People who struggle with irritable bowel syndrome often find that certain foods trigger their symptoms.
One way to help pinpoint the source of distress is by following what’s known as the low-FODMAP diet. An evidence-based approach to help relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, the low-FODMAP diet can lead to a reduction in symptoms for many people.
The goal is to temporarily restrict intake of certain types of carbohydrates, known as fermentable short-chain carbohydrates, that can be difficult for some people to digest.
But low FODMAP isn’t a diet you should try without medical supervision, says Jamie Kandora, a registered dietitian and clinical nutrition manager for Tidelands Health. Kandora and her team of registered dietitians work closely with the digestive health experts at Tidelands Health to help patients struggling with IBS and other digestive disorders.
“The low-FODMAP diet is for people who are experiencing symptoms of IBS but are not sure of what may be the trigger,” Kandora says. “It’s a temporary elimination diet to help identify foods that can trigger symptoms.”
A closer look
FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. In some people, these carbohydrates aren’t absorbed and remain in the intestines, where they ferment and cause symptoms common to irritable bowel syndrome.
“With the low-FODMAP diet, you limit those categories for a while to get those carbs out of your system, then you systematically add a category at a time back in to help determine which one may be causing your symptoms,” Kandora says.
Foods that are often restricted as part of low-FODMAP diet include:
- Cow’s milk
- Pudding and custard
- Ice cream
- Cottage cheese and ricotta cheese
- Certain fruits, including apples, pears, peaches, cherries, mangoes, pears and watermelon
- Honey and agave nectar
- Foods that contain high-fructose corn syrup
- Certain vegetables, including artichokes, asparagus, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, garlic and onions
- Certain grains such as wheat and rye
- Vegetables, such as cauliflower, mushrooms and snow peas
A team approach
Kandora says the low-FODMAP diet eliminates many nutritious foods that people regularly consume. That’s why it’s crucial to stay on the diet only briefly and under the direction of a registered dietitian or physician.
“This is not a diet you should stay on for a long period of time. We usually recommend people follow this for two to six weeks before they start reintroducing foods to identify triggers,” Kandora says. “But it’s important to work with your dietitian and physician to create a plan that works for your unique body chemistry.”
Whether related to IBS, celiac disease, ulcerative colitis or another type of digestive health condition, Kandora and her team collaborate closely with the digestive health team at Tidelands Health to help patients feel better.
“It’s common for our gastroenterology team to refer patients to us as part of a patient’s care plan,” she says. “Between the providers and the dietitians, we work closely with patients to address their unique concerns and improve their quality of life. It’s a great team dynamic.”