As I child I suffered from chronic stomach pains. After enduring a bunch of medical tests in my teen years, I was finally diagnosed with IBS and was told by my Doctor to avoid caffeine, spicy foods, fried foods, chocolate and popcorn. Giving up these foods – I did so for about a month – didn’t help at all and if you read on, you’ll see why.
If you don’t know what IBS is, it stands for “Irritable Bowel Syndrome” and in the medical world basically means “we can’t find anything seriously wrong with you, but your intestines are irritated for some reason – possibly stress and anxiety and too much spicy food – and we have no way to fix it other than to offer meds that may or may not help, but in all likelihood will make your symptoms worse in the long run.” OK, fine maybe that’s not exactly what it means, but you get the point.
All joking aside, IBS is diagnosed when other serious gastrointestinal diseases such as celiac, bowel cancer, chron’s disease and also some gynecological conditions are ruled out.
The most common symptoms of IBS are:
- lower abdominal discomfort/pain
- excessive gas
- altered bowel habits (diarrhea and/or constipation)
Well, as it turns out, the folks at Monash University have been researching this a long time and several years ago came out with a program that really, REALLY helps people with IBS. It’s quite remarkable how much better you can feel while following this simple program – you will notice a change within the first WEEK! Even if you haven’t officially been diagnosed with IBS, if you have the symptoms mentioned above and have ruled out other issues, this program may help and is certainly worth a try.
The program I am referring to is known as the Low-FODMAP diet. FODMAP stands for Fermentable Olig-saccharides, Di-saccharides, Mono-saccharides and Polyols. These sugars can be poorly absorbed in the small intestine and fermented by bacteria to produce gas. Current research strongly suggests that this group of sugars contributes to IBS symptoms.
Even though many FODMAPs are poorly absorbed in ALL people (think of what happens when you eat beans, cauliflower, or brussel sprouts), the reason such strong symptoms only occur in those with IBS may be due to:
- Gut Hypersensitivity – the amount of gas produced may be greater OR the gut is more sensitive to the gas produced
- Bacterial Overgrowth in the Small Intestine – In some individuals, some of the bacteria that are normally located in the large intestine, move up in to the small intestine which creates the symptoms of IBS.
Note that not all individuals diagnosed with IBS react to ALL of the different types of FODMAPs. Some of the FODMAPs ie. fructose, lactose and sorbitol, can be tested using a special breath test that can determine malabsorption but others cannot be tested and should simply be avoided to help relieve symptoms. (Ask me about this test if you suffer from IBS and don’t want to unnecessarily avoid foods from this program).
Here is a general list of foods to avoid if you have IBS:
- Garlic (garlic infused oil can be used instead: simply cut up 1 whole bulb – not clove – of fresh garlic, add to 1 cup organic cold-pressed olive oil and gently heat on the lowest setting until fragrant; remove from heat, let cool and strain the oil into a glass bottle)
- Onions (the green part of the spring onion and chives may be used instead)*
- onion and garlic powders*
- white peaches
- rye (as a major ingredient; small quantities are ok)
- wheat (as a major ingredient; small quantities are ok)
- chicory (often used as a coffee substitute)
- FOS: Fructo-oligo-sacharides, often found in Probiotic supplements
- inulin fiber (made from chicory)
* Note: For many people, onions and onion powder cause the MOST painful symptoms. While this is hard to avoid when eating out, it is very easy to replace with green onions or chives in any recipe calling for onions. There is also an Indian spice called Asafateda powder that may be used and is said to have a strong onion/garlic flavor, but I have not personally tried it.
Other foods should be limited in quantity, such as:
- brussel sprouts
- butternut pumpkin
For details on the quanities of the foods to be limited, as well as other foods that may or may not be a problem in your particular case, you can purchase the official Monash University Low Fodmap diet booklet HERE or by clicking on the picture above. For breath testing, and/or to discuss your particular health challenges and food sensistivies that may also play a role in IBS, Book an Appointment and I will be happy to help you.