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Do you have IBS? The culprit could be FODMAPs.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic condition experienced by some 1 in 5 Americans. IBS affects the large intestine (colon) and, according to the Mayo Clinic, is characterized by abdominal pain, cramping, gas, bloating and diarrhea. Often a diagnosis of IBS is made after eliminating other possible diseases and causes of these symptoms.

More recently, studies have been done, particularly at Monash University in Australia, to identify foods that may cause symptoms of IBS. These foods contain varying amounts of carbohydrates known as FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligo-saccharides, Di-saccharides, Mono-saccharides, Polyols) that are not fully digested and can result in the uncomfortable symptoms in the bowel that characterize IBS. A dietitian can help educate a patient about the different levels and types of FODMAPs in various foods, guide them in eliminating particular foods and then in gradually reintroducing certain foods that contain FODMAPs – those that may be tolerated or that have lower amounts of FODMAPs – so IBS symptoms are not experienced. After this process, many have had success in managing symptoms of IBS.  

Examples of high FODMAP containing foods include oligo-saccharides (wheat, rye, onions, garlic, legumes and pulses), di-saccharides (milk, yogurt, soft cheeses), mono-saccharides (honey, apples, high fructose corn syrup) and polyols (sugar alcohols like mannitol and sorbitol found in sugar-free or “low carb” items and naturally occurring in some fruits and vegetables).

It is important to stress that this diet is not the same as a gluten-free diet and that it is an elimination and reintroduction diet. The goal of the FODMAP diet is not to eliminate foods permanently from the diet, but to find which foods can be tolerated and in what amount. This diet should be done with the help and supervision of a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, preferably with training in this type of diet. To find a dietitian in your area, visit the dietitian locator at  www.eatright.org. 

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