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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) affects one in five Americans. This medical condition is a gastrointestinal disorder associated with symptoms of bloating, cramping, gas, diarrhea or constipation. Those living with IBS are often debilitated by symptoms leading to time off from both work and social life.

Classical treatment for IBS includes a variety of medication, but in the year 2000, a research team from Australia proposed, developed and tested a promising new approach that was solely diet focused. The FODMAPs diet gained credibility in Australia and is now becoming a popular therapy for treating Americans suffering from IBS.

FODMAPs is an acronym for Fermentable Oligo-, Di- and Mono-saccharides and Polyls, which are a group of fermentable short-chain carbohydrates. More specifically and recognizably by name it is the fructans, galactans, sorbitol, lactose, fructose and sugar alcohols that initially need to be avoided. Foods that contain these carbohydrates may be the catalyst for IBS symptoms. Examples of some trigger foods include milk, cheese, fruit, wheat, sugar-free foods, beans, garlic, onion.

Initially, all FODMAPs are eliminated from the diet, allowing the gastrointestinal tract to rest and essentially starting with a “clean slate.” After this elimination period, one group at a time of FODMAPs is re-introduced, testing for tolerance by noting IBS symptoms (or lack of) and also testing for an allowable tolerance level of FODMAPs foods. At the end of the FODMAPs diet, many people find that they can return to a normal diet with just a few FODMAPs foods that need to be avoided.

Working with a registered dietitian is key when following the FODMAPs diet approach. A dietitian can help develop meal plans during the elimination phase and help with re-introducing FODMAPs foods at appropriate threshold levels. The dietitian can also help to maintain a nutritionally adequate diet during the FODMAPs elimination process which may be lacking in key vitamins, minerals and fiber.

If you think a FODMAPs diet may be right for you, consult with your healthcare provider. Next, find a registered dietitian knowledgeable in FODMAPs.

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While the FODMAPs approach does not cure IBS, it may be a tool to successfully manage symptoms returning the patient to a near normal work life and social life.

This information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.

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Jennifer Dunavan MS, RD, LMNT is a registered dietitian with Fremont's Hy-Vee Food Store.

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