Eating, food and meal times are an essential part of everyone’s day to day life. However for some people, while their gut does function ‘normally’, life is plagued with symptoms such as bloating, severe stomach pain, wind, constipation, diarrhoea – the list goes on. These symptoms are often attributed to IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), with some 15% of the UK’s population experienceing this to some degree. This is where the FODMAP diet comes in. It has been found that a change in diet can dramatically lessen the symptoms associated with IBS (within a week I had undergone what felt like a resurrection). That’s right no pills, potions or lotions, just a good old fashioned dietary do over.
Now I am by no means a biological whizz so I will try and explain the sciencey nitty gritty stuff as best as I can !
Oligo – Saccharides (fructans and galacto – oligosaccharides)
Di – saccharides (lactose)
Mono – saccharides (fructose)
Polyols (sugar alcohols)
FODMAPs are some of the carbohydrates that are found in foods we eat everyday. They do not get absorbed in the small intestine, and end up being passed along the gut to the large intestine (ie bacteria central). The bacteria then ferment these FODMAPs, which is what causes all the wind and bloating symptoms. The diarrhoea symptoms occur due to the way in which the water content in the small intestine is increased by the FODMAPs, resulting in everything becoming much looser down there! Therefore, reducing the intake of foods that are high in FODMAPs in theory should reduce IBS like symptoms.
Usually people follow a strict low FODMAP diet for 4 / 6 weeks – long enough to see if your symptoms disappear. Then follow a dietitian lead reintroduction programme that will hopefully reveal what high FODMAP foods are triggering your symptoms.
Now this is very subjective. People are able to tolerate different high FODMAP foods to varying degrees, meaning that unfortunately this is by no means a quick fix. Perseverance I’m afraid is key. Coming out the other side though I have never felt better. I am in control of my symptoms and back enjoying food again. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for me it has genuinely been life changing, I am back to my old self again !
(Note: please do make sure you consult with your GP / Dietitian before you start making major dietary changes – make sure you have the correct medical advice ! )