Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common digestive disorder that may affect as many as 45 million people in the United States. Fortunately, it doesn’t increase your risk of colorectal cancer since it doesn’t alter bowel tissue.
Unfortunately, once you develop IBS, it’s a lifelong condition that can begin at any age but is most prevalent in people under 50.
Dr. Prem Chattoo is our board-certified gastroenterologist in practice at Hudson River Gastroenterology, providing Lower Manhattan and the Financial District of New York City with advanced treatment for many complex digestive disorders.
Dr. Chattoo is often tasked with developing effective treatment solutions for IBS. Read what he says about what to expect from a low-FODMAP diet.
Causes of IBS
Doctors aren’t sure what causes IBS. It’s rarely related to a true food allergy, but many people develop symptoms when consuming certain foods or beverages. Stress can worsen symptoms or cause more frequent bouts of IBS, but it isn’t a cause.
How quickly food moves through your intestines plays a role in IBS. Muscles that line the inner walls of the intestines regularly contract and relax to push food along.
People with IBS may have excessively strong contractions that move foods too quickly, resulting in gas, bloating, abdominal cramping, and diarrhea. On the other hand, weaker contractions can lead to constipation rather than loose stools.
Other potential causes of IBS include changes in gut microbes that may occur with certain viral or bacterial illnesses. In addition, faulty nerve signals between your brain and digestive tract may cause an exaggerated pain response to gas, leading to inflammation and worsening discomfort.
Treatments for IBS
IBS treatments focus on managing your symptoms by changing your diet, reducing stress, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
To help control your symptoms, Dr. Chatto may recommend the following:
- Laxatives to help with constipation
- Fiber supplements
- Anti-diarrheal medication
- Medication to relieve bowel spasms and cramping
If your symptoms don’t respond to these treatments or severely disrupt your quality of life, you may benefit from a medication specifically for IBS.
However, the mainstay of IBS treatment is eliminating foods or beverages that cause digestive distress.
A low-FODMAP diet explained
FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. These are types of carbohydrates (sugars) that the small intestine has difficulty absorbing.
FODMAPs frequently trigger IBS symptoms and are found in many grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. However, not everyone with IBS is bothered by the same foods. A low-FODMAP diet includes several steps to identify the foods and beverages you should avoid.
You begin by eliminating all high-FODMAP foods and beverages for 2-6 weeks. You then reintroduce foods slowly, taking note of those that trigger your IBS symptoms. You can then build a nutritious meal plan that satisfies but eliminates bothersome foods in the future.
High-FODMAP foods include:
- Dairy-based milk, yogurt, and ice cream
- Beans and lentils
- Wheat products, such as cereal and bread
- Artichokes, asparagus, onions, and garlic
- Apples, pears, peaches, and cherries
Low-FODMAP foods include:
- Eggs and meat
- Camembert, brie, cheddar, and feta cheese
- Almond milk
- Rice, oats, and quinoa
- Potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, and cucumbers
- Blueberries, pineapple, oranges, grapes, oranges, and strawberries
Approximately 80% of people who follow the low-FODMAP diet notice significant improvement in their symptoms. Dr. Chatto may recommend consulting a dietician to help restructure your meal plans around low-FODMAP foods, especially during the elimination phase.
For help with IBS, schedule a visit with Dr. Chatto today by calling the office or requesting an appointment online.