If you follow the @ARCHCOLONICS Twitter feed, you will have seen us retweet a plea from the Digestive Health Alliance about the lack of public knowledge about the Low FODMAP diet:
The term FODMAPs refers to Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. You may not have heard of these, but you’ll find them in many of the foods you eat every day, from fruits and vegetables, to pulses, wheat and milk products.
You can find a full list of foods containing FODMAPs online.
FODMAPs are sugars that are not absorbed properly in the small intestine, and so pass into the colon where they start to ferment. As we all know, fermentation causes gas, which stretches the sensitive bowel of IBS patients, causing bloating, pain and discomfort. They can also increase the amount of water in the gut, causing diarrhea.
The low FODMAP diet
The low FODMAP diet is an Australian treatment that is relatively new in the UK. In simple terms, it involves cutting out the foods that contain these sugars in order to relieve the symptoms of IBS. It is not a cure for IBS, but it can be a good way of finding relief from the discomfort it causes. One study found that 70% of people with IBS found their symptoms reduced when using the FODMAP diet.
In practical terms, the low FODMAP diet can be very hard to follow, as there are FODMAPs in so many foods that we eat on a daily basis. It can also be quite expensive. However it can well worth the effort and there is plenty of help and support available online, including information on affording the FODMAP diet and even a FODMAP app for your smartphone. Our friends at the IBS Network also have lots of information as does Kings College London, and there are discussion pages on the Digestive Health Alliance website where you can find support and share your experiences with fellow IBS sufferers.
Finding your FODMAP problem
The good news is that it is unlikely that you are sensitive to all of the FODMAP foods to the same extent. The level and types of FODMAPs affect different people in different ways, so chances are you will be able to reintroduce many of these foods and isolate just a few specific FODMAP foods or types of food, which cause you problems.
Before you start a FODMAP diet, it is important that you need to get professional advice. You should have your IBS diagnosis confirmed by your GP and you should also get expert nutritional advice from a registered dietician or nutritionist if you can, to ensure that your body still gets the nutrition it needs, especially during the initial period.
Even if you have a good idea of which foods cause you problems, it is best to begin by cutting out all FODMAP foods for four to eight weeks until your symptoms have eased. Then you can begin reintroducing the different FODMAP foods one by one to see how your body reacts. Keep a diary of what you have eaten and how your body reacted, and you should soon see where your main sensitivity lies.
FODMAP for life
The initial low FODMAP diet is highly restrictive, and not something you would want to follow on a long term basis. However, once you have identified which FODMAP foods cause your symptoms, you will be able to create your own personal version of the low FODMAP diet that you can live with and integrate successfully into your life.
There is lots of information on the low FODMAP diet available online, including: