Affecting around one in five Australians, IBS can be difficult to manage, and when symptoms raise their head, it can be even more difficult to treat. While the cause of IBS is still unknown, it has been found that IBS affects twice as many women as men, and it could be genetic.
Some of the more common signs of irritable bowel syndrome include:
- abdominal pain or cramping that is often relieved by passing wind or faeces
- alternating diarrhoea and constipation
- a sensation that the bowels are not fully emptied after passing a motion
- abdominal bloating
- mucus present in the stool
A potential solution?
Researchers from Monash University’s Department of Gastroenterology found that eliminating certain foods, known as FODMAPs, can reduce the symptoms for around 86 per cent of IBS sufferers.
So, what are FODMAPs?
It’s an acronym that stands for a restriction of fermentable oligosaccharide, disaccharide, monosaccharide, and polyols foods (FODMAP). The Monash University study found these FODMAP foods may negatively impact intestinal health, leading to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
This group of short-chain carbohydrates – FODMAPs – are poorly absorbed in the small intestine, and can trigger IBS as they attract water into the bowel. When foods containing FODMAPs reach the large intestine, gut bacteria ferments them, causing gas, and resulting in IBS symptoms.
In IBS, it seems that nerves that regulate digestive function may be oversensitive and could change the way the digestive tract absorbs food matter. This may help to explain the common symptoms of diarrhoea and constipation.
How to follow the low-FODMAP diet:
If you’ve been diagnosed with IBS or similar digestive problems, your GP or dietitian may encourage you to follow a low-FODMAP diet. If this is the case, you should be stocking up on these FODMAP-friendly foods:
- Melons: rockmelon, honeydew melon
- Citrus fruits: lemon, lime, mandarin, orange, tangelo
- Paw paw
- Berries: raspberries, strawberries, blueberries
- Bok choy
- Choy sum
- Green beans
- Milk: lactose-free, rice milk
- Cheese: ‘hard’ cheeses including brie, camembert
- Yoghurt: lactose-free
- Ice cream substitutes: gelati, sorbet
You should also look to avoid these particular foods:
- Dairy products
- Some fruits and vegetables
(For a more exhaustive list, visit here). Ideally, follow the diet for at least two weeks, and no more than six weeks. Once you’ve done this, you then need to slowly introduce the ‘trigger’ foods back into your diet. This can help you realise which foods cause you problems and irritate your bowel.
During this time, it may be a good idea to add a probiotic to your healthy regime, to help support the ‘good’ bacteria in your gut. A probiotic which contains FODMAP friendly fibre is ideal.
Speak to your healthcare practitioner if symptoms persist. Always read the label. Use only as directed. Supplements may only be of assistance if dietary intake is inadequate.