Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional bowel disorder and is thought to affect between 7 and 15% of the population worldwide. It is more common in women than men and most often diagnosed before the age of 50 years. Undiagnosed IBS can have a significant negative impact on a person’s quality of life and can cause anxiety and frustration when the cause of the symptoms is unknown. There is still a lot we do not know about what causes IBS.
Major IBS symptoms
Common symptoms of IBS include:
• Lower abdominal pain
• Altered bowel habit (diarrhoea, constipation, or a combination of both)
• Bloating (the feeling that there is an inflated balloon in the abdomen)
• Excessive wind
• Distension (a visible increase in abdominal girth)
Diagnoses of IBS
There are currently no tests to diagnose IBS, instead, symptoms play an important part in establishing a positive diagnosis. It is important to note that IBS symptoms are similar to many other more serious bowel diseases, so it is very important that those are discounted before a diagnosis is made. IBS should be diagnosed by a medical doctor before you visit a dietitian.
The Monash University Low FODMAP Diet
The Monash University Low FODMAP Diet was designed to reduce the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. FODMAPs are a group of short chain carbohydrates (or sugars) that are:
• Small in size
• Poorly absorbed or not absorbed at all in the small and large intestine
• Readily fermented by gut bacteria
There are 3 phases of the FODMAP diet. First is the low FODMAP phase in which your diet is restricted to only those foods that are low in FODMAPs. Second, the reintroduction phase which involves a series of food challenges to identify which groups of FODMAPs cause you symptoms. And lastly, the personalisation phase where restrictions are eased, and the diet is expanded to ensure nutritional adequacy.
What to expect when seeing a Dietitian for the Low FODMAP Diet
When you have an IBS diagnosis from your healthcare professional you can go to a Dietitian to see if a Low FODMAP Diet is an effective way to reduce your symptoms.
On your first visit to a Dietitian, a comprehensive assessment will be carried out and if appropriate, you will be supported in following step 1 of the Low FODMAP Diet. You will then need to attend a number of review appointments to be supported and guided through the food challenge and personalisation phases of the diet.
Can I stay on the Low FODMAP Diet for ever?
It is important to note that the low FODMAP diet is a highly restrictive diet which, if followed long term, can lead to nutritional deficiencies. Monash University recommends that patients only follow the diet for between 2-6 weeks, and always complete stages 2 and 3 to reintroduce those foods that can be tolerated.
If you have an IBS diagnosis and would like to book an initial assessment for the Low FODMAP Diet, please click here.