Contributed by Flannerys Organic & Wholefood Market
April is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Awareness Month and IBS affects approximately 1 in 5 people nationally – that’s 20 per cent of the population.
But this may just be the tip of the iceberg as many people remain undiagnosed and unaware that their symptoms indicate a medically recognised disorder. A functional gut disorder, IBS presents with symptoms of bloating, constipation, abdominal pain, diarrhoea and nausea.
More than 1 BILLION people worldwide suffer from IBS-type symptoms, meaning that every SEVENTH person you know is experiencing some kind of gastrointestinal distress, like bloating or abdominal pain.
Melissa Patterson, 39, has suffered with Irritable Bowel Syndrome for years often passing out and ending up in hospital when the pain was unbearable.
She was always told her symptoms were either IBS or endometriosis and even had a hysterectomy in 2012 in the hope it would fix everything but saw no relief. It was only when she was put onto the FODMAP diet that her symptoms eased and she went back to living a normal life.
While women are three times more likely than men to experience IBS, it can affect people of all ages. One in five people with IBS will experience debilitating or extreme symptoms, and two in five will experience moderate symptoms, which can interfere with lifestyle, work and social activities.
To date, a low FODMAP Diet has shown to be the most effective method in relieving IBS-type symptoms, with up to 85 per cent of patients experiencing symptom relief, with 50-80 per cent of patients following the diet reporting an improvement in their symptoms.
Caroline Robertson, naturopath at Flannerys Organic & Wholefood Market, says, “IBS can continue indefinitely if mismanaged. The key to overcoming it is the discipline to avoid allergens, eat mindfully, focusing on what you eat and how.
“Every IBS sufferer has particular food foes, and common irritants include lactose, legumes, brassicas, yeast, corn, soy, nuts, colours, preservatives, corn, fatty foods, carrageenan, artificial flavours and sweeteners.
“Sugars tend to feed IBS, and stimulants such as caffeine, cocoa, chilli, alcohol and cigarettes should be avoided.”
SO WHAT EXACTLY ARE FODMAPS?
The acronym FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols. These short-chain carbohydrates are not completely broken down and absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and can be easily fermented by gut bacteria. Essentially sugars, they exert an osmotic effect, increasing fluid movement into the large bowel. The fermentation and osmosis caused by these undigested sugars are the cause of your abdominal discomfort such as gas, pain, and diarrhea. Understanding how FODMAPs affect the gut and knowing how to eliminate them from your diet may be the key to keeping your IBS symptoms in check.
Lactose from dairy products, fruit containing high levels of fructose, coconut products, and sweeteners, fructans from fibrous vegetables, and polyols from fruit and sugar alcohols are all rich in FODMAPs and can be difficult to digest for people with functional gut disorders. These foods can cause serious and painful symptoms in those with IBS.
WHAT CAUSES FODMAP INTOLERANCE?
While eating foods containing FODMAPs does not cause IBS, most people with IBS are FODMAP intolerant. So what causes FODMAP intolerance? In some cases, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), contributes to the development of IBS symptoms and FODMAP intolerance. Here, the presence of pathogenic bacteria in the small intestine causes excessive fermentation of these carbohydrates, increasing gas production and allowing for the proliferation of uncontrolled gut bacteria. Additionally, certain individuals may lack adequate digestive enzymes and stomach acid to break down and absorb the fermentable sugars before they reach the colon, contributing to the osmolarity changes and bacterial fermentation that occurs in the large intestine. Emotional and physical stress are also known to be contributing factors to the development of IBS, and could induce FODMAP intolerance for reasons not yet fully understood.
HOW DO YOU FIX YOUR SYMPTOMS?
As well as addressing gut bacteria, following a low FODMAP diet is an effective dietary intervention to help reduce chronic IBS symptoms. Research suggests that by eliminating FODMAP containing foods and avoiding gluten, a reduction in symptoms can be achieved. It must be remembered that a low FODMAPs diet is not usually a long term strategy, common foods and food groups need to be avoided initially but the aim is to gradually re-introduce these foods back into your diet once the healing of your gastrointestinal tract has occurred.
If you experience gastrointestinal discomfort and would like to follow a low FODMAP diet, speak to one of Flannerys Organic & Wholefood Market’sfriendly naturopaths and nutritionists in-store to show you which foods are ok to eat and which are best avoided for now.
About Flannerys Organic & Wholefood Market
Flannerys Organic & Wholefood Market offers a huge range of fresh, healthy and organic produce, including unpackaged bulk wholefoods, no added hormone organic and free-range meat, gluten-free products galore and plenty of healthy snacks. Pop in for free naturopathic advice, vegan-friendly and paraben-free cosmetics, plus all the regular health food supplies. For more information and easy to follow recipes visit flannerys.com.au