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How Your Diet Can Influence the Symptoms of IBS

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or spastic colon is a condition that is believed to affect 10-20% of the population, putting figures at least 2.2 million sufferers in Australia. And people do suffer from IBS; the range of symptoms including:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Abdominal aches and pains
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Flatulence
  • Distension
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue

The causes and potential triggers of irritable bowel syndrome are believed to vary from stomach viruses and an imbalance of bowel bacteria through to stress, but many medical professionals and dietitians believe that food intolerance is the principal trigger of IBS symptoms.

There is no known cure for Irritable Bowel Syndrome; drug therapy and medicine will typically only treat the symptoms rather than affect the cause. Making changes to your diet though has proven to alleviate the symptoms of IBS and be an effective treatment for many people who suffer from the condition.

IBS Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome and the FODMAP diet

‘Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols’, or FODMAPs, are naturally occurring sugars found in a range of foods. These sugars are indigestible, don’t absorb well in the body and typically result in an increased level of water in the gut. This in turn produces an increase in excess gas which leads to the person experiencing IBS symptoms.

Many dietitians recommend that irritable bowel syndrome sufferers go on a low FODMAP diet as it helps to relieve the discomfort of IBS symptoms. Here are some foods high in FODMAPs with some recommended alternatives:

Food groups in the low FODMAP diet

Fruit

Restricted: apples, mangoes, watermelon, pears, apricots, blackberries.

Alternatives: bananas, blueberries, grapes, oranges, rockmelon, tomatoes.

Sweeteners

Restricted: honey, high fructose corn syrup

Alternatives: maple syrup, golden syrup

Grains

Restricted: white and multigrain breads, regular pasta, many cereals, corn thins.

Alternatives: gluten-free breads and cereals, rice noodles and rice, water crackers, oats, polenta.

Vegetables:

Restricted: sugar snap peas, avocado, cauliflower, mushrooms, snow peas.

Alternatives: broccoli, bok choy, carrot, cucumber, green beans, sweet potato, olives.

Milk products

Restricted: custard, ice-cream, yoghurt (cow’s, sheep’s, goat’s), cream, cottage cheese.

Alternatives: lactose-free milk, rice milk, hard cheeses (which include brie and camembert) butter, margarine, soy yoghurt.

[source: http://www.abc.net.au/health/thepulse/stories/2011/10/20/3342199.htm#.UW4B2Epc2Cc, accessed 17/04/13]

Health professionals and dietitians who endorse the FODMAP diet recommend that IBS sufferers remove all FODMAPs from their diet for at least two months in order to let symptoms improve. Only once those symptoms get better over time should the person begin to reintroduce FODMAP foods back into their diet – one group at a time, until they’ve worked out just how much of these natural sugars the body can withstand.

Consult your dietitian

As with any dietary plan, no one treatment is going to work for every person – not every irritable bowel syndrome sufferer will experience a positive change from going on a low FODMAP diet (http://www.figureate.com.au/main/page_food_intolerancefodmaps.html). It is important to consult a local health professional or qualified dietitian in Melbourne, Sydney or anywhere across Australia for the best advice on how to manage your irritable bowel syndrome.

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