Bloated? Tummy pain? – how low FODMAP can help you

Since starting my practice as a private dietitian, the most rewarding thing I have done is advising people with a new dietary treatment for IBS. For many of my patients seriously affected by IBS, it has been life changing. Have you heard of the low FODMAP diet?

What is IBS?

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Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a disorder where the bowel looks normal, but it doesn’t function properly. It is incredibly common, affecting about 1 in 5 people in the UK. Symptoms include bloating, abdominal pain, constipation and diarrhoea. The diagnosis of IBS is usually made when other conditions such as coeliac disease, Crohn’s Disease, colitis, have been ruled out.

Causes of IBS:

The causes of IBS are not fully understood, however, it is believed to be due to a number of complex factors:

  • genetic – tummy problems run in the family
  • gastroenteritis – alters the gut bacteria
  • antibiotics – alter the gut bacteria
  • stress
  • a highly sensitive gut that is more sensitive to gas forming foods
  • food intolerances e.g. lactose intolerance

Until recently, dietary advice given by health professionals for IBS has been, at best, vague and unsatisfactory. For many people the NICE guidelines, used in the NHS by GPs for treatment of IBS, aren’t very successful. Current advice from your GP may include: reduce stress, adjust fibre intake, regular meals, restrict caffeine, fruit juice, fruit and sorbitol, exercise and probiotics. Medications such as laxatives, anti-diarrheals, anti-spasmodics and anti-depressants are often prescribed. Unfortunately, IBS patients can be left frustrated because these medications in conjunction with the dietary and lifestyle changes are unsatisfactory solutions.

New low FODMAP diet: 75% success

The low FODMAP diet has been published in international medical journals and is now accepted and recommended as one of the most effective dietary therapies for IBS. The low FODMAP diet significantly reduces symptoms in 75% of people. FODMAPs are indigestible sugars which ferment in the gut causing bloating, diarrhoea, constipation and gut pain. By reducing the amount of FODMAP foods in your diet, IBS symptoms can be dramatically reduced or resolved.shutterstock_52604065

Some common high FODMAP foods include wheat (so in bread, pasta, biscuits etc), apples, pears, garlic, onions, lentils, beans, some vegetables, milk, and some artificial sweeteners. The low FODMAP diet involves many dietary changes that are best described to you in consultation with a dietitian. Additionally, not everyone reacts to the same FODMAPs, which is why it is important to have the advice of an experienced dietitian to help you negotiate the various phases of the diet.

Where do I start?

The low FODMAP diet is carried out in two stages. The aim is to identify the FODMAP foods causing problems that are specific to YOU. Every person reacts differently to each food category, and can tolerate certain amounts.

Phase 1 –  all high FODMAP foods are eliminated for 2-4 weeks. Symptom relief can be experienced with in days.

Phase 2 – a sequential reintroduction of FODMAP food categories over a few weeks. This allows you to identify the foods causing you problems.

A dietitian with experience in the low FODMAP diet can guide you through the phases of the diet, providing practical advice, menu ideas that suit your lifestyle and food preferences, advice on reading food labels etc. Appointment information

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