Low FODMAP diet could help IBS patients experience relief

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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a collection of ailments with common symptoms such as painful bloating and diarrhea. Symptoms can be so severe that in a 2007 survey, patients said they would give up, on average, 15 years of their lives to experience relief. An article in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, reports that relief could be as simple as eliminating sugary trigger foods from the diet.

Senior Editor Bethany Halford reports that IBS affects 10-15 percent of people in the developing world. Although it isn't a life-threatening disease, IBS makes patients' lives miserable. Evidence pointing toward sugary foods as the culprits has been mounting, and as a result, a group of researchers from Monash University (Australia) developed what they call the low FODMAP diet. For a defined period, patients on the diet avoid FODMAPs, or fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. Then, foods containing these compounds are systematically added back to determine a patient's specific triggers. Foods highest in FODMAPs include wheat, onions, apples and corn.

Clinical trials show that 50-80 percent of subjects respond positively to the diet, and many physicians are now using the approach in their practices. To help patients navigate store shelves and find foods that meet the diets' guidelines, two groups in Australia have developed certification programs that provide logos for companies to use on their low FODMAP foods. There's even an app that tells users whether a food is high or low in FODMAPs.

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