Saturday, May 12, 2012

Eating for IBS

As a registered dietitian, I have been counseling patients with a variety of medical needs for years. The condition that has always left me empty handed when it comes to patient advice is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Most of our nutrition texts simply state “the patient has to figure out for themselves what foods they can and cannot tolerate”. Big help huh? Well, after a little searching, I found a little-known diet based on a little-know hypothesis that may help with IBS.
            First, a little background on IBS:
IBS is one of the most common disorders that doctors diagnose.
Ø  As many as 20% of Americans have IBS.
Ø  The good thing about IBS is that it is not a dangerous disease. There is no damage to the intestines with IBS and no risk of any long-term complications. Other intestinal diseases like celiac disease or Crohn’s disease where the intestine is actually physically damaged.
Ø  The bad thing is that IBS can wreck your life. People who have it experience bloating, abdominal discomfort, and can alternate between diarrhea and constipation. And there really isn’t a cure for it.
Ø  But the good news is that some people may respond well to a diet called the “Low FODMAP” diet.

           The idea behind it is that foods from 5 different groups tend to ferment in the intestine and contribute to the symptoms of people with IBS. The idea was developed and studied by an Australian nutritionist. While more research is needed to find out if it really works, it can’t hurt to try it. The foods are abbreviated by the acronym FODMAPS: Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides and Polyols. High FODMAP foods tend to ferment in your intestines and cause the symptoms of IBS. High FODMAP foods include prunes, apples, milk, watermelon, asparagus, avocado, corn, and wheat. But there are many more.
  You don’t have to completely eliminate all of the foods on the list – you may be able to handle some in small amounts. You may be more sensitive to some than others. So, if you are struggling with IBS, I recommend that you eliminate the FODMAP foods for several days to a week. If you find that your symptoms subside, then you can add back individual foods (one at a time) from the list to see which are more problematic for you. Obviously, keeping a detailed food record will be very important for sleuthing out the foods you need to ditch from your diet.
     There is a terrific, easy-to-use list you can print at this website:    Go to the very end of the article and you will see “For a printable chart of low FODMAPs food, click here” and it will take you to the list!  I do recommend that you work with a registered dietitian to help you develop your own healthy, low FODMAP diet!

Beth Kitchin, PhD, RD
Assistant Professor, Nutrition Sciences
University of Alabama at Birmingham 

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