People who are diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) will know that it is a health issue that can be difficult to treat and fully overcome. The causes of IBS are not completely understood, however recent research has shown that dietary factors can trigger the symptoms. This work has brought to light that the discomfort and pain of IBS is triggered by certain types of carbohydrates in food, known as FODMAPs.

When food is digested in the small intestine, carbohydrates are broken down into smaller parts, so that they may be absorbed through the gut. Some carbohydrates are not absorbed by people – these are called FODMAPs. When these carbohydrates are in the small intestine, they cause water to be moved by the body into the intestine. As the FODMAPs aren’t absorbed in the small intestine, they travel all the way through the gut into the large intestine. This is something that should not occur – sugars shouldn’t make it through to the large intestine! When the FODMAPs arrive in the large intestine, bacteria there use them as an energy source. Rapid fermentation takes place and, as a result, the bacteria excrete gas.

The production of the gas, along with water retention, forces the gut to expand, which, in turn, causes the complex system of nerves around the gut to send pain signals to the brain. Additional symptoms may include what some patients describe as “brain fog” or unclear thinking, and restless legs when sleeping, amongst other symptoms that vary from patient to patient. If you suffer from intestinal pain or the other symptoms mentioned, you should consider being tested for FODMAP intolerance.

A low FODMAP diet can help those with IBS to reduce their symptoms. Our page on FODMAP books can provide you with the necessary resources to transition to a low FODMAP diet. Consulting with a qualified dietitian is also recommended.