What is IBS?

What is IBS?

IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) is the most commonly diagnosed gastrointestinal condition. It is a chronic, relapsing condition which is typically lifelong. However, that is not to say that IBS symptoms cannot be well managed with the right changes made in day-to-day lifestyle. These changes include things like managing stress-levels and changes in diet. IBS symptoms are wide ranging and people with IBS will often describe very different symptoms. It is important that you see your doctor to receive a diagnosis, that process allows other more serious conditions to be excluded. 


What is the low fodmap diet?

A low FODMAP diet is a diet low in Fermentable Oligo, Di, Mono-saccharides and Polyols. It’s not the catchiest acronym, in all fairness, but in essence these are carbohydrates that are rapidly fermented in the guts. This dietary approach to the management of IBS was pioneered in Melbourne, Australia. It’s been the subject of many years of research and has been shown to be effective in treating gut symptoms such as bloating, wind, abdominal pain and altered bowel habits. The diet involves restricting various foods including grains, vegetables and fruits that are naturally high in fodmaps.


What are the chances of success with the low fodmap diet?

The low FODMAP diet is effective for around 70% of those with IBS who try it. It works by improving the gut symptoms associated with IBS. There are some peripheral symptoms associated with IBS that include headaches and joint problems and the FODMAP diet will not provide effective relief in regard to these.


Is the success rate relating to fodmap to treat IBS backed by science?

A randomised clinical trial conducted in Australia showed improvement in overall gastrointestinal symptoms in 70% of patients following the intervention for 3 weeks in a highly controlled setting. Compared to a typical diet, abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence and dissatisfaction with stool consistency all improved within one week and this beneficial effect on their IBS was sustained on an ongoing basis. 


I want to try the low FODMAP diet. What should I do?

The diet is quite complicated and so it is important to receive high quality advice on how to follow it. A registered dietitian, preferably with experience of offering guidance for those on low FODMAP, will help you to follow it carefully. They can help you to follow a healthy balanced diet by providing you with ideas for suitable low FODMAP alternatives. Your doctor or gastroenterologist should be able to refer you to a dietitian, although you may need to ask for them to do that.