26 March 2013 Have Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Learn about FODMAPs!

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a non-inflammatory condition of the bowel (gut) that can cause a lot of distress, discomfort, and pain. Some folks complain of cramping, bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, or any combination of those unpleasant symptoms. IBS is more often diagnosed in women and often occurs in those with a history of abuse. High stress, anxiety, and certain dietary components can trigger IBS symptoms although each person might be more or less sensitive to different triggers. This post will focus on some common dietary triggers.

FODMAPs

In addition to meals or snacks that are simply too high in fat and caffeine, many who suffer from IBS are particularly sensitive to a class of carbohydrates (carbs) that are nicknamed “FODMAPs”: Fermentable, Oligo-, Di-, and Mono-saccharides And Polyols. They are found in both processed and unprocessed foods.

  • Oligosaccharides: 3-10 sugar units long (e.g. stachyose and raffinose)
  • Disaccharides: 2 sugar units long (e.g. sucrose, lactose, and maltose)
  • Monosaccharides: 1 sugar unit (e.g. glucose, fructose, and galactose)
  • Polyols: sugar alcohols (e.g. sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol)

Some types of FODMAPs are not easily digested in our gut and this can cause trouble when they eventually meet up with gut bacteria born to feast on them. The bacteria ferment the carbs which can cause symptoms of IBS when there is too much going on all at once. You can thank excessive fermentation for excessive gassiness.

Some types of FODMAPs are highly digestible but there might be too much at one time. These carbs draw a lot of water into the gut very quickly, which has the extremely unpleasant consequence of bloating, and possibly cramping along with loose stools/diarrhea.

Just Because It Is a FODMAP Doesn’t Mean It Causes IBS

A lot of nutritious foods contain FODMAPs, so be careful not to limit your diet unnecessarily. Some types of FODMAPs might not produce any IBS symptoms whereas others might make you miserable. Keep a food log with notes about how well you tolerated the food and the portion size. Many foods can be tolerated if consumed in smaller portions. MyNetDiary has a Notes section that gets included in the Summary Food Report. Foods high in FODMAPs Fruit: Caution with fruit that contains more fructose than glucose (e.g. apples, pears, and mangos). Honey and high fructose corn syrup: both contain a slightly larger percentage of fructose to glucose. Sugar alcohols: often used in sugar-free sweet foods. Naturally occurring polyols are found in stone fruits (e.g. peach, apricot, and plum), apples, pears, mushrooms, cauliflower, and snow peas. Milk: contains lactose (milk sugar) which can cause discomfort if a person does not produce enough lactase enzyme in the gut (lactose intolerance). Rye or wheat grain: oligosaccharides. Caution with dense bread products such as bagels (equivalent to about 4 slices of bread). Legumes (dried beans & peas such as chick peas and lentils): oligosaccharides. Consider portion size: 1/4 cup of chick peas in a salad will be a much lower load than consuming 1 cup of hummus. Veggies: oligosaccharides. Onion, garlic, leeks, shallots, artichokes, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cabbage are particularly high sources.

Water

To make your life even more miserable, stress and anxiety in the presence of low water intake can cause constipation. To avoid that nuisance, be sure to drink plenty of fluids. You can choose to track water from all sources by selecting it as a nutrient to track in MyNetDiary.

Keep Experimenting

Do not settle for discomfort and pain from IBS. Figure out which foods cause symptoms (and how much of those foods) rather than just eliminating all foods with FODMAPs. This will maximize nutrient intake while also giving you the greatest flexibility and variety for meal planning.

Katherine Isacks, MPS, RD, CDE
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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.

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