The Lowdown on FODMAPs and IBS

Sweet Peas

Sweet Peas

Are you suspicious that you might have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)? Do you get any of the following symptoms?

  • Bloating
  • Stomach pain
  • Constipation/ diarrhoea
  • Nausea
  • Incomplete emptying
  • Too much wind
  • Urination frequency
  • An irritable bladder
  • Rectum pain
  • Backache

A Low FODMAP diet might be for you.

Researchers at Monash University in Australia were the first people to prove that a Low FODMAP diet improves IBS symptoms. They have used this knowledge to build a smartphone application that lists foods using a traffic light system and a serving size guide. Using this app means that you don’t have to completely avoid a FODMAP containing food if you know how much you can safely consume. The app also contains general information on IBS and the Low FODMAP diet, as well as suitable recipes. The Monash app costs $10 NZD but all of the money goes towards further research at Monash in the field so it is money well spent.

1 in 7 adults have IBS and there is a known genetic factor to it so you are twice as likely to get IBS if someone in your immediate family also has it. Although the cause isn’t completely understood yet, the symptoms have been shown to resolve with age.

There are a few known triggers of IBS including diet, stress and infection that can be addressed by lifestyle (i.e. a Low FODMAP diet), probiotics, medication and relaxation.

Here are a few ways that can help to manage the symptoms: 

  • The juice of 1 lemon in a cup of warm water to increase stomach acid for digestion
  • Googling your symptoms and getting results of other people with symptoms 10 times worse!
  • Colofac pills – this isn’t a long term solution but in times of dire pain these work perfectly (get a prescription from the doctor)
  • Aloe vera juice is supposed to be really soothing – you can find it at Health2000 in NZ or any other health shop/ good supermarket
  • Any type of movement such as walking and yoga

The best part about IBS is that reciting “fermentable oligosaccharides disaccharides monosaccharides and polyols”, which you have probably memorised already, will make anyone think that you are a highly qualified biochemist. The worst part? Being asked about IBS when you don’t know how to condense your explanation down to a sentence or two. But, I have the answer for you. Basically, IBS symptoms are caused by bowel bacteria fermenting FODMAPs which are indigestible sugars that act as fast food for bacteria.

It is important to get a confirmed diagnosis of IBS because there may be other reasons for the IBS-like symptoms. I would also highly recommend getting help from a nutritionist/ dietitian before following a restrictive low FODMAP diet because it can lead to nutritional deficiencies.

Disclaimer: the information above is for informational purposes only and shouldn’t replace advice from a health professional. You shouldn’t use the given information to diagnose or treat a health problem/ disease.

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