If you suffer symptoms like bloating, abdominal pain and discomfort, diarrhoea, constipation, possibly nausea, backache or lack of energy then you may have a problem with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The hypersensitivity of the gut associated with IBS makes normal bowel function very uncomfortable and such symptoms can become rather life consuming.
IBS has typically been associated with stress and poor diet. People often try to manage it by taking medications or supplements to help the bowel or by reducing gluten or dairy or… put up with it.
Research which started with an Australian double blind investigation into IBS in 2011, suggests that rather than the protein gluten being the issue, the problem is associated with poor absorption of certain carbohydrates by the small intestine. The carbohydrates in question (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols, collectively referred to as Fodmaps) pass through to the large intestine, providing food for the bacteria, producing gas.
This finding suggests two potential avenues which might help: Increasing the effectiveness of the bowel (often through improving nervous system activity for example by guided relaxation training which has been shown to be effective in previous research) or elimination of certain foods.
Many common foods are rich in Fodmaps and a recent study has shown a significant improvements in symptoms of IBS by following a low Fodmaps diet. Long term adoption of such a diet however without professional guidance of a nutritionist increases the risk of becoming depleted in important nutrients. One approach is to adopt the diet short term to reduce symptoms and gradually reintroduce a few foods to test your response. Another aspect to be aware of is that some of the foods low in Fodmaps are likely to have a high Glycaemic Index (GI).
Foods containing high amounts of Fodmaps:
Vegetables: Asparagus, artichokes, onions, leaks, garlic, legumes, pulses, sugar snap
peas, onion and garlic, beetroot. Savoy cabbage, celery, sweetcorn.
Fruit: Apples, pears, mango, watermelon, nectarines, peaches, plums.
Milk and dairy: Cows milk, yoghurt, soft cheese, cream, custard, ice cream.
Protein sources: Legumes and pulses
Bread and cereal: Rye, wheat breads and cereals, wheat pasta
Biscuits and snacks: Rye crackers, wheat based biscuits.
Nuts and seeds: Cashews and pistachios.
Foods containing low amounts of fod maps.
Vegetables: Alfalfa, beansprouts, green beans, joy, capsicum, carrot, chives, fresh herbs, cucumber, lettuce, tomato, courgettes.
Milk and dairy: Lactose free milk, lactose-free yoghurt’s, hard cheese.
Fruit: Banana, orange, mandarin, grapes, melon.
Protein sources: Meats, fish, chicken, tofu. Biscuits and snacks. Gluten free biscuits, rice cakes, corn thins.
Nuts and seeds: Almonds (fewer than 10), pumpkin seeds.
Breads and cereals. Gluten free bread and sourdough spelt bread, rice bubbles, oats, gluten-free, pasta, rice, quinoa.
Sourced in part from an article in the iweekend 2-3 April 2016, Wellbeing, Health, P37 ‘Gut feeling: a new answer to IBS’, by Siobhan Norton
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