Estimates say the average person with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in the UK has to take nine days sick leave every year because of their condition. However, by adopting a low-FODMAP diet, you can manage IBS better and avoid painful flare-ups.
FODMAP stands for fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols.
These are scientific terms for groups of carbohydrates notorious for irritating the gut, causing bloating, flatulence, and stomach pain.
Many people with IBS choose to follow a low-FODMAP diet, cutting out as many FODMAP foods as possible.
However, not everyone chooses to manage their IBS in this way, as many of these foods have plenty of other health benefits.
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Forming the FO in FODMAP, Fermentable Oligosaccharides are sometimes referred to as “simple sugars” but this food group contains a variety of different everyday menu items.
When you eat oligosaccharides, rather than your body breaking these down with enzymes, they travel to the large intestine and are fermented by your gut bacteria.
This is natural, and for people who don’t have IBS it causes no complaints.
However, when you have IBS, the gas your large intestine produces as a by-product of fermentation can cause excessive flatulence and pain.
Examples of everyday oligosaccharides include wheat, garlic, onion and beans.
While these foods can irritate people with IBS, they have many other health benefits as they stimulate your gut bacteria.
The most common example of a disaccharide – the D in FODMAP – is lactose, which is found in dairy products.
Lactose is made of molecules of glucose and galactose.
Many people with IBS experience symptoms of lactose intolerance, meaning when they eat foods containing lactose they experience bloating, cramping and diarrhoea.
If lactose is a trigger food for you, that means milk, yoghurt and cheese are off the menu; or at least, only enjoyed in small quantities.
Luckily, as more and more Britons adopt a plant-based diet, many dairy-free alternatives can be found in your local supermarket.
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Monosaccharides – the M in FODMAP – are most commonly consumed in fructose.
Fructose is known as the sugar found in fruits, however, this doesn’t mean you should cut out fruit, as fruits have loads of health benefits.
Instead, try to choose fruits that have a similar amount of glucose as they do fructose because glucose will make fructose easier to absorb.
Fruits to avoid include mangos and figs, as well as honey as a sweetener.
Low fructose fruits include bananas, blueberries and strawberries.
Polyols occur naturally in fruits and vegetables but are also manufactured as artificial sweeteners in some foods.
Polyols can be found in prunes, blackberries and apples, or the artificial sweeteners sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol and xylitol
IBS is a very individualised condition, affecting everyone differently, however high FODMAP foods tend to be amongst the most common triggers.
10 most common IBS trigger foods:
- Deep fried foods