It’s estimated that 1 in 5 Australians experience symptoms related to Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). IBS usually presents itself in the following symptoms:
Passing lots of gas
So yeah, poo anxiety is real for a lot of people!
But the good news is, diet can play a significant role in alleviating these symptoms.
To understand the role of diet, let’s first understand IBS.
What is IBS?
Not much is really known about what causes IBS. What we do know is that people with IBS seem to have more sensitive bowels compared to those who don’t experience these symptoms.
IBS is different to Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) such as crohns or ulcerative colitis where physical changes to the gut lining such as inflammation, ulcers or damage can be seen. IBS is more of a functional disorder where things just aren’t working properly. In the past, IBS was dismissed as ‘all in your head’ kind of disorder due to the lack of physical signs in the gut.
However, IT IS REAL! It is now thought of as a ‘functional disorder’ where things look fine but they ain’t functioning fine. There is a lot of research to be done in this area to give us some hard and fast answers however what we do know is that IBS is linked to your diet as both a potential causal factor and in management.
Diet and IBS
Although there are many possible food related causes of IBS, FODMAPs is the most common.
There are particular carbohydrates in foods that can trigger IBS symptoms. These carbohydrates are referred to as FODMAPs:
These carbohydrates are digested and absorbed where they draw water into the small intestine causing it to swell. They then travel into the large intestine. In your large intestine live colonies of bacteria. The bacteria ferment the FODMAPs but in the process produce gas that can cause further bloating and flatulence.
You may not react to FODMAP foods immediately but rather as you continue to include small amounts of FODMAPs in your diet you may cross over your individual threshold and that’s when you’ll notice the symptoms.
What’s the process for managing my symptoms?
Stage 1: Elimination
Duration 4 weeks
The first line of dietetics management for IBS is the Low FODMAP diet that removes food sources of FODAMP from the diet. You’ll work with your dietitian to remove a range of foods that contain medium to high FODMAP loads. There is nothing inherently wrong with these foods! They come from a range of food groups and provide a wide variety of nutrients. For example, onion, garlic, asparagus, beetroot, cow’s milk, wheat pasta, almonds and apples are all high in FODMAPs. Your dietitian will work with you to make sure that your diet remains nutritionally balanced and you find alternative foods and meals that you enjoy.
Below is a table of the different categories and some example FODMAP foods. Be aware this list is definitely not exhaustive.
Stage 2: Testing
Duration: 1 day test and 3 day clear out then repeat.
There are different categories of FODMAPs and you are unlikely to react with all. In this stage you’ll test one FODMAP food from each categorie and note any symptoms. Tolerance levels vary between clients, you may have a lower tolerance to certain FODMAPS than another person. In this stage we also test various amount of the FODMAP food to see how sensitive you are.
The low FODMAP diet can sound like a big ask but the trick is to focus on the foods you can have. You’ll notice symptom relief by 1 week in. When this happens it all becomes worth it!
Unsure if FODMAPs is for you?
Test it out first with these sample days:
IBS is manageable! You don't need to live with your symptoms. Test these this low FODMAP meals out. If you notice symptom reduction within 1-2 weeks, come in and we'll create an individualised plan for you!