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Those with irritable bowel syndrome are often at a loss to explain why their digestive system is acting up. They try taking probiotics, they try to reduce their everyday stress, they make time for exercise, and they try to eliminate various foods from their diet.
Still, relief can elude them. As IBS patients, they are part of an estimated 15 percent of American adults who suffer from symptoms. Irritable bowel syndrome is usually categorized as diarrhea-predominant, constipation-predominant or a combination of the two.
IBS symptoms also include gas, bloating and abdominal pain. In any form, IBS can conflict with work and play. It’s no wonder patients constantly seek solutions to its causes.
A new idea is taking hold, however, and it’s called the low-FODMAP diet, developed by an Australian dietitian, Dr. Sue Shepherd. Low-FODMAP created a buzz at the American College of Gastroenterology conference in fall 2011, and nutritionists and dietitians in the United States and elsewhere are becoming versed in the way it works so that they can advise patients.
“Many people who have tried it say they can’t believe how much it’s changed their lives,” said Jeffrey D. Roberts in a November 2011 Wall Street Journal story. Roberts founded the online support community at IBSGroup.org.
Low-FODMAP zeroes in on dietary changes to relieve IBS symptoms; in particular, it calls for meals that restrict several complex sugars. Known as fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols, they give FODMAP its name.
Why these complex sugars? Researchers believe that as these molecules move through the digestive tract of someone with IBS, they have trouble being absorbed by the small intestine; in the large intestine, the molecules ferment in the presence of normal gut bacteria, thus prompting IBS symptoms.
To keep daily meals low in FODMAP, patients have to be cautious about everything from dairy products, wheat, rye, corn syrup and artificial sweeteners to certain fruits and vegetables.