Watch our animation below to understand how FODMAPs can trigger gut symptoms in people with IBS
What happens when you eat FODMAPs?
FODMAPs are found in a wide range of foods, and most people eat high FODMAP foods everyday without issue. When FODMAPs are eaten, they move slowly through the small intestine attracting water. When they reach the large intestine, gut bacteria use the FODMAPs as a fuel source to survive. The bacteria rapidly ferment FODMAPs, producing gas as a result.
These events occur in all people (i.e. people with and without IBS). The difference is that people with IBS can have problems with motility (the speed at which contents move through the intestines) and/or a highly sensitive gut wall. The extra water and gas in the intestines, causes the intestinal wall to stretch and expand and results in common IBS symptoms such as pain, excessive wind, bloating, distension and altered bowel habit (diarrhoea, constipation or both).
Where are FODMAPs found?
FODMAPs are found in a wide range of foods, such as fruits, vegetables, breads, cereals, nuts, legumes and confectionery. It is impossible to guess the FODMAP content of a food. Instead, careful laboratory analysis is needed to understand the FODMAP content of food. The team at Monash University are experts at measuring the FODMAP content of foods. We distribute this information about the FODMAP content of food using our mobile phone app, the Monash University FODMAP Diet App. The app uses a simple traffic light rating system to indicate whether foods are low, moderate or high in FODMAPs.
Who should follow a FODMAP diet?
A FODMAP diet is intended is for people with medically diagnosed IBS. If a medical doctor has not diagnosed your gastrointestinal symptoms, you should not be following this diet. There are many conditions with symptoms that are similar to IBS, such as coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, endometriosis and bowel cancer. You should not self-diagnose yourself with IBS. Instead, see a medical doctor who will assess your symptoms, run any tests needed to rule out other conditions and give you a clear diagnosis of IBS before you start this diet.
Benefits of a low FODMAP diet
Researchers at Monash University did the original research to come up with the concept of FODMAPs and to establish the efficacy of a low FODMAP diet. Monash research showed IBS symptoms improve in 3 out of 4 people who follow a low FODMAP diet. Other research groups from all over the world have since shown similar results. Because of this, a low FODMAP diet is now recommended as the first treatment choice for people diagnosed with IBS
IBS symptoms that may improve on a low FODMAP diet
A low FODMAP diet has been shown to:
- Reduce pain and discomfort
- Reduce bloating and distension
- Improve bowel habit (reduce diarrhoea or constipation)
- Improve quality of life.
These benefits are usually seen within 2-6 weeks of following a low FODMAP diet.
Of course, the diet does not cure IBS symptoms, it just helps people to live more comfortably with their condition.
A low FODMAP diet also does no improve symptoms in ALL people with IBS. In fact, 1 out of 4 people with IBS find their symptoms do not improve on the diet. In these people, other diet therapies may be needed in addition to, or replacement of a low FODMAP diet. Other IBS therapies to consider include stress reduction, gut directed hypnotherapy, over-the-counter medications such as laxatives, fibre supplementation, or prescription medications. Talk to your doctor about which other therapies you should trial.