The New IBS Diet – The low FODMAP Diet

Irritable Bowel Syndrome FODMAP

If you suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) you may have stumbled across the term FODMAP or Low FODMAP Diet but don’t worry if you haven’t until now. This new IBS diet is relatively new to South Africa – but it’s backed by a decade of evidence from many international research centers. In this blog post we explain more about FODMAPs and the science behind this exciting elimination diet to help IBS sufferers.


Irritable Bowel Syndrome FODMAP

FODMAPs are a group of short chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols found in foods and researchers have discovered that these worsen symptoms such as bloating, wind, abdominal pain, diarrhoea in individuals suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

What the term FODMAP stands for

  • Fermentable – they are fermented by the bacteria in your gut
  • Oligosaccharides – “oligo” means “few” and “saccharide” means sugar. These molecules are made up of a few sugars joined together in a chain. Fructans are a type of oligosaccharide and is a type of fibre found in wheat, onions and garlic.
  • Di-saccharides – “di” means two so there are two sugars in this molecule. Lactose (the sugar found in milk) is a disaccharide.
  • Mono-saccharides – “mono” means single and so this is a single-sugar molecule. An example is fructose (a sugar commonly found in fruit and fruit juice)
  • And
  • Polyols – these are sugar alcohols commonly used as sweeteners in diet products.  Also found naturally in some fruits and vegetables e.g. Xylitol.

Australian researchers, Susan Shepherd and Peter Gibson at Monash University, coined the term.

The low FODMAP diet and IBS

An IBS FODMAP diet is fast becoming a key treatment strategy worldwide.  This diet has been scientifically proven as effective dietary therapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. 50-80% Of patients following the diet reporting an improvement in their symptoms. Excessive wind, abdominal pain, bloating, abdominal distension, nausea, diarrhea, constipation and fatigue ( all symptoms of IBS) were reduced.

How FODMAPs work to worsen IBS symptoms

After high FODMAP foods are eaten FODMAPs enter the small intestine where they are poorly absorbed and have an osmotic affect. There is a large movement of water across the intestinal wall into the lumen, increases the volume of fluid in your intestine, and this affects the speed at which your bowels move and expansion of your intestinal walls. When FODMAPs pass into the large bowel they are readily fermented by bacteria in the large bowel, contributing to the production of gas. These two processes trigger symptoms such as increased wind, abdominal bloating and distension, abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhoea, or a combination of both. The only way to reduce the effects of FODMAPs is reduce your consumption of them by following an elimination diet.

fodmap diet

Elimination diets are difficult to follow. FODMAPs are found in a range of different foods which makes the low FODMAP diet complicated. The guidelines and research recommend that anyone wanting to do the Low FODMAP Diet does so with help from a specialized dietitian. A dietician can ensure that you have correctly eliminated all the FODMAPs from your diet but that your diet still remains balanced. Incorrectly following this diet has been shown to lead to certain nutritional deficiencies.  It can also negatively affect your digestive health by reducing some populations of good bacteria found in your large intestine. Please be careful following lists of high and low foods you find online as this are often incorrect.

Low FODMAP Diet in South Africa

Not many dietitians have been trained in the Low FODMAP Diet in South Africa. For the best results get in touch with EatFit so we can put you in touch with FODMAP dietitians or gut health dietitians. An Irritable Bowel Syndrome Dietitian can guide you through the full elimination and re-challenge process.

FODMAP South Africa: Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban

EatFit can connect you with IBS dieticians in all of these areas of South Africa so please get in touch.

If you’re a dietitian, we also have programmes available to teach you how to assist your IBS suffering clients. Be sure to have a look!