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While most people can eat moderate amounts of FODMAP carbohydrates as part of their normal diet without any issues, in some people with IBS, FODMAPs may contribute to bloating, stomach pain, excessive gas, and diarrhea. FODMAPs are not the underlying cause of the disease, but they can trigger symptoms.
People with IBS may experience considerable relief while following the FODMAP diet, or, stated more accurately, the low-FODMAP diet, which initially eliminates all foods that contain high amounts of these poorly digested carbohydrates. Then, foods or categories of foods can be reintroduced individually to see if they cause symptoms to flare.
The low-FODMAP diet first caught on in Australia, where the researchers who developed this dietary treatment are based, but it's now being used more widely in the United States and other countries. A few recent randomized controlled trials have found that about 70 percent of participants with IBS reported a significant reduction in bloating and other symptoms and, to a lesser extent, improvements in bowel movements after following a low-FODMAP diet. In the newly revised IBS treatment guidelines released earlier this month, the American College of Gastroenterology concluded that "low-FODMAP diets show promise" in the treatment of IBS, although more research is needed to fully understand their role.
Trying the Low-FODMAP Diet
If you've been diagnosed with IBS and your symptoms aren't well-controlled, the low-FODMAP diet is definitely worth considering, although it's best to take on this diet under the guidance of your doctor and a . I realize this sounds like rote advice, but it's especially true for any type of rigorous elimination diet. If you're considering excluding a long list of healthy foods from your diet (some of which may be meal staples or favorite foods) indefinitely, you want to make sure (a) you're not eliminating some of these foods unnecessarily and (b) you're not unintentionally harming your nutritional well-being.
A dietitian can help you accurately identify the lists of the foods that are "allowed" and "not allowed" during the initial, highly restrictive phase of the diet, and also teach you to spot less obvious FODMAP ingredients in packaged foods. He or she can also ensure you're getting enough fiber, calcium, and other nutrients while eating a more limited diet. Further, a dietitian can coach you through the process of adding back and testing high-FODMAP foods, which can be confusing and uninformative if not done in a methodical manner. Each person's tolerance for individual foods is unique, and it's very possible that you'll be able to eat some of the "off-limits" high-FODMAP foods, at least in small quantities, without inducing symptoms.
People who have non-celiac gluten sensitivity (individuals who do not have celiac disease but experience symptoms after eating gluten-containing foods) might also consider trying a low-FODMAP diet. Individuals with non-celiac gluten sensitivity feel better when they avoid wheat, which contains gluten but is also a major source of FODMAPs (specifically, fructans). Thus, it's possible that they are feeling better because they have inadvertantly reduced the amount of FODMAPs in their diet, and eliminating other sources of FODMAPs may provide even greater symptom relief.
Have you tried the low-FODMAP diet to treat IBS? What is your experience with this approach?
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