Overcoming irritable bowel syndrome by changing your diet, and not taking medications

Following the Digestive Disease Week conference which took place in San Diego from 21-24 May, Shanti Eswaran explains more about the work she presented on a diet found to improve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

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The various mysteries about the nature and causes of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are particularly frustrating for patients who experience it, as well as for those of us who try to treat it. But more importantly, the symptoms of IBS are highly debilitating, if not virtually paralyzing, for the millions who suffer from IBS.

That’s why my colleagues and I at the University of Michigan are particularly encouraged by the results of our new research that studied the results of following a carefully controlled diet to improve the symptoms and overall quality-of-life of IBS patients.

We presented our study in San Diego at Digestive Disease Week 2016, the world’s largest gathering of physicians and researchers in the fields of gastroenterology, hepatology, endoscopy and gastrointestinal surgery, and we believe it will offer some new hope to millions afflicted by this condition.

IBS is the most common gastrointestinal disease, affecting an estimated 5-20% of the population to varying degrees

IBS is the most common gastrointestinal disease, affecting an estimated 5-20% of the population to varying degrees. The symptoms of IBS, excess gas, pain, bloating, and constipation, diarrhea or both, can be so bad that patients can’t go to work or school, have trouble sleeping, experience extreme tiredness, and have trouble with friendships and family relationships.

Many treatments initially rely on over-the-counter and prescription medicines that are not always effective. And unfortunately, there is no cure.

Many health-care providers and patients have turned to diet as a possible treatment, but many of the dietary recommendations have not been backed by clinical trials. Our study, the largest of its kind, measured how much relief patients experienced using a frequently recommended diet — low-FODMAP, which stands for the not-so-elegant term of Fermentable Oligo-Di-Monosaccharides and Polyols. This diet excludes many foods with wheat, certain fruits and vegetables, garlic, onions, and sugar substitutes. You can read more about the study design here.

The results were impressive: over half of the patients on the low-FODMAP diet had major improvement of their abdominal pain, compared with about 20% of the patients who didn’t follow the low-FODMAP diet.

The results were impressive: over half of the patients on the low-FODMAP diet had major improvement of their abdominal pain, compared with about 20% of the patients who didn’t follow the low-FODMAP diet.

The low-FODMAP patients also had more improvement of other symptoms compared to the control group: bloating, diarrhea and the need to rush to the bathroom. Finally, using the self-reported measurements, we found that IBS patients on the low-FODMAP diet had greater improvement in their quality of life.

We believe these results are highly encouraging for IBS sufferers, but there are a few important points for patients to keep in mind:

  • Talk to your health-care provider or a dietician before trying the low FODMAP diet. The list of ‘bad’ foods is very large and it might be difficult for you to navigate on your own.
  • A low-FODMAP diet is not intended to be a long-term diet. Work with your health-care provider to identify, through a specific elimination process, the exact foods or beverages that cause your symptoms. By going through this process, you’ll learn which food are safe for you.

Low-FODMAP is not a new treatment, but we are now convinced that it really works. We strongly recommend that IBS patients work with your health-care provider and a registered dietitian to navigate the low-FODMAP diet to take control of your life.

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Tracey

The unfortunate thing about IBS is that many people who suffer from it are never diagnoised. I agree with this great article food can play a key role in IBS and getting the correct diet and supplements can really make a difference. Along with getting tested for IBS

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