What is IBS?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common digestive syndrome characterized by abdominal pain, bloating, constipation and/or diarrhea. We aren’t sure exactly what causes IBS, but we do know that stress and the microbiome are involved.
The landscape of your gut changes with stress. This alters which microbes will be happy living in your gut (just like humans, the little friends in our gut can migrate to more favourable climates). Changes in your microbiome affect symptoms such as gas, bloating, and bowel movements.
What is the best diet for IBS?
While there are many ways to treat IBS (addressing stress is key!), optimizing diet is always part of my treatment plans. There is no single “best diet” for IBS – rather, I take an individualized approach with patients to find the diet that best suits their needs.
That being said, there are some therapeutic diets that were developed for IBS. The low FODMAP diet is a short-term, elimination style diet, where you eliminate foods that may be affecting your symptoms for a period of a few weeks, before introducing them in one-by-one. The low FODMAP diet has by far the most research with IBS, and is something I use with patients often.
What are the FODMAPs?
FODMAPS are carbohydrates (aka sugars) that are difficult for the body to digest or absorb. This means that they can travel, undigested, to your colon, where our gut bacteria can happily munch away on them (and subsequently produce gas).
The FODMAP acronym stands for:
- Fermentable: this means our gut bacteria can eat them, which causes gas
- Oligosaccharides: including fructans and GOS
- Disaccharides: including lactose
- Monosaccharides: including fructose
- Polyols: including sorbitol and mannitol
What foods are high FODMAPs?
I've made this handy FODMAP foods to avoid chart, categorized by FODMAP:
|FODMAP Food List||Common food sources|
|Oligosaccharides||Artichokes, allium vegetables (garlic, onions), certain fruits (ripe bananas, dates, dried apricots), legumes (beans, lentils), nuts, grains (rye, wheat)|
|Disaccharides||Diary (milk, butter, cheese, cream)|
|Monosaccharides||Certain fruits (apples, cherries, figs, mangoes, pears, watermelon), certain vegetables (beets, sugar snap peas), high fructose corn syrup, honey|
|Polyols||Certain fruits (apples, pears, stone fruits), certain vegetables (mushrooms, cauliflower), artificial sweeteners (as found in gum or mints)|
What foods can you eat on a low FODMAP diet?
A list of foods to eat while you're following a low FODMAP diet
|Starches||Rice and rice products (ie rice noodles), wheat free grains, potatoes, yams|
|Fruits||Unripe bananas, berries, cantaloupe, grapes, grapefruit, honeydew melon, kiwi, lemon, lime, mandarin, orange, passion fruit, pineapple, rhubarb, tangerine|
|Vegetables||Bamboo shoots, bell peppers, bok choy, cucumbers, carrots, celery, corn, eggplant, lettuce, leafy greens, pumpkin, squash, tomatoes, zucchini|
|Proteins||Beef, chicken, canned tuna, eggs, fish, lamb, pork, shellfish, turkey, cold cuts|
|Spices/seasonings||Most herbs and spices, garlic powder (but not fresh garlic), olive oil, pepper, salt, sugar, mustard, vinegar, balsamic vinegar|
Should I try a low FODMAP diet?
A low FODMAP diet, just like any elimination type diet, is not for everybody. Elimination style diets can be triggering for people with eating disorders or disordered eating, and should be avoided in those cases. Low FODMAP diets can also be difficult to complete on your own. Working with a licensed professional like a naturopathic doctor, gastroenterologist, or registered dietician can make the process a lot easier and more successful.
If you are suffering from IBS or other digestive symptoms, reach out for a free 15 minute meet and greet with me, Dr. Elena Moore, ND, to find out if naturopathic medicine would be a good fit for you.