Should those of us with IBD try the low FODMAP diet?
One frustrating thing about IBD is the lack of understanding around diet. I'm not talking about a cure (of course not!) but it would be really helpful for new patients to have some guidance about what they should and shouldn't eat.
While diet is often personal to you, we don't really get much support figuring this out. One thing that's often discussed when talking about diet and IBD is the low FODMAP diet.
Because the low FODMAP diet has shown promise with IBS, it's often suggested for IBD patients too (because we all know IBS and IBD are the same right?! NOT!) But what is the low FODMAP diet and is there any evidence it could help those with IBD?
What is the low FODMAP diet?
The low FODMAP diet aims to temporarily limit the amount of FODMAPs you consume. FODMAP is an acronym for a group of short-chain carbohydrates that are thought to quickly ferment in our gut and cause things like bloating and cramping. These include lactose, fructose (found in lots of fruit), and sorbitol but lots of foods are high in FODMAPS.
The low FODMAP diet, therefore, exists in two parts: firstly, an exclusion diet, and then a reintroduction phase where you gradually reintroduce foods. It's a really hard diet to follow (because you limit so much of what you can eat) and you really need an expert to guide you through it.
Why are people recommending the low FODMAP diet for Crohn's or UC?
The low FODMAP diet has some promising results for IBS. It's been shown to improve GI scores and IBS severity scores in those with IBS and one small study showed that around 70% of IBS patients felt better on it.1
In terms of IBD, there is of course less evidence. There have been studies to show that the low FODMAP diet can help those of us with IBD but only in terms of IBS style symptoms they've experienced and there's no evidence to suggest it can actually target inflammation levels.1
The fact is lots of us with IBD still experience IBS symptoms when we're in remission and therefore the low FODMAP might help us with this, or even IBS-style symptoms not linked to IBD specifically such as bloating.
5 Tips for starting the low FODMAP diet
If you're thinking of starting the low FODMAP diet, here's a few tips that can help you in your journey, but of course always seek guidance from your medical team before starting anything new...
- Use Instagram to find food inspiration, such as the #lowfodmaprecipes hashtag. Instagram is a great place to get lots of ideas!
- The Monash app is helpful in finding a directory of foods you can eat.
- Always speak to a professional and do the diet with dietician support.
- Remember the low FODMAP diet isn't a permanent diet but usually a six-week exclusion diet with the aim to reintroduce foods.
- Make simple swaps: garlic-infused oil makes a great garlic substitute and instead of onion, chives can work just as well!
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