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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Health Center

Very Restricted Diet May Reduce Symptoms of IBS

Researchers Say 'Low-FODMAP' Diet May Relieve Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
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What Are FODMAP Foods? continued...

Among the allowed foods: bananas, blueberries, grapes, oranges, tomatoes, maple syrup, gluten-free breads and cereals, rice noodles and rice, water crackers, oats, polenta, broccoli, bok choy, carrot, cucumber, green beans, sweet potato, olives, lactose-free milk, rice milk, hard cheeses, butter, margarine, and soy yogurt.

Gibson says that in one study, about three-fourths of 62 people with IBS stuck with the diet for the 14 months, on average, that they were followed. That's probably because the same number said it worked for them, he says.

In another small study, people with IBS who were switched to a high-FODMAP diet experienced increased abdominal pain, bloating, and fatigue after just two days.

Why High-FODMAP Foods Cause Symptoms

According to Shepherd, the sugars in FODMAP foods are poorly absorbed by the body and draw excess water into the gut, causing the symptoms of IBS.

So why do some people get symptoms and others don't?

Gut sensitivity, Gibson tells WebMD.

"It's an abnormal response to a stimulus. People with IBS feel even normal distension and might get changes in their bowel habits or bloating or pain," he says.

FODMAP Slowly Catching on in U.S.

University of Michigan gastroenterologist William Chey, MD, tells WebMD that the diet is slowly gathering support among U.S. health care professionals.

"It took three meetings to convince our [university] dietitian to try it," because she felt no one could stick to such a restrictive diet, he says.

"Her first patient later told her, 'It’s been an incredibly liberating experience,'" Chey says.

That could be because many people with IBS have already cut so many foods out of their diet on their own in an effort to prevent symptoms, he theorizes.

Still, the diet is complicated. You should have a thorough exam to rule out other medical conditions. And you should find a dietitian trained in low FODMAPs to ensure you follow a nutritionally sound diet, Shepherd advises.

The diet requires a big commitment from both you and your family, the experts say. Some say they would reserve it for patients whose symptoms interfere with their everyday life.

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