Jen Adams - IBS Blog

Low FODMAP Diet for IBS

For food intolerance and digestive issues

In our previous blog on the subject of IBS and food intolerances, we talked about how IBS is a digestive condition often caused by gut sensitivity - possibly from an infection or bacterial overgrowth – and also by sensitivities to certain foods which then lead to problems digesting those foods. In this blog, we look at a group of foods which represent this common link between food and digestive disorders.

What is FODMAP? 

FODMAPs - Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols – are a group of fermentable carbohydrates that are well known for triggering the common symptoms of IBS such as bloating, gas and stomach pain. They are essentially sugars that are poorly absorbed by the body, causing them to pass through to the small intestine into the colon where they are fermented by bacteria. The resultant gas is what causes the general symptoms of discomfort.

What are FODMAP Foods?

The carbohydrates largely responsible for causing symptoms of IBS are those high in Lactose (a sugar composed of galactose and glucose), Fructose (fruit sugar), Polyols (organic compounds and sugar-free sweeteners) and Fructans (a polymer of fructose molecules). Here are some high-content examples from each group:

  • Fructans: Garlic, onions, pulses (peas and beans), wheat, rye, barley, currants, dates and prunes.
  • Fructose: Asparagus, sugar snap peas, sun-dried tomatoes, apples, cherries, pears and honey.
  • Lactose: milk (cow, goat and sheep), yoghurt, Cottage cheese, Goat’s cheese.
  • Polyols: Cauliflower, mushrooms, brussels sprouts, cabbage, sugar-free chewing gum, avocados.

How to eliminate FODMAP foods in the diet

If you suffer from IBS symptoms and are unsure as to what may be causing them, it would be prudent to consider introducing a low FODMAP diet. Not all FODMAP foods trigger symptoms so – in consultation with a nutrition professional a good approach would be to eliminate high FODMAP foods completely for about one month and see if symptoms settle. If they do, then you could try re-introducing these foods one at a time and see which ones result in the return of some or all of your symptoms – but you need to ensure during the process that you pay close attention to how each of the foods affects your health and wellbeing.

Following an elimination diet for FODMAP

You should then tailor your diet to ONLY exclude the foods that you have identified during the process and it should be emphasised that a low FODMAP diet is not considered to be a long-term option as the body needs a certain amount of fermentable fibre. It may feel difficult to learn that everyday foods such wheat or onions are foods which are your IBS triggers as they are so widely and regularly consumed and are ingredients in so many foods – but evidence (backed up by King’s College research) shows that 70% of IBS sufferers find their symptoms are relieved when they follow a low FODMAP diet, so it is worth giving some serious consideration to this particular diet option.

Interesting facts about FODMAP Diet

It is important to note that this type of diet is not a gluten-free or a dairy-free diet, and it is wise to consult with your doctor about your IBS symptoms and your general health prior to embarking on a low FODMAP diet – your nutrition practitioner may wish to eliminate conditions such as coeliac disease and lactose intolerance before you remove foods from your diet which could ultimately affect such test results.

It is important to remember that intolerance is not allergy – trace amounts cause allergic reactions whereas larger quantities are needed to cause IBS symptoms. Many people can manage perfectly well on the occasional slice of bread or with small quantities of milk in tea without finding the need to eliminate such foods completely.

If you have concerns about your IBS and would you like further information or advice about digestive issues then consider a consultation with Jen Adams

There are various functional medicine tests that can help to identify potential food intolerances, yeast infections or Candida. Visit my Functional Nutrition Website for more information

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