Defining IBS as irritable bowel syndrome can be tricky, given that it affects 10-15% of adults and men twice as much as women in the U.S. Symptoms of IBS include abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation.
IBS has no cure, but specific tactics can help reduce symptoms, including diet. Internal medicine physician John Damianos, M.D., recommends a low FODMAP Diet.
He says, “A low FODMAP diet has been proven to improve global symptoms of IBS and specific symptoms, including abdominal pain and bloating. Patients report an improved quality of life when they’re on the low FODMAP diet.”
FODMAP Diet: What Is It?
A fermentable carb is a short-chain carb that ferments in the gut, and FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols.
Eva Shelton, M.D., the physician, said that patients with IBS have difficulty absorbing FODMAPs, so the food gets digested by bacteria in the large colon and causes gas.
Low FODMAP Diet: What Foods To Avoid?
It’s best to avoid foods that are high in FODMAPs. FODMAP levels are elevated in some fruits, like apples, but low in others, like bananas and blueberries. You can benefit significantly from most of these foods if you tolerate them.
- Lactose (milk, yogurt, ice cream)
- Fructose (fruits like apples, peaches, and cherries; sweeteners like honey, high-fructose corn syrup)
- Fructans (vegetables like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and asparagus, onions, garlic, grains like wheat and rye)
- Legumes/beans (chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans)
- Polyols (fruits like apples, blackberries, and watermelon)
Low FODMAP Diet: What Foods To Eat?
- Dairy (lactose-free milk, rice milk, almond milk, coconut milk)
- Fruit like bananas, blueberries, and citrus
- Vegetables like bok choy, carrots, cucumbers, eggplant, and ginger
- Protein (meat, fish, eggs, and tofu)
- Nuts/seeds in moderation (almonds, pine nuts, walnuts)
- Grains like oat, rice, and quinoa
In addition, Dr. Shelton recommends that patients keep a food diary to find out which foods trigger their symptoms and eliminate 1-2 items at a time.
Does Low FODMAP Diet Have Any Drawbacks?
Yes. Registered dietitian Jenna Volpe says a low FODMAP diet isn’t meant as a long-term solution because it is restrictive and difficult to sustain. It allows you to learn which foods trigger IBS flare-ups and which don’t.
Who Should Avoid FODMAPs?
It may not work for you if you’ve ever had disordered eating. You can also welp if you are pregnant or trying to be. Finding out what foods will or will not trigger a flare-up is the key to a low FODMAP diet. Yes, it isn’t elementary.