So You Have IBS…Could a Low-FODMAP Diet be Right for You?

The Diagnosis 

Chances are that you know someone who has IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome. Maybe you even found out you have it. If so, you’re not alone since IBS affects anywhere from 9-23% of people worldwide – that could be almost as high as 1 in 4 people.

IBS is generally described as a disorder that affects the large intestine and can cause painful symptoms like cramping, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. No two people will have the same symptoms and everyone can experience them to different degrees. Some people will have more painful symptoms more often, and some will only have mild discomfort here and there. Because of this, some people who have IBS might not even realize it.

Usually, researchers are able to determine how many people are affected by a disease with fairly high accuracy. A specific number or percentage is a little harder to nail down for IBS because there isn’t a specific test doctors can perform to confirm whether or not a patient has the condition.

Other digestive disorders can sometimes be misdiagnosed as IBS at first, such as Crohn’s disease and celiac disease. Crohn’s disease occurs when parts of the intestine become inflamed and it can be diagnosed through tests such as blood and stool samples, X-rays, endoscopies, or biopsies. Celiac disease also causes damage to the intestines but is considered an autoimmune disease that is triggered by the ingestion of gluten. Blood tests for certain antibodies can help diagnose celiac disease.

Even though all three of these disorders are very different from each other, they all share similar symptoms since they all affect the digestive system and can be managed in similar ways. Your doctor will have special recommendations for Crohn’s disease and celiac disease, but changes to your everyday diet, such as a low-FODMAP diet, can go a long way to managing the symptoms.

 

The Low-FODMAP Diet

What exactly does that mean? The low-FODMAP diet is a type of diet that limits the following carbohydrates: fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols, or FODMAP for short.

If we break that down to the types of foods to consume and avoid when on a low-FODMAP diet, we end up with the following:

Vegetables

  • Avoid: garlic, onions, beans, mushrooms, asparagus, artichokes
  • Okay: leafy vegetables, carrots, squashes, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, green beans, potatoes

Fruits

  • Avoid: pit or seed fruits like apples, avocados, cherries, peaches, mangos, plums, pears
  • Okay: bananas, blueberries, oranges, strawberries, grapes, melons

Meats

  • Avoid: chorizo, sausage, and other processed meats
  • Okay: beef, chicken, lamb, pork, turkey, seafood

Grains and Nuts

  • Avoid: wheat, bread, cashews, pistachios, rye, couscous
  • Okay: biscuits, rice, hazelnuts, peanuts, popcorn, quinoa, walnuts

Condiments

  • Avoid: agave, honey, jams, pesto, artificial sweeteners
  • Okay: mayonnaise, mustard, peanut butter, soy sauce, wasabi, vinegar

Dairy

  • Avoid: creamy cheeses, custard, ice cream, milk, yogurt
  • Okay: butter, eggs, almond milk, hard cheeses, whipped cream, tofu

Drinks

  • Avoid: beer, fruit juices, rum, sports drinks, tea
  • Okay: clear spirits, coffee, protein supplements, small amounts of sugar-free sodas

If you suspect or know that you have IBS, a low-FODMAP diet may be right for you. It’s always recommended that you speak with a trusted medical professional if you are experiencing any of the symptoms described above and before embarking on a new diet regimen.

 

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References and Further Reading:

Celiac Disease Foundation: https://celiac.org/celiac-disease/diagnosing-celiac-disease/

Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America: http://www.ccfa.org/what-are-crohns-and-colitis/what-is-crohns-disease/

IBS Diets: http://www.ibsdiets.org/fodmap-diet/fodmap-food-list/

International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders: http://www.aboutibs.org/#rates

Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/irritable-bowel-syndrome/basics/definition/con-20024578

WebMD: http://www.webmd.com/ibs/what-is-fodmap

 

About the Author:

Linahu
Lina Hu is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of California, Davis in the department of Biomedical Engineering. Her thesis centers on discovering molecular imaging probes for earlier cancer detection and better treatment planning. Throughout her time at UC Davis, she has collaborated with both domestic and international groups and successfully led and participated in team-based projects that have resulted in multiple academic journal publications and presentations at scientific conferences around the country.

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