Feeling bloated? Do you live in fear that there may not be a bathroom around when you need one? Or perhaps you rarely visit ‘John’ at all? Have you started avoiding certain foods because they give you a bellyache? Then take a moment to read on…
By now most people have heard of the low FODMAP diet as a strategy for managing irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). However, far too many are turning to the hoards of largely incorrect information on the internet in order to self manage. More often than not, these people are unnecessarily restricting their diets and potentially putting themselves at risk of nutritional deficiencies. Not to mention, without the guidance of a qualified and experienced health professional, they aren’t getting the most out of this remarkable approach.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with FODMAPs – it is an acronym referring to a group of short-chain carbohydrates that are found naturally in many foods. It stands for – Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. The list of high FODMAP foods is long, however just to name a few of the most common ones – dairy products containing lactose, wheat, rye and barley-based products (FYI, this is not related to the protein component – gluten – in these foods), garlic and onions, beans and legumes and fruits such as apples and pears.
As the name suggests, fermentable carbohydrates are rapidly fermented in the bowel by intestinal bacteria, which causes increased gas production. This then triggers the symptoms commonly attributed to IBS – bloating and distention, diarrhea and or constipation, excess wind and pain.
After consultation with an Accredited Practicing Dietitian, clients are asked to eliminate all high FODMAP foods from their diet and to follow a low FODMAP regimen for 4-6 weeks, where it is anticipated that their symptoms will significantly reduce if not resolve. Then one at a time, they will gradually re-introduce a small amount of a selected high FODMAP food back into their diet to assess whether their symptoms return or not. This gradual reintroduction allows for better identification of which FODMAP category/s people are sensitive too. For some this may only be one, others may react to them all, it is completely individual. Furthermore, some may not react to a small serving of a particular FODMAP food or group, but as they increase their intake, their symptoms return. This is known as the threshold effect.
It’s not a definitive yes or no when it comes to food intolerances, which can be frustrating, but also liberating as it means you can still tolerate small amounts and don’t have to be too fussy or overly-cautious. Unlike food allergies where even the tiniest amount can result in a life-threatening reaction.
Compared to other therapeutic elimination/reintroduction style diets such as the RPAH (‘food chemical’) elimination diet, the low FODMAP plan is quite easy to follow and still allows you to choose from a wide variety of different foods from each food group. It’s really just about swapping high FODMAP foods that you may eat, for low FODMAP alternatives and focussing on what you can eat, rather than what you cant.
If this resonates with you and you’re sick of dealing with an ongoing upset stomach or troublesome bowels, request an appointment with our Dietitian, Lauren today.