What Not to Eat if You Have IBS

Q. What are FODMAPs and should I avoid them in my diet?

A. FODMAP is an acronym for foods that contain fermentable oligosaccharides (in wheat, onions, chickpeas), disaccharides (in milk, ice cream, yogurt), monosaccharides (in apples, pears, asparagus), and polyols (in apricots, mushrooms, cauliflower).

All are carbohydrates that may be poorly absorbed during digestion. When they hit the colon, bacteria transform them into chemicals, resulting in gas, diarrhea, bloating, cramping, and pain for some people, particularly those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

A low-FODMAP diet has been shown to be successful in treating IBS symptoms. People with IBS may be hypersensitive to the effects of FODMAPs.

Studies indicate that half to two-thirds of IBS sufferers have diminished symptoms, such as gas and bloating, within weeks of adopting a low-FODMAP diet. It is a difficult diet to follow for a long time, however, because many popular and nutritious foods have to be excluded.

Deciding to eliminate FODMAPs from your diet should depend on whether they cause you abdominal distress. Even if you do not have IBS, you may still struggle with some of those carbohydrates.

If you eat too much at one time, they can distend the gut and trigger gas or diarrhea. Because so many FODMAP-containing foods are highly nutritious, though, you shouldn’t slash them from your diet unless they’re really making you miserable.

Learn more about the causes and symptoms of irritable bowel disease and IBS treatment and diagnosis.