Beating IBS - could the FODMAP diet be the answer?

Gut Week 2013 encourages us to pay more attention to our digestion and what it's telling us - particularly if you have symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Gut Week 2013 may not be something to celebrate exactly, but it's aimed at getting people thinking about talking about their guts. And if your digestion is a constant source of struggle, help is at hand.

IBS affects up to 20 per cent of the population, causing painful, embarrassing and uncomfortable symptoms. It has no cure but learning how to manage your diet and recognising your trigger foods can transform your life. Bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhoea and constipation can all be IBS symptoms [REX]

One of the latest methods of doing this is using the FODMAP diet. This NHS-approved programme is gaining in popularity, but changes some of our thinking on what 'good' foods for us are.

Because of this it's recommended you only start the diet with the help of a dietician or your GP.

[My IBS story]

[The facts about IBS]

Dr Gill Hart, Scientific Director at YorkTest Laboratories, which specialises in food intolerance testing and has created a new diet programme specifically to combat IBS explains:

"IBS varies hugely between individuals so it's never a case of one diet fits all, which is why it's really important to be supervised if you decide to remove FODMAP foods from your diet."

"In trials we've run at YorkTest, we saw a significant improvement in symptoms in patients who stuck to their prescribed diet.

"Many people with IBS just aren't aware that with a little help, they can often find simple dietary solutions to ease their symptoms."Though packed with nutrients, broccoli can cause problems for IBS patients [REX]

What is FODMAP?

Standing for the rather complicated Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols, FODMAP foods contain types of carbohydrate and sugars that are not successfully broken down and absorbed by the small intestine.

This means they are badly digested and arrive in the large intestine, where they act as a food source for bacteria, soak up water and produce gas, leading to pain, bloating, diarrhoea and/or constipation - classic IBS symptoms.

The idea of removing FODMAP foods is to take away these carbs and sugars that your body has trouble digesting, and it's been found to make a difference in 70 per cent of cases.

[Poor digestion puts as at risk of osteoporosis and anaemia]

[Stretches to improve digestion]

FODMAP foods

Fruits: Apples, apricots, avocados, blackberries, cherries, concentrated fruit juices, dates, dried fruits, figs, lychees, mango, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums, prunes, tinned fruit in natural juices, watermelon.

Alternative fruits: Banana, bilberries, blackcurrants, blueberries, cantaloupe/honeydew melon, cranberries, grapefruit, kiwi fruit, oranges, pineapple, strawberries, raspberries.

Vegetables: Asparagus, beetroot, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, garlic, mushroom, onion, leeks, sweetcorn.

Alternative vegetables: Carrots, celery, cucumber, lettuce, peas, peppers, olives, spinach, tomatoes, courgettes, parsnips, squashes, sweet potato.

Pulses: Lentils, chickpeas, beans (including baked beans, kidney beans and soya beans)

Cereals: Wheat, bulgar wheat, rye, barley

Alternative cereals: Rice, oats, millet, polenta or quinoa.FODMAPs are found in many foods so get expert help before you cut them out [REX]

Others to avoid: Milk products (switch to lactose free or avoid entirely, particularly if you have an intolerance show up in testing), sweeteners such as fructose, high fructose corn syrup, honey, xylitol, sorbitol, mannitol - instead try small amounts of sugar, golden or maple syrup. Saccharin and aspartame can also be tolerated.

"Because everyone reacts to foods differently it may take time to align this new diet to your needs," says Dr Hart. "There will be a period of trial and error and there will be foods you can reintroduce without any problems.

"It seems like a lot of effort but as anyone with IBS will tell you, it affects so many areas that dealing with it effectively can change your entire life."

YorkTest's new IBS Diet Programme includes a personal FODMAP diet recommendation. Or you can find out if you have dietary intolerance for any foods with a first step indicator test.