Medically Reviewed by: Nicole Anne Vergara, RD
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common digestive disorder that can cause abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. Managing the symptoms of IBS can be difficult and many individuals seek out dietary interventions to help alleviate their symptoms. One such dietary intervention is the Low Fodmap diet. This article will explore what the Low Fodmap diet is and how it can help to manage IBS symptoms based on clinical trials.
In small clinical trials with dietician involvement in specialty practices, a diet low in FODMAPs (i.e., fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols) reduced symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS); however, this diet is difficult to follow, and its efficacy in primary care settings is unclear.
In this practical, 8-week trial from Belgium, doctors clinically assessed 459 IBS patients and randomly assigned them to either a low-FODMAP diet or otilonium bromide (an antispasmodic drug available outside the U.S. and taken thrice daily).
Instead of being a rigorous low-FODMAP diet, the diet intervention—delivered via a smartphone or tablet application—was a FODMAP-lowering diet. Patients with IBS who mostly experienced either constipation or diarrhea were included.
At 8 weeks, the diet group had significantly more instances of the primary endpoint (improvement of 50 points on a 500-point standardized IBS symptom scale) than the pharmaceutical group (71% vs. 61%). Regardless of the subtype of the stool-pattern, the results were comparable.
In both groups, the majority of patients showed improvement; however, the FODMAP-lowering dietary intervention was marginally more efficient than medicine. For patients who have access to a dietician, expert advice makes sense because there are so many foods that may be prohibited by this diet. However, there are a number of websites and apps that offer free advise on limiting FODMAPs, and I’ve seen patients with IBS who have used these tools successfully.