Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a gastrointestinal illness that causes discomfort/pain, constipation or diarrhea, and sometimes bloating and gas, is estimated to affect 10% to 20% of the world’s population. The cause is unknown, but genetics, diet, and stress play a role. For some patients, a diet low in fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols (FODMAPs) has been successful for decreasing symptoms. FODMAPs is a fancy way of saying tiny carbohydrate molecules that our naturally occurring gut bacteria like to eat (ferment). Common FODMAP foods include fruit, fiber, sugars/sweeteners, dairy, wheat, garlic, onions, and legumes. When eaten in excess, bacteria eat these carbohydrates and release acids and gas that may cause symptoms for some people.
A common misconception is that people with IBS symptoms cannot eat these foods; however, cutting out three food groups, fruit, grain and dairy, is not healthy! Indeed, nutrition professionals are constantly encouraging people to eat more plant foods. The truth is that every gut is different and some people benefit from a reduction in some of these foods, whereas others show no improvement. Because these food groups contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, water, and phytonutrients that may fight disease, it is best for those with symptoms to experiment with these foods and look for improvement. In the end, eating nutritiously will improve overall wellbeing and health.
For more information, visit the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders.