Is this finally the answer to the pain of IBS?
It’s been hailed as the new “miracle diet” for sufferers of irritable bowel syndrome, but what is the FODMAP plan – and does it really work?
ain, bloating and nausea are P just a few of the unpleasant symptoms associated with IBS, and, unfortunately, treatment can be hit-andmiss. However, a simple but revolutionary diet plan, based on cutting out “trigger” carbs, is gaining popularity among sufferers. The FODMAP diet – which avoids certain foods such as bread, milk, onions, garlic bulbs and pears – is recommended by the NHS as a potential way of lessening some of the discomfort, and is effective for at least 70 per cent of those who try it.
“Specific types of carbohydrates – found in certain fruits, vegetables and other food groups – are what people with IBS should try avoiding,” explains Dr Laura Elliott, who follows the diet herself. “The problem with these carbs is that they are poorly absorbed in the intestine and contribute to bloating, gas, tummy pain and variable stools.”
Dr Elliott knows the benefits of the diet, after suffering from crippling symptoms herself. “I really struggled with bloating and going to the toilet, and it would make me anxious about leaving the house,” she says. “I heard about the FODMAP diet through my GP during my medical training and decided to give it a go. To begin with, I downloaded the Foodmaestro app (free, itunes) and visited my local supermarket using the barcode scanner. At home, I pushed all my banned foods to the back of the cupboard, planned my meals for the week, and started my Instagram account (@the_fodmap_medic) to keep me motivated.”
On the plan, animal milk, wheat and rye products, as well as foods like beans, apples, cauliflower, mushrooms and large amounts of tea, coffee and alcohol are off the menu for six to eight weeks. Next, you gradually reintroduce certain food groups – like highfructose foods – one at a time each week, to work out what your main culprits are, before tweaking your diet to your specific needs.
“By the end of the month, I wasn’t sure how much it had helped, but when I started reintroducing foods I realised what a difference it had made,” Dr Elliott explains. “I was passing gas a lot more and had a lot of pain in my lower abdomen. I quickly made connections between certain foods and my symptoms. I made some adjustments and haven’t looked back.”