Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) also known as the Leaky Gut or Spastic Colon is a disease, which affects the large intestine. As per estimates, 10%-15% of the population worldwide suffers from IBS. IBS is characterized by irregular bowel movements – too much or too little, diarrhea, and gas, cramping, bloating, too frequent or infrequent. IBS, therefore, affects a person’s well-being every day, affecting their social and professional lives, and can lead to anxiety, depression, and stress. IBS can range from mild conditions to severe conditions, which require medical attention. Fortunately, IBS can be managed by implementing certain lifestyle changes, and by managing the diet. One such diet is the low FODMAPs diet.
The FODMAPs diet involves removing those food items from the diet, which activate the IBS symptoms like bloating, cramping and inflammation. The logic is that the body does not properly digest certain carbohydrates and sugars. During digestion, they produce gases like methane, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen, and cause the large intestine to enlarge. This causes bloating and other noticeable symptoms of IBS. Abstaining from these foods for a time, such as six to eight weeks, allows the gut to heal itself, and thus manages the symptoms. They are then reintroduced gradually to see if the symptoms manifest again.
FODMAPs are short for fermentable oligo-, di-, monosaccharides and polyols. They occur in foods naturally or are present as additives. Under normal circumstances, they are not necessarily bad for health. Many of them are indeed beneficial and are healthy prebiotics, which helps the gut bacteria to maintain a wholesome growth. However, in certain people, their disadvantages outweigh their benefits and they must be severely curtailed or eliminated altogether.
Studies have shown that a low FODMAPs diet is helpful in managing symptoms of IBS. A list of some high and low FODMAPs foods is given below:
Beginning of the FODMAPs Diet
- Firstly, a medical professional can only diagnose IBS. So consulting a dietician at this stage is necessary. The dietician will create a low FODMAPs diet by reducing or eliminating all foods, which likely trigger IBS symptoms.
- Secondly, the diet must be followed for a minimum of two and a maximum of eight weeks. The speed with which patients notice improvements varies. Some report positive changes in the first week while others require more time. This usually depends on how severe their symptoms were in the first place.
- FODMAPs does not involve permanent elimination of those food items. Many of them are vital for health and are therefore gradually reintroduced to the diet over a period. During this process, the dietician carefully notes down which foods provide the worst triggers of IBS, and the consumption of these foods are minimized
- Lastly, using the observations of the previous steps, the dietician creates a custom diet for the patient, mindful of their threshold level for each type of food.
A word of caution here: FODMAPs diet is not meant to be permanent. It is too restrictive, and the patient might miss several nutritious foods. Most patients can tolerate a small amount of FODMAP foods, unlike patients with food allergies who tend to be intolerant. It is recommended that the diet plan should be made under the direct guidance of dietician. So it better to let the online dietician work for you.
Unlike other fad diets, the FODMAPs diet has the solid backing of research, documented case studies showing improvements in the quality of life of IBS patients, and is, therefore, a guaranteed method of success.