An astonishing 1 in 5 people suffer with digestion issues such as bloating, abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhoea, excessive wind, heartburn and nausea. Usually the diagnosis is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
When a doctor or gastroenterologist has diagnosed IBS (you should not diagnose yourself) this is good news, as it means your symptoms are not due to anything more serious, such as Coeliac Disease or bowel cancer. However, coping with and managing the symptoms can be challenging. Unfortunately there is no pill or supplement that is a magic fix.
The good news? IBS CAN BE TREATED EFFECTIVELY with a low FODMAP diet. It has been so successful and popular with my clients that it has become my speciality. I have been inundated with requests for help, and even see clients via Skype if they can’t travel in person to the clinic. The vast majority have a major improvement, which make me a very, very happy dietitian!
The low FODMAP diet is relatively new. It is a rigourously scientifically tested dietary treatment that produces a significant reduction in symptoms for 75-80% of people. The FODMAP Diet was originally developed at Monash University, Australia; and recently more research has been carried out at King’s College, London. The low FODMAP diet is increasingly being used by gastroenterologists and dieticians to successfully manage the tummy problems.
What are FODMAPs?
FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. Quite a mouthful (excuse the pun)! These foods have one thing in common: they are all carbohydrates that the gut poorly absorbs and are quickly fermented by the bacteria causing the bloating, wind, diarrhoea or constipation and pain. There is quite a long list of foods that are high in FODMAPs, and not everyone with IBS reacts to the same foods.
What foods are high FODMAP?
You may be surprised that many foods considered good for digestion are high FODMAP, and therefore can aggravate IBS. These include wheat, onions, garlic, apples and pears, lactose found in dairy products, beans and lentils.
Sourced from Monash University (2015)
The FODMAP Diet
The FODMAP diet is not a diet for life. It is a ‘learning diet’, where all high FODMAP foods are removed for approximately 2-4 weeks. Many people see improvements within a few days. After this elimination phase, foods are reintroduced in a systematic way to identify which foods you react to. This stage is extremely important so that you are not excluding foods unnecessarily.
IBS and FODMAPs can be confusing, with a lot of conflicting advice on the internet. When
done well, the low FODMAP diet can be very effective. If you want to try see if it helps you, it is advised that you seek guidance from a Registered Dietitian with experience in the Low FODMAP Diet. Your GP can refer you within the NHS, or a list of private dietitians in your area can be found on the Freelance Dietitian’s website.
Here’s what my patients say:
Miss J, IBS (February, 2016): This week is my 4th week on the FODMAP diet and so far so good. I’m actually really enjoying it and have discovered some lovely new recipes. It’s made a very noticeable difference in terms of bloating, cramping and wind which is fantastic. My skin has also improved too.
Miss R, France, diarrhoea predominant Irritable Bowel Syndrome (December, 2015) Hope you’re well I just thought I would drop you an email to let you know how I am doing. I have been on fodmap for a week now. After three days I could see a big difference to the way my tum felt and my digestive symptoms I feel great!
Mrs H, ulcerative colitis. (November, 2105): Your advice has given me some hope that I can manage my health much better and, who knows, hopefully avoid an operation. I think my gut is already beginning to improve, less gurgling, bloating and twinges, so I’m very pleased so far. (January 2016): I am so happy that you have helped me to help myself, I just wish that I had done something like this before, still better late as they say.
Good sources of information on FODMAPs: