Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Health Center

Font Size

Very Restricted Diet May Reduce Symptoms of IBS

Researchers Say 'Low-FODMAP' Diet May Relieve Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Nov. 3, 2011 (Washington, D.C.) -- A very restricted diet that that is low in certain natural sugars may help relieve bloating, gas, abdominal pain, and other symptoms in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Australian researchers report.

Known as a low-FODMAP diet, it doesn't work for everyone. And it isn't easy to follow -- rye, wheat, and white breads and pastas, apples, watermelon, ice cream, and honey are just a few of the restricted foods.

But a number of studies, while small, have established its benefits, says Peter Gibson, MD, professor of gastroenterology at Monash University in Victoria, Australia.

In one study published earlier this year, British researchers found that more than 80% of 43 people with IBS who followed a low-FODMAP diet reported less bloating, abdominal pain, and gas. That compares with only about 50% to 60% of 39 people who stuck with standard dietary advice.

Gibson and FODMAP developer Sue Shepherd, PhD, a dietitian in Victoria, Australia, spoke about the diet at the annual meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology here. Both have written low-FODMAP cookbooks.

What Are FODMAP Foods?

Irritable bowel syndrome affects up to 55 million Americans, mostly women. Its symptoms include bloating and stomach distension, excess gas, abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, and fatigue.

The cause is not known, but it's generally accepted that stress and certain foods and drinks, like french fries and caffeinated beverages, can make symptoms worse in some people.

Gibson and Shepherd believe a much wider variety of foods -- namely those containing natural FODMAP sugars -- can trigger IBS symptoms.

FODMAP stands for a mouthful of words: fermentable, oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols.

These sugars are found in wheat, rye, onion, garlic, leeks, artichokes, mushrooms, cauliflower, snow peas, beans, chickpeas, lentils, milk products except hard cheese, honey, apples, pears, watermelon, mangos, stone fruits, high-fructose corn syrup, sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, and xylitol. And more.

Still unknown is the long-term safety of the diet. Ongoing research is aimed at ensuring it is nutritionally adequate.

Shepherd says that shouldn't be a problem as long as the restricted foods are replaced with foods that add up to equal nutritional value.

Today on WebMD

filling glass of water from faucet
Prevention strategies to try.
stomach ache
From symptoms to treatments.
Causes, symptoms, and treatments.
worried mature woman
Are they related?
IBS Trigger Foods
Supplements for IBS What Works
IBS Symptoms Quiz
digestive health
gluten free diet
digestive myths
what causes diarrhea
man with abdominal pain

WebMD Special Sections