HCA Midwest Health - June 05, 2017

Do you ever get that bloated feeling after eating certain foods? Pain in the belly? Diarrhea, constipation or both? Then you may have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). There aren’t any diagnostic tests and researchers aren’t sure what causes it, but a certain diet, called the low FODMAP diet, may help ease its symptoms.

FODMAPs—short for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols—are sugars that our bodies aren’t perfectly designed to digest.

When these FODMAPs enter the colon, the bacteria that live in the digestive system begin to break them down. They absorb the sugars but they produce a lot of gas, which can be very uncomfortable. The sugars also cause water to seep into the colon, which can cause diarrhea.

A diagnosis of exclusion

The causes of IBS are not well-known and there are no diagnostic tests for the condition. Diagnosing IBS means ruling out other conditions, such as colon cancer or inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Someone may have abdominal pain and cramps, bloating and changes in bowel habits like constipation and diarrhea. Once you’ve ruled out the unusual diseases, you may end up with a diagnosis of IBS.

A low-FODMAP diet

Eating a low-FODMAP diet is more akin to avoiding an allergen than it is a traditional diet based on eating fewer calories to lose weight. It’s all about choices, rather than the amount you eat.

If you’re trying to eat a low-FODMAP diet, avoid these:

  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Celery
  • Sweet corn
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Mangos
  • Watermelon
  • Peaches
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Ice cream
  • Legumes
  • Rye
  • Wheat
  • Cashews
  • Pistachios

Some low-FODMAP alternatives include:

  • Alfalfa
  • Green beans
  • Peppers
  • Carrots
  • Cucumber
  • Lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Zucchini
  • Bananas
  • Oranges
  • Grapes
  • Melon
  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • Tofu
  • Almonds
  • Rice
  • Quinoa

Talk to the pros

It’s important to talk to healthcare providers before you start a low-FODMAP diet. You’ll need a diagnosis of IBS from your doctor, and you’ll have to work with a nutritionist to implement the diet. The beginning of the diet is very restrictive, and then gradually more foods are introduced. Always work with a nutritionist so you don’t miss out on vital nutrients.

A low-FODMAP diet is not recommended for anyone who does not have IBS, so it’s important to get a diagnosis first.

Find a GI Specialist

This content originally appeared on Sharecare.com.