Irritable bowel Syndrome (often nicknamed ‘IBS’ to try and eliminate as much embarrassment/hate/cringe/squirm out of saying it as physically possible), Is the short sentence that no one dares to discuss in public, to anyone. With 11% of the world’s population affected by IBS (over 700 million people), we think it’s time to talk IBS.
Ok granted, we don’t want to openly discuss our bowel movements and whether we go to the toilet 5 times a day or just once a week. Nor do we all want to share how bloated we are and admit that we are secretly walking around with our trousers undone underneath our tops, as it just isn’t the nicest or most flattering of topics to talk about, we agree. However, we don’t think there is a day that goes by where someone does bring it up and seem to actually be dying to talk about it.
So you have the symptoms of IBS (gas, bloating, abdominal pain), you may have been to the doctors, been told you may have IBS, perhaps been told to look at the FODMAP diet and been sent on your way with not really much more in-depth information? Alternatively, you may be one of the huge 70% of people with IBS that haven’t been to see the doctor and are suffering in silence with little or no knowledge on how to tackle IBS. In short, it seems SO many of you actually don’t have a clue what IBS actually is, how to ease/prevent the symptoms, what the FODMAP diet is and why it is so beneficial to IBS sufferers. So many of us have got caught up in this ever-growing bubble that is healthy eating without realising that it is exactly those foods that are causing havoc in our digestive systems and stomachs. We give you the lowdown on IBS and the FODMAP diet.
What actually is IBS?
IBS is defined by The Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, as a chronic functional disorder of the gastrointestinal system. Basically, a pain in the ass of a disorder that plays some horrible little tricks with your tummy and bowels. Sorry to talk poo but with IBS, sufferers usually experience abdominal pain and altered bowel habit, with either predominantly diarrhea (IBS-D), constipation (IBS-C), or both (IBS-M). The Clinical Epidemiology journal continues to make us aware that IBS is most common in young females, with a 25% lower diagnosis amongst over 50s. In addition to gal pain, bloating and altered bowel movements, according to the NHS other symptoms of IBS include; a lack of energyXLLMy (lethargy), feeling sick, backache and bladder problems. IBS symptoms are hard to diagnose because they are so similar to other common digestive symptoms. Because there is no definitive investigation available to give a yes or no answer as to whether you have IBS, it is diagnosed clinically. Hence why there is such fog and confusion around explaining and understanding it.
What are FODMAPS?
The Body Ecology Diet explains that many foods we commonly enjoy are high-residue foods, meaning that they leave a lot behind for bacteria feed on. When bacteria feed and grow, this is known as fermentation. Fermentation effectively can rot the gut and our inner ecosystem gets thrown out of balance. Some foods have the tendency to ferment quicker – these are called FODMAPs. According to Standford University Medical Centre, FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccherides, Dissaccherides, monosaccharides, and Ployols (God only knows how any of that is pronounced). In simple terms, FODMAPS are carbohydrates (sugars) found in foods. FODMAPs pull water in to the intestinal tracts making it super hard for us to digest and absorb them well. It is the fermentation and bacteria that then lead to the nasty IBS symptoms we all know and love.
The FODMAP diet and its benefits for IBS Sufferers
For the past few years gluten has been the common blame for IBS with many of us maintaining a gluten-free lifestyle. But going gluten-free alone isn’t enough to scare away the IBS symptoms. A large number of recent studies have proven that the low FODMAP diet has brought much needed hope to millions, taking the burden off not only the digestive system, but also greatly reducing the symptoms of IBS.
DR sue Shepard developed the low FODMAP diet in 1999. She has proven, that limiting dietary FODMAPs is an effective treatment for people with symptoms of IBS. The low FODMAP diet is now accepted and recommended as one of the most effective dietary therapies for those of us with IBS. In 2014 professor Peter Gibson and a group of researchers at Monash Univeristy in Melbourne found that the low FODMAP diet has dramatically helped IBS sufferers and in fact, have seen a 68-076% improvement of IBS symptoms amongst those who follow the low FODMAP diet.
The Yes and No’s
So what can you eat? We won’t sugar coat it, there is a lot that you probably eat that you will need to limit if you truly want your symptoms to go away. The low FODMAP diet consists of avoiding certain foods and limiting others. The key thing to understand with the low FODMAP is that each of us is affected in different ways and it is about experimenting with what you can and can’t have.
It is important to bear in mind however, that a low FODMAP diet restricts foods that feed bacteria in the gut. The Body Ecology Diet insist that by limiting any foods that feed bacteria in the gut for long periods of time (FODMAP diet) we may block the ecosystems opportunity to rebuild. The same researchers that developed the FODMAP diet agree and emphasize that it is important we eventually removing restrictions on the diet by reintroducing high FODMAP foods slowly. Below is a list of foods you should limit to aid IBS symptoms:
FODMAP: FOODS YOU SHOULD LIMIT (high in FODMAPS)
- Plums and prunes
- High concentration of fructose from canned fruit, dried fruit or fruit juice
- Cous cous
- Ice cream
- Milk (cow, goat, sheep)
Soft cheese, including cottage cheese and ricotta
- Oat milk (although a 1/8 serving is considered low-FODMAP)
- Rice milk
- Soy milk (U.S.)
- Baked beans
- Black-eyed peas
- Butter beans
- Kidney beans
- Lima beans
- Split peas
- High fructose corn syrup
- Brussels sprouts
- Scallions (white parts)
- Snow peas
- Sugar snap peas
The full FODMAP food list can be found at:
If you think you may have IBS please ensure that you speak with your Doctor about starting the FODMAP Diet before you begin. It is important that they work closely with you to ensure you reintroduce foods.
Sources & further reading: