Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS is one of the most common gastro-intestinal disorders, affecting 10% -15% of the population worldwide. But what is IBS? 

IBS is a common disorder that affects the large intestine and involves a disturbance in the intestinal or bowel motor function and sensation. While the cause for IBS is not completely found, genetic disposition, infection especially in the intestine and traumatic life experiences that cause chronic stress are factors may play a role.

People with IBS have symptoms ranging from bloating to abdominal pain  It is usually triggered by diet, stress, changes in gut bacteria and poor sleep. The symptoms change over time. Sometimes it reduces or disappears and there may be periods where it flares up. Bowel movement will also vary accordingly.

The effect of diet on IBS varies from person to person. The food consumed might worsen the IBS in some people. Certain foods are known to stimulate gut reactions in general, and in those with IBS eating too much of these might worsen symptoms. That is why a research team in Monash University Australia developed the Low-FODMAP diet to help reduce symptoms of IBS. 

In Australia, the Low-FODMAP diet has been accepted as the primary strategy for managing IBS in patients. The Australian team found that a short-chain of carbohydrates called FODMAP (Fermentable Oligo-saccharides, Di-saccharides, Mono-saccharides And Polyols) caused problems for people with IBS. 

These carbohydrates are poorly absorbed in the small intestine and they quickly get fermented by the bacteria that is in the gut. These bacteria produce gas which is a major contributor to IBS symptoms. 

By reducing FODMAP in the diet of patients with IBS, studies found that there was improvement in gut health and a reduction in symptoms of IBS. The low FODMAP diet is flexible and can be tailored to meet an individual’s lifestyle and preferences. Following the low FODMAP approach does not cure IBS, but allows successful drug-free management of symptoms through diet in many patients.  

Monash University also has a Low FODMAP Diet app which provides users with easy access to recommended foods that should be eaten and those which should be avoided at every meal. The app is directly from the research team who developed FODMAP. The app also has an easy guide on which foods have high and low FODMAPs as well over 80 low-FODMAP recipes. 

It is important to know that the application  of a low-FODMAP diet requires expert guidance from a dietician or a nutritionist trained in IBS. Low-FODMAP diets involve restricting FODMAPs for 6 to 8 weeks and then slowly introducing small amounts of Low-FODMAPs. 

This diet is not a lifetime diet and the progress will be monitored by a dietician who will advise you on when and which foods need to be slowly introduced back into your diet. The Low-FODMAP diet is a process and not just a list of foods, therefore expert guidance is required throughout your journey.

This article has been researched, compiled and written by the team at Asia Fitness Today; Sneha Ramesh – Intern, Monash University (Sunway campus), Syuhada Adam – Editorial consultant, Nikki Yeo & Jasmine Low – Director/Producer.

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