Everything you need to know about FODMAP

Ever had an irritated stomach? It’s likely you have! Maybe you ate something that didn’t sit right or had trouble going to the bathroom? It’s normal for everyone to experience issues with their stomach at one point or another.  Some people face these troubles more than the average person and are diagnosed with a condition called Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Irritable bowel syndrome occurs when the digestive tract doesn’t work how it normally would. This means digested food in the colon can’t move along smoothy and individuals can experience a wide variety of symptoms including pain in their abdomen, bloating, diarrhea and constipation.

There are many reasons why IBS can occur, but stress and diet are two important factors that should be taken into account. Stress can play a large role in managing IBS symptoms because of the gut-brain axis, a biochemical connection that occurs between your digestive tract and your nervous system. This means stress can play a role in speeding up your colon and it can also work to delay emptying in your stomach. When facing symptoms of IBS, learning how to use different coping skills for managing your stress are important to helping ease any symptoms you might be facing. Some coping skills that have worked for others in the past include coloring, going on a walk, listening to music and doing deep breathing exercises.

Diet is another way that IBS symptoms can be managed. It has been shown that for people with IBS, certain foods can exacerbate their symptoms. Specifically, individuals with IBS seem to be especially sensitive to foods that are high in fermentable carbohydrates. Thus, clinicians have created a diet called FODMAP which is recommended to help managed IBS. FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligo, di, mono-saccharides and poloys. Each of these types of “saccharides” represent different types of carbohydrates that are found in everyone’s diet. The idea is that by understanding which, if any, of these types of saccharides might cause an increase in IBS symptoms, one can improve their quality of life.

However, it is important to understand that it is not necessary to cut out all of these food groups. It is essential to know that each of these food groups plays an important role in the health of one’s gut bacteria and individuals who are not diagnosed with IBS should not follow a low-FODMAP diet. In order to manage symptoms, and improve quality of life, working with a team of medical providers who best understand IBS is important.

-Dietitian Kelsey