Bloated? Abdominal discomfort? Excessive wind? Any of these symptoms sound familiar? If so, you may have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). If you are like many people with IBS you have probably tried many medications and dietary changes with little relief. Many of you will have thought about getting a food tolerance test. These are advertised as the cure for gut issues, but, what is the science behind them?
There are so many types of ‘tests’ that are available on the high street and in clinics that it’s difficult to know what is reliable and scientifically sound. Most of the food tolerance tests that you can get done are based on testing IgG. These tests tend to be very expensive, and unfortunately (for those of you who have forked out for them) current research does not support the use of this type of test to diagnose food intolerances or for food allergies. Food allergy is best diagnosed by use of an IgE or IgA blood test with your doctor. For food intolerances, food exclusion and reintroduction is a valid method of diagnosis when under the supervision of a trained dietitian.
For those of you who believe you have IBS, the good news is that there has been much successful research over the past 10 years in the area of dietary treatment. The new treatment for IBS is called the low FODMAP diet, which is an exclusion and reintroduction intervention.
IBS is reported to affect up to 15% of the UK and US populations. The cause of IBS is not fully understood. People affected often report symptoms such as diarrhoea, and/or constipation, bloating, abdominal pain and wind. These symptoms can be quiet severe and can severely impact on quality of life. There is also much research to suggest that these types of symptoms can also affect mood. It is important to note however, that these symptoms can also occur in other more serious conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), coeliac disease and bowel cancer. Therefore, if you have these symptoms you should first seek advice from your doctor.
The low FODMAP diet is based on the principle that certain fermentable foods greatly exacerbate IBS symptoms. Simply put, FODMAPs are dietary carbohydrates (sugars). FODMAPs are found in many foods, and surprisingly often in healthy foods such as fruit and vegetables. In people with IBS these FODMAPs are poorly absorbed in the small intestine and fermented in the large intestine. This fermentation process triggers symptoms in sensitive individuals due to gas formation and water changes in the large intestine. Reducing the intake of FODMAPs has been shown to satisfactorily improve gut symptoms.
As with many diets there is a lot of information available on the internet, however, much of the low FODMAP information on the internet is actually outdated and incorrect. For this treatment approach to be effective it is essential that a trained dietitian provides the information to ensure that this is an appropriate intervention for you and to ensure you receive personalized information to meet your nutritional requirements. The really good news is that 75% of people improve by following this treatment, so if you are suffering in silence don’t wait any longer, contact us and one of our Registered Dietitian’s will be happy to help.