It's time to break up with your IBS.
It's estimated that 35 million people in the U.S. suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a chronic condition that burdens many of us with gas, bloating, abdominal pain, cramping, or altered bowel movements. It can be especially frustrating when IBS symptoms seem to show up at the most inconvenient times.
The low FODMAP diet created at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, has been shown to help about 75 percent of people with IBS and other functional gut disorders such as functional diarrhea and abdominal bloating.
A low FODMAP diet removes highly fermentable and osmotic carbohydrates that are common culprits to gastrointestinal distress.
In case you were wondering where the odd-sounding word FODMAP came from, here is what the acronym stands for:
- Oligosaccharides (Fructans, Galacto-oligosaccharides [GOs])
- Disaccharides (Lactose)
- Monosaccharides (excess Fructose)
- Polyols (Sorbitol, Mannitol)
Within the above parentheses are the sugars and fibers present in many foods that we eat every day such as those found in dairy, wheat, various fruits, vegetables, beans, and some sweeteners.
FODMAPs are fermentable because they can be poorly absorbed in the small intestine, leaving them for the microbes (tiny, live organisms like bacteria, fungi, and archaea) that naturally live in the colon to feed upon. The microbes produce gas as a result, which causes bloating, belching, and flatulence.
FODMAPs also tend to be osmotic, pulling water into the intestines, which can cause cramping, diarrhea, and more bloating. The combination of drawing water in and the production of gas sets the stage for trapped air and, depending on the speed of your digestive tract, diarrhea and/or constipation.
A few high-FODMAP food sources:
- Dairy: milk, ice cream, yogurt
- Fruit: apples, blackberries, cherries, mango, pears, watermelon
- Vegetables: artichoke, asparagus, cauliflower, garlic, onion, mushrooms
- Grains: wheat, barley, rye, inulin
- Proteins: cashews, black beans, kidney beans, pistachios, silken tofu, soybeans
- Sweeteners: agave, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, mannitol, sorbitol
If you find yourself suffering from IBS symptoms, try removing foods high in FODMAPs for 2 to 8 weeks with the help of a FODMAP-knowledgeable dietitian to calm down your digestive tract.
The FODMAP diet is similar to other elimination diets in that you can reintroduce each food group separately to expand your diet to what feels good for your body.
While limiting foods High in FODMAPs, stick to those that contain low amounts.
Low FODMAP sources to enjoy include:
- Dairy and dairy substitutes: lactose-free milk and yogurt, butter, most cheese (minimal lactose), almond milk, hemp milk, canned coconut milk
- Fruits: strawberries, bananas, kiwi, orange, blueberries, cantaloupe, lemon, lime
- Vegetables: bell peppers, carrots, eggplant, kale, potato, tomato, zucchini
- Grains: corn tortillas, oats, quinoa, rice, some gluten-free breads and pastas
- Proteins: almonds, beef, chicken, eggs, fish, firm tofu, peanuts, seeds
- Sweeteners: pure maple syrup, stevia, table sugar
For a full low-FODMAP diet list, check out this grocery list.
Why not remove these high-FODMAP foods for good?
FODMAPs can exacerbate IBS symptoms, but some fermentation and osmosis is healthy for our GI tract. In fact, foods like garlic and onions have been studied for their role in increasing beneficial microbes in the gut. Many FODMAP sources are highly nutritious and shouldn't be avoided unless poorly tolerated.
So if your IBS is affecting your everyday life, you might want to take a vacation away from FODMAPs for a little while and break up with your IBS for good.