Part 2: IBS Series – What is the Role of the Low FODMAP Diet in IBS?
Understanding the role of the FODMAP Diet for Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Are you struggling with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and curious about the FODMAP diet? This article will dive into the role of the FODMAP diet in IBS management and look at its effectiveness in reducing digestive woes!
Part 2 of a 4 part series to get to the root of your digestive woes and explore the role of a low FODMAP diet in managing Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a functional bowel disorder, meaning that it is a disorder of the gut-brain interaction. There are no structural abnormalities that would show up on a scope, X-ray, or in blood tests, but there are functional abnormalities or impairments in how the gut moves and works, resulting in symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating (feeling like there is an inflated balloon in the abdomen), distension (a visible increase in abdominal girth), and altered bowel movements.
IBS is thought to affect between 7 and 15% of the population, and is more common in women. What can be tricky to manage with IBS is the fluctuation of symptom severity from day to day, often leading to frustration and fear when it comes to food and bowel patterns. This has a huge impact on quality of life for individuals struggling with IBS and can result in many consequences, including withdrawing from social activities, increased anxiety and a decrease in productivity.
If you haven’t already, check out Part 1 of the series:
How can Food Help to Manage IBS?
Figuring out where to start with the dietary management of IBS can feel overwhelming, and there are multiple strategies we can try based on your current eating patterns and food preferences. Some common nutrition interventions include:
- Creating regular meal patterns and meal spacing
- Modifying fibre intake
- Increasing hydration
- Modifying common triggers including caffeine, fat, spicy, foods, and alcohol
- Completing a low FODMAP diet protocol to identify more specific food triggers
If you’re unsure where to start, utilizing the support of a digestive health dietitian can be beneficial in assessing where you’re at, what your biggest concerns are, and what strategies in particular may target these problematic symptoms. If you find you eat regular meals from day to day, are relatively well hydrated and are still struggling with troubling symptoms, a low FODMAP diet may be the right next step for you!
The Role of the Low FODMAP Diet in IBS:
Every individual has a unique threshold in regards to what volume of FODMAPs they can tolerate in one sitting or meal over meal. As discussed in our last article (Part 1: IBS Series – What are FODMAPs?), FODMAPs are fermentable carbohydrates that tend to draw extra fluid into the small intestine and produce more gas in the large intestine, which can exacerbate symptoms of pain and bloating in individuals with IBS. We can think about our individual FODMAP tolerance like a variety of beach buckets. We all have our own unique bucket that holds a particular amount of FODMAPs (AKA how much we can tolerate). Once that bucket is full and overflows, we experience symptoms! The 3-phased FODMAP diet can help individuals with IBS to identify which FODMAP categories are their triggers, and how full they can fill their bucket with each FODMAP category before they experience symptoms. For a great video representation of this, click HERE.
The low FODMAP diet is usually completed under the guidance of a digestive health dietitian, as there are 3 unique phases in the FODMAP protocol. They are:
- Phase 1: Elimination – all high FODMAP foods are eliminated to create a new baseline for symptoms.
- Phase 2: Reintroduction – Each category of FODMAPs is systematically reintroduced and symptoms are monitored.
- Phase 3: Personalization – Based on responses in phase 2, the diet is personalized to the individual to allow for as much variety as possible while balancing adequate symptom control.
It’s important to note that the FODMAP elimination phase isn’t designed to be followed forever, as limiting FODMAPs in the diet also reduces the intake of prebiotics, which are beneficial fibres found in high FODMAP foods such as legumes/lentils, veggies, and grains that are fermented by our gut bacteria and have beneficial effects on our overall health.
How Effective is a Low FODMAP Diet?
Numerous studies have shown that a low FODMAP diet improves overall symptoms, and can help to decrease symptom severity and increase quality of life in individuals with IBS. These positive outcomes have been observed in both the short and long term, with individuals still experiencing symptom relief 1 year post elimination and reintroduction. Clinical studies have demonstrated that a low FODMAP diet has been shown to provide adequate symptom relief in about 70% of patients.
In the elimination phase of the FODMAP diet, we are typically looking for an adequate reduction in symptoms such as bloating and abdominal pain. If you aren’t seeing a reduction in symptoms after 4-6 weeks of FODMAP elimination don’t fear! Your digestive health dietitian is here to support you in finding alternate strategies and looking at other potential triggers.
I Want to Get Started!
If you’re ready to get to the root of your IBS symptoms and are curious if a low FODMAP diet might be right for you, book an appointment with one of our digestive health dietitians today! We are here to support you through the entire process and help your gut feel good!
Do you have questions regarding your diet and your health? Are you living with IBS and want advice on how to manage symptoms and maintain a balanced diet?
Get to the root of your IBS symptoms by working one-on-one with our digestive health dietitians, contact us today!
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Make sure to tune in weekly for the next article in this 4 part IBS series.
Check out these related blogs on our website:
Disordered eating, intuitive eating, mental health, digestive health, emotional eating, chronic disease
One of the first things you’ll notice about Britney is her energy, zest for life and love of food! Britney is passionate about supporting her clients in developing a healthy and satisfying relationship with food and their bodies, allowing them to live life to the fullest. Britney specializes in disordered eating, intuitive eating, mental health, digestive health, emotional eating, and chronic disease.
My husband suffers with ulcerative colitis. Will the low formal diet improve his condition?
Hi Cathy! That’s a great question. Research is ongoing with IBD and the potential role of the Low FODMAP Diet so we don’t yet have conclusive evidence to make a strong recommendation on this. However, it is good to chat with your doctor and dietitian to discuss an individualized approach to treatment based on your symptoms – here is a good summary of what we know so far: https://www.monashfodmap.com/blog/low-fodmap-diet-inflammatory-bowel-disease-ibd-update/
I am looking to find a good journal, book or just a template for food tracking.
I don’t have IBS, but do have a sensitive stomach.
Hello Tanya! Thanks for your question – I have emailed you the template we commonly use with digestive health clients to track food and symptoms.