine.
To learn more about FODMAPS, check out two expert dietitians who have a wealth of knowledge and resources available for patients.
Kate Scarlata, RDN
Patsy Catsos, MS, RDN, LD