By Apollo 24/7, Published on - 25 February 2021
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common gastrointestinal condition that affects the large intestine. The condition is characterized by episodes of intestinal symptoms like abdominal cramps, bloating, etc. Several factors trigger IBS, with diet being one of the most common triggers. Dietary changes play an important role as IBS is a chronic condition that requires long-term management. Avoiding or limiting certain foods can help improve the IBS symptoms in sensitive individuals. A diet, particularly low in fermentable carbohydrates, generally referred to as FODMAPs, is recommended for people dealing with IBS. A low FODMAP diet reduces or eliminates certain foods from the diet that trigger discomfort and abdominal pain associated with IBS.
FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols. These are simple short-chain carbohydrates that are fermentable (easily broken down by microbes) in the digestive system. Examples of these carbohydrates that are predominant in the diet are:
The small intestine is a part of the digestive system where the majority of the digestion happens. In the small intestine, the food is broken-down to absorb the nutrients required by the body. But foods with FODMAPs are not easily broken down and move to the large intestine mostly undigested. The large intestine readily absorbs water, but nutrient absorption is minimal. Here the undigested food undergoes a process known as fermentation, where the micro-organisms residing in the large intestine digest and convert it into short-chain fatty acids and a lot of gas.
FODMAPs cause the intestines to swell with fluids, solids, and gas. This is a natural phenomenon that occurs in many people. However, in people with IBS, the fermentation of FODMAP foods cause flare-ups of symptoms such as abdominal pain and bloating. It also causes changes in bowel movement, leading to diarrhoea or constipation. Consuming a low FODMAP diet thereby decreases the symptoms of IBS. The low FODMAP diet was developed by researchers in Australia and is found to be an effective dietary approach to manage IBS.
A low FODMAP dietary plan involves limiting or avoiding certain foods and including some other food substitutes to get sufficient nutrients.
Foods to limit or avoid:
Foods to include:
A low FODMAP diet involves three phases:
Certain foods such as the ones with FODMAPs are known to stimulate intestinal reactions in everyone. But, in people with IBS, eating too much of these foods can worsen the intestinal symptoms. A low FODMAP diet has positive effects on the digestive system and has shown to improve IBS symptoms in many people. While the diet is helpful, it involves limiting a wide variety of foods and can lead to decreased nutrient intake. Hence, one must consider consuming suitable substitutes to meet nutritional needs. If the dietary factors seem to trigger IBS symptoms, it is advisable to consult a dietician before going on a low FODMAP diet.
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