Is the FODMAP diet friend or foe?

Well, it depends on if it’s high or low.

IBD is a lifelong condition and treatment is generally aimed at controlling the condition rather than eliminating it. However, diet may play an important role in managing your IBD.

More and more people are diagnosed with IBD and researchers think this might be linked to a westernised diet, often described as high protein, fat and sugar consumption, and low vegetable and fibre intake.

A ‘special’ diet generally involves excluding particular food groups from your daily meals. While this may potentially avoid triggering symptoms, eliminating certain food groups could lead to nutritional deficiencies, and in the long run, this could lead to problems like anaemia and unhealthy weight loss.

Everyone’s bowels are unique, so they will respond to or tolerate foods differently. Also, foods that you avoid during a flare-up may be fine to consume when you’re well, which is why it’s important to establish whether you’re currently in flare or remission.

What are FODMAPs?

Have you ever thought of jumping on the FODMAP bandwagon? FODMAPs, or Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols, are a group of sugars that are poorly absorbed by our bowels – which could lead to gas build up and bloating.

FODMAPs are like fast food for gut bacteria

You can find a list of foods that are considered high FODMAPs here, but this list is provided as a guide only – please consult your gastro and/or dietitian to coordinate an appropriate diet for your condition.

You can learn about how FODMAPs affect your bowels in a 3D animated video at the Monash University website – they were the first to develop the low-FODMAP diet for people with irritable bowel syndrome (don’t forget that IBS and IBD are different).

The low-FODMAP diet is intended to eliminate high-FODMAP foods over a period of 2–6 weeks from your diet and slowly re-introduce them back so you can identify personal food triggers. Obviously, you should do this in consultation with a dietitian that’s experienced with prescribing the low-FODMAP diet, as it is not recommended for long term use.

The not-for-profit organisation Crohn’s & Colitis Australia said on its website, “Achieving and maintaining overall good nutrition far outweighs any sort of blanket recommendations about diet.”

If you enjoy cooking, you can also check out some simple recipes for low-FODMAP dishes. Ultimately, you’re the best person to tell yourself whether your favourite must-haves outweigh the potential of triggering your IBD symptoms. However, there’s no concrete evidence that suggest special diets (e.g. low-FODMAPs, Palaeolithic, gluten free etc) are effective treatments for people with IBD. However, adjusting your diet can help manage or avoid some of your IBD symptoms, and potentially help your medications work better.

Remember, diet can help manage your symptoms, but medications are clinically recommended to treat IBD. Always speak to your gastro or dietitian before making drastic changes to your diet. You can find a qualified dietitian here.