A Low FODMAP diet is a proven approach to managing the symptoms of IBS.
FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligo-Saccharides, Di-Saccharides, Mono-Saccharides and Polyols. These are short chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols that are not easily broken down and create an excess of gas and fluid in the gut. It is this which triggers symptoms such as pain and bloating for a lot of people.
F = Fermentable. The food creates gas as a result of fermentation.
O = Oligosaccharides. Both Fructo-Oligosaccharides (FOS) and Galacto-Oligosaccharides (GOS).
D = Di-Saccharides. Lactose.
M = Mono-Saccharides. Fructose (where in excess of glucose).
A = and
P = Polyols. Sugar alcohols
What makes certain people susceptible is unknown but it may be that stress causes an increase in the growth of 'bad' bacteria in the gut (known as small intestinal bacteria overgrowth or SIBO). FODMAPs act as a food source for these bacteria, increasing fermentation and triggering IBS type symptoms. The good news is that by reducing the level of FODMAPs in your diet, you can reduce the symptoms of IBS.
The Low-FODMAP Diet
The low-FODMAP diet was developed by researchers at Monash University in Australia. It's essentially a 2-stage approach.
During the first stage you cut out ALL high-FODMAP foods for 6 to 8 weeks to give your digestive system time to rest and recover. This stage is quite a challenge and worth preparing for so that you have all the ingredients you need to hand. After this period you can begin to reintroduce excluded foods group by group while keeping note of how your body responds. (It may be that you can tolerate fructose but not lactose, for example.) This allows you to identify your 'trigger' foods. Depending on how your body responds, and to what extent, you may need to repeat the exclusion stage for a short while until your tummy has settled before re-introducing another food group. The aim is not to exclude all high-FODMAP foods long term but to find a balanced diet that you can enjoy without upsetting your tummy.