Low FODMAP diet for irritable bowel syndrome

Dr Sue Shepherd explains the origins of the low FODMAP diet.

Irritable bowel syndrome is very common, affecting approximately 15 per cent of the population – that’s one in seven people. It is a condition characterised by the symptoms of altered bowel habits, abdominal pain, excessive wind and abdominal bloating.

These are symptoms that often people don’t like to talk about, but they can be very debilitating. In fact, IBS is the second most common reason why people have sick days from school or work. The symptoms can sometimes ruin people’s social lives – some people are too scared to eat out and travel.

The history of the low FODMAP diet

This is a very sad situation so I set out to make a change. I set out to identify what it is in foods that can trigger IBS symptoms in so many people. In 1999, I pieced together, much like a jigsaw puzzle, individual molecules that occur naturally in foods that I thought were possible triggers for IBS symptoms.

I taught this diet to patients in my private practice, and it worked incredibly well – my patients told me their symptoms were now well controlled. This diet was what was later named the low FODMAP diet.

To be sure that it really was effective, I undertook my PhD research to prove the efficacy of my diet in a high quality research study. In fact, I did a double-blinded, randomised, quadruple arm, placebo-controlled, rechallenge trial. This proved without a shadow of a doubt that FODMAPs were triggers for IBS.

I have won numerous awards for my pioneering work and I am immensely proud to say that it is now considered the most effective dietary therapy for the management of IBS and is used throughout Australia and many countries around the world including USA, UK, NZ, Switzerland, Germany, Holland, Denmark, Norway, Austria and France.

What are FODMAPs?

FODMAP is an acronym referring to a collection of short-chain carbohydrates that are found naturally in many foods. FODMAP refers to Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols.

The types of FODMAPs and examples of common foods containing them are shown below:

How it is that FODMAPs can contribute to symptoms is clear and well understood. FODMAPs increase water delivery into the bowel due to their osmotic effect, and they are rapidly fermented by colonic bacteria, leading to an increase in gas production. These responses can cause symptoms of change in bowel habits, excess wind, abdominal bloating, distension and pain.

Understanding the low FODMAP diet

Anyone suspecting that they suffer from irritable bowel syndrome should speak with their doctor about their symptoms. It is important to ensure coeliac disease (and other possible medical conditions) are ruled out. If IBS is confirmed as the cause of symptoms, then the low FODMAP diet is the recommended treatment.

As shown in the table, there are five categories of FODMAPs, but not every person has a problem with each FODMAP. Some people might have symptoms triggered by only two types of FODMAPs, another three, another five types of FODMAPs. FODMAPs should only be restricted if they contribute to symptoms.

The low FODMAP diet is intended to be individualised according to the type of offending FODMAP and the threshold of how much can be tolerated before symptoms are experienced – so consulting with an Accredited Practising Dietitian is important to ensure you are following the best FODMAP restriction for your needs.

To learn more about the low FODMAP diet and recommended cookbooks, visit shepherdworks.com.auDr Sue Shepherd has produced a range of low FODMAP foods, available from sueshepherdfoods.com

Recommended reading - A-Z guide

Guides

E is for eye health

Regular eye tests are an important way of maintaining vision and identifying eye problems early.

Read more
Guides

I is for influenza

Influenza is a highly contagious virus that produces the classic ‘flu’ symptoms.

Read more
Guides

T is for travel advice

With almost 8 million overseas departures last year, Australians are extremely active travellers.

Read more
Guides

V is for veggie patch

Where would your winter heart be without the veggie patch?

Read more
Guides

Y is for yoga

Originating in India over 5000 years ago, yoga is now commonplace in western society.

Read more
Guides

A is for antioxidants

Kate Gudorf explains the best sources of dietary antioxidants and how they can impact your health.

Read more
Guides

B is for breath

Apart from keeping us alive, breathing is central to many practices of meditation and mindfulness.

Read more
Guides

C is for cycling

Cycling is a great way to experience the fresh air, wildlife, food and landscapes of New Zealand.

Read more
Guides

D is for vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential for bone and muscle development and in the prevention of osteoporosis.

Read more
Guides

F is for football

The benefits of physical activity and social interaction through sport are well documented.

Read more
Guides

G is for geothermal mud

Are there health benefits to be found in certain types of mud?

Read more
Guides

H is for herbal remedies

Herbal remedies are fast becoming a popular complement to mainstream healthcare.

Read more
Guides

J is for jump for bone health

We explain how good old fashioned jumping is good for your bone health.

Read more
Guides

K is for K.I.S.S

Know the important signs and symptoms to detect ovarian cancer.

Read more
Guides

L is for lemons & limes

Lemons are found in most backyards and are staples of old fashioned puddings and gin and tonics.

Read more
Guides

M is for microbes

Microbes are tiny single-cell organisms numbering 100 trillion and counting.

Read more
Guides

N is for nutrition

Nutrition and its link to learning is the focus of a recent research report by The Smith Family.

Read more
Guides

O is for obesity

If weight gain continues at current levels by 2025 80% of Australians will be overweight or obese.

Read more
Guides

P is for Pinot Noir

In moderation, red wine may decrease heart disease, prevent cancer and strengthen the immune system.

Read more
Guides

Q is for quinoa

This ancient seed is certainly the flavour of the month in the culinary world.

Read more
Guides

R is for red meat

Red meat may be an excellent source of vitamins and minerals but it must be consumed in moderation.

Read more
Guides

U is for undergarments

The winter chills affect many of us during our coldest season.

Read more
Guides

W is for working

Working with the community is a way of giving back and enriching the fabric of society.

Read more
Lifestyle

S is for salt

An average Australian eats about a teaspoon more salt than recommended for a healthy diet.

Read more
Guides

X is for extra exercise

Extra exercise will reduce your health risks, lift your mood and keep you going strong into old age.

Read more
Guides

Z is for zingiber

Fresh ginger rhizome is used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat colds flu and digestive upsets

Read more

For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are instructions on how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.