"There is a proven way to treat IBS and other gastrointestinal conditions without medication or other invasive procedures: a low-FODMAP diet," says Vincent Pedre, an intellectual health specialist and Pedre Integrative Health's medical director.
FODMAP is a family of carbohydrate sugars and fibers that can worsen IBS:
The acronym means capable of fermenting (the process by which intestinal bacteria break down undetected carbohydrates to produce gases such as hydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide) oligosaccharides (fructo-oligosaccharides found in wheat, rye, onion and garlic) and Galacto-oligosaccharides (found in beans / legumes), disaccharides (lactose found in milk, soft cheese and yoghurt), Monosaccharide (fructose in excess of glucose found in honey and many fruits and vegetables), and polyols (sugar polyols such as sorbitol and mannitol found in some fruits and vegetables and used as artificial sweeteners).
This is chaos, but for difficult cases of low-level IBS diets, FODMAP can become a complete player. In general, on a low FODMAP diet you eliminate or aggressively reduce high-quality vegetables, high-sugar fruits, legumes, milk and sugar alcohols for a certain period of time.
There are some convincing studies to support it: "One study found that a low-FODMAP diet improves symptoms in about 68-76% of IBS patients – the results I have seen in my own practice," says Pedre. "IBS aside, a low-FODMAP diet helps various bowel conditions, including Crohn's disease, Celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease and even STIB (Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth)."
Despite the success of the low-FODMAP diet, there are some important warnings. On the one hand, it can be restrictive and difficult to follow properly (unless you have a handy guide for a low-FODMAP diet). Plus, many people with IBS do not need such a restrictive diet in the long run. For people who benefit, Pedre emphasizes that the goal should be the gradual re-introduction of healthy FODMAP foods such as vegetables, legumes and fruits.
To increase your chances of success, Pedre recommends storing a diary. "Tracking food intake is an excellent way to determine where FODMAP and other food intolerances can get in, and [to help you] targeting large offenders. "