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Low FODMAP diet for IBS FAQs

WebMD Medical Reference
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

What is FODMAPs?

The name FODMAP comes from the types of carbohydrates restricted in the diet: fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols.

This diet approach is sometimes used to treat gut symptoms such as bloating, wind, abdominal pain and altered bowel habits such as diarrhoea and constipation associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

The low FODMAP diet was developed at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. It has been adapted for the UK by researchers at King’s College London and implemented at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust in London.

Medically diagnosed IBS

IBS can have just one symptom or a combination of symptoms. Your IBS may be severe or it may just flare up occasionally.

The first thing you need to do is be formally diagnosed by your GP as a lot of other medical conditions have similar symptoms, for example endometriosis or colitis, and these need to be ruled out before any treatment is recommended.

There's no definitive cause of IBS. Some doctors believe a person's state of mind may play a role, even though its symptoms are very real and are often painful and embarrassing.

General IBS diet advice

Before trying the low FODMAP approach, the NHS suggests some basic tips to help avoid IBS symptoms:

  • Having regular meals
  • Don't rush meal times
  • Don't skip meals
  • Avoid long gaps between meals
  • Drink at least 8 cups of water and other non-caffeinated drinks a day
  • Limit tea and coffee intake to 3 cups a day
  • Limit alcohol and fizzy drinks
  • Limit resistant starches often found in processed or re-cooked foods
  • Limit fresh fruit to 3 portions a day
  • If diarrhoea is an IBS symptom, avoiding the artificial sweetener sorbitol
  • For wind and bloating IBS symptoms, consider porridge or oat cereals for breakfast and a tablespoon of linseeds.

What is the FODMAPs approach?

The FODMAP carbohydrates can trigger changes in fluid content and bacterial fermentation in the colon, leading to gut symptoms in some people.

Following a low FODMAP diet aims to eliminate the fermentable carbohydrates including oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols.

Under the supervision of a dietitian, these carbohydrates are eliminated from the person's diet for a trial period with the aim of re-introducing each FODMAP carbohydrate gradually to observe symptoms.

What foods are sources of high FODMAP?

These are just a few examples of foods high in FODMAP:

Fructose: Apples, pears, peaches, mango, sugar-snap peas, watermelon, tinned fruit in natural juice.

Lactose: Milk, ice cream, yoghurt and cheeses.

Oligosaccharides (fructans and/or galactans): Vegetables including Brussels sprouts, cabbage, onions; cereals, legumes and some fruits.

Polyols: Fruits including apples, cherries and plums; vegetables such as avocado, cauliflower and mushrooms; some artificial sweeteners, usually ending in ‘-ol’, such as sorbitol. Some manufactured foods, such as low sugar foods may contain polyols. Check the ingredients list.

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