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New FODMAP Diet for Digestive Problems

The Low FODMAP diet is a relatively new diet in Ireland, which is mainly used to relieve the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).   IBS effects 1 in 7 people over a lifetime and  often includes complaints such as abdominal bloating and distension, excess wind (flatulence or burping), abdominal pain, nausea, altered bowel habits (diarrhoea, constipation, or a combination of both) and other gastro-intestinal symptoms.  The latest research also shows that this revolutionary new approach can also ease tummy symptoms for those with Crohns Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Gut Bacterial Overgrowth and even HIV.

What are FODMAP Foods?

FODMAPs are foods which are Fermentable Oligo-saccharies (example garlic), Di-saccharides (milk), Mono-saccharides (honey) And Polyol ‘S (apples).   FODMAP’s is a complex name for a collection of molecules found in a number of various healthy foods.  FODMAP containing foods are poorly digested and absorbed by some people and act as a food source to the bacteria which naturally inhabit the large bowel. The bacteria then digest or ferment these foods, which can trigger symptoms in susceptible individuals.  Excessive movements of fluid in the bowel is usually associated with the malabsorption of such foods.   There are numerous scientific journals which have been published recently to show the effect of FODMAP foods on the gut and to prove it’s benefits.

How does it work?

The approach involves excluding FODMAP containing foods for six weeks under the guidance of a FODMAP trained Dietitian.  The diet is individualised to each person, taking into consideration the usual dietary intake, medical history and symptom profile. Careful implementation is needed to ensure the diet is most up to date and nutritionally balanced.  Improvements to digestive symptoms (including fatigue for many IBS sufferers) are usually found within 2 weeks of commencing the exclusion diet.  The re-introduction phase allows people to get to the root of their problem by determining the specific food(s) causing their intolerance.

Prior to commencing the diet under guidance of a FODMAP trained Dietitian, the Gastroenterologists from where I trained in this specialist diet at Kings College London recommend that the plan is not appropriate if there are any traces of blood in the stools (consult a Doctor immediately in this instance).  Also note that Coeliac disease should be outruled; a gluten intolerance which requires blood test from a GP if not performed already.  Unfortunately I have seen several clients in the past, who have taken numerous medications on a daily basis to relieve their digestive symptoms which were ongoing for years… to find out that the issue was completely diet related.  Historically, those with digestive complaints were told by health professionals that the problem “is all in your head”,  it’s stress related or to just increase or decrease fibre intakes.   Thankfully, we now know that this isn’t always the case; the foods we eat can hugely effect how we feel on the inside and that one shoe never fit all!