"There is a tried-and-true way to treat IBS and other gut conditions without drugs or other invasive procedures: a low-FODMAP diet," said Vincent Pedre, MD, a gut health specialist and medical director of Pedre Integrative Health, told mbg.
FODMAPs are a family of carbohydrate sugars and fibers that can aggravate IBS:
The acronym stands for Fermentable (the process through which the gut bacteria break down undigested carbohydrate to produce gases like hydrogen, methane, and carbon dioxide) Oligosaccharides (fructo-oligosaccarides found in wheat, rye, onions, and garlic) and Galacto-oligosaccharides (found in legumes / pulses), Disaccharides (a lactose found in milk, soft cheese, and yogurts), Monosaccharide (fructose in excess of glucose, found in honey and many fruits and vegetables), and Polyols (sugar polyols like sorbitol and mannitol, found in some fruits and vegetables and used as artificial sweeteners).
It's a mouthful, but for difficult IBS cases, low-FODMAP diets can be a total game changer. Basically, on a low-FODMAP diet you eliminate or aggressively reduce the high-fiber vegetables, high-sugar fruits, legumes, dairy and sugar alcohols for a period of time.
There's also some compelling research to back up: "One study found low-FODMAP diet improved symptoms in about 68 to 76 percent of IBS patients – results I've seen in my own practice", said Pedre. "IBS aside, and low-FODMAP diet helps a variety of gut conditions including Crohn's disease, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and even small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)."
Despite the success of low-FODMAP diet, there are some important caveats. For one, it can be restrictive and difficult to follow correctly (unless you have a handy guide to a low-FODMAP diet). Plus, many people with IBS do not need such a restrictive diet over the long term. For people who benefit, Pedre emphasizes that the goal should be the gradual reintroduction of healthy FODMAP foods such as vegetables, legumes and fruits.
To up your chances of success, Pedre recommends keeping a food journal. "Tracking your food intake becomes a great way to pinpoint where high-FODMAP foods and other food intolerances might creep in, and [to help you] target major offenders. "