No one likes not feeling well.
If you’re living with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), then you probably are no stranger to feeling off your game because of stomach pains. IBS can cause painful bloating, gas, and changes in your bowel movements – most often caused by the things you eat. If you have IBS, you may already be aware of different foods you are sensitive to. While there are several solutions for managing this chronic condition, one method has becoming increasingly popular – the low FODMAP diet.
Faiza Bhatti, M.D., a gastroenterologist with Henry Ford Health, breaks down the low FODMAP diet and how it can provide relief of your IBS symptoms.
The IBS Basics
IBS is a condition that can affect people in different ways. To properly diagnose this condition, your doctor will need to understand what symptoms you are experiencing. You may have IBS if you regularly experience:
- Alternating between diarrhea and constipation
- Abdominal pain or cramping (especially after eating)
What is the Low FODMAP Diet?
FODMAP is an acronym that is used to describe molecules in food that are difficult for some people’s bodies to absorb. If your body struggles to break these molecules down, they can ferment in your gut. This is what causes the bloating and gas. The best way to prevent this is to avoid foods that are more likely to ferment during digestion. This diet helps identify which foods to avoid or limit depending on how your body responds to them. You eliminate the foods high in FODMAPs from your diet, then slowly reintroduce them one at a time to determine which causes issues for you.
The low FODMAP diet can be beneficial even if you haven’t been diagnosed with IBS. “Anyone who thinks he or she is prone to develop bloating and abdominal pain, along with altered bowel habits with either diarrhea or constipation, after consumption of particular food(s) might consider this diet,” says Dr. Bhatti.
How the Diet Works
To determine what foods are affecting your body, you should start by cutting out any foods with high levels of FODMAPs in them. For example, many processed foods have artificial sweeteners or high fructose corn syrup in them. These sugars can be difficult for the body to break down. As time goes on, you can slowly start introducing foods into your diet again to see if your body is able to tolerate them. If you experience IBS symptoms while re-introducing a food, then you know to avoid that food going forward.
“If the low FODMAP diet has been effective for someone in alleviating their symptoms, then limiting those food items should be a long-term goal,” Dr. Bhatti suggests. “We recommend sticking to the low FODMAP diet for 6 to 8 months, then re-introduce one food item at a time to see if they can tolerate that again.”
For those starting a low FODMAP diet, it can often be difficult to avoid high FODMAP foods since many of them are part of a standard American diet. Often, people need to change their eating habits, and find replacements to foods they usually eat in order to get the nutrition they need.
“Do not let IBS pull you back from enjoying your life,” says Dr. Bhatti. “Seek help. We are here to help you out.”
Talk to your doctor about any digestive issues you’re having and whether you should see a gastroenterologist. To schedule an appointment, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).
Dr. Faiza Bhatti is a gastroenterologist who sees patients at Henry Ford Hospital, Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital and Henry Ford Medical Center – Columbus.