Millions of Americans struggle with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This chronic digestive disorder comes in different forms, including IBS with constipation, IBS with diarrhea, and mixed-type IBS (equal episodes of constipation and diarrhea).
Regardless of which type of IBS you have, the condition can cause painful and unpleasant symptoms that interfere with your life and make it difficult to carry on with your normal activities at work, school, or home. Symptoms include:
Triple board-certified gastroenterologist John M. Rivas, MD, and our team at the Rivas Digestive Center in Hollywood, Florida, help patients struggling with IBS find relief. By uncovering the cause of your IBS and your specific triggers, we help you improve your condition and reclaim control of your life.
While there’s no cure for IBS, many patients with the condition benefit from a low-FODMAP diet. This diet reduces your intake of certain types of carbohydrates that many people find challenging to digest. Here’s what you need to know.
“FODMAP” refers to groups of sugar alcohols and carbohydrates your body has trouble absorbing. A low-FODMAP diet reduces your intake of foods with these alcohols and carbs, thereby reducing your digestive distress.
You don’t stay on a low-FODMAP diet forever. Instead, the low-FODMAP diet helps you identify the foods that trigger your IBS symptoms. Once you know these, you can resume a mostly normal diet, avoiding only those foods that cause your symptoms.
FODMAP is an acronym for different problematic substances:
FODMAPs aren’t bad for everyone, and in most cases, they help us digest foods we can’t digest by ourselves. But for people with a sensitive digestive system, the byproducts of FODMAPs can trigger chronic symptoms like bloating, gas, stomach pain, diarrhea, constipation, and more.
There are many foods you can eat if you follow a low-FODMAP plan. Generally, Dr. Rivas recommends avoiding high-FODMAP foods known to aggravate the gut or digestive system in people with IBS, including:
Instead, you focus on eating more whole foods and low-FODMAP vegetables, legumes, fruits, lean meats, fish and other seafood, wheat-free breads and cereals, rice, healthy seeds, and healthy fats.
Switching to a low-FODMAP diet is generally a three-step process. In the first step, you change out all high-FODMAP foods for foods lower in these sugars and carbs. By eliminating high-FODMAP foods, you give your gut a chance to reset. This phase lasts up to six weeks.
In step two, you reintroduce some high-FODMAP foods back into your diet. However, you only do this one food at a time so you can note any issues that develop after eating these foods. This phase lasts up to eight weeks.
Finally, in step three, you eat a normal diet, limiting any FODMAP foods that trigger your IBS symptoms. This phase, also called the maintenance phase, should last the rest of your life. Most people can incorporate most FODMAP foods back into their diets after identifying the problematic triggers.
Feeling overwhelmed? Making the switch to a low-FODMAP diet can seem challenging at first. But studies show eating this way reduces unpleasant symptoms in up to 86% of people with IBS, so it’s definitely something to try.
To change to a low-FODMAP way of life easier, it’s best to partner with a doctor who specializes in treating IBS. Dr. Rivas can answer questions you have about FODMAPs and help create an appropriate plan for eating, making sure you get all the nutrients you need for healthy living.
Dr. Rivas may also recommend additional therapies to help with your IBS symptoms. Research shows that a combination of using healthy stress management techniques, medications, and dietary changes is best for managing IBS long-term.
Learn more about FODMAPs by scheduling an appointment online or over the phone at the Rivas Digestive Center in Hollywood, Florida.