Medically reviewed by Onikepe Adegbola, MD, PhD
Fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols are referred to as “FODMAPs.” These compounds are sugars found in the diet that aggravate or worsen gastrointestinal symptoms in those who have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Therefore, physicians and other health professionals often recommend the low FODMAP diet to control symptoms. In this diet, high FODMAP foods are eliminated from the diet and then added back one by one to determine which foods aggravate IBS symptoms.
Researchers from the University of Leeds composed a literature review and meta-analysis of experimental studies on the effectiveness of the low FODMAP diet for symptom management in individuals diagnosed with IBS.
This review, “Efficacy of low FODMAP diet in irritable bowel syndrome: systematic review and network meta-analysis,” was published in Gut. Researchers specifically analyzed randomized controlled trials in which individuals were randomly divided into a treatment group (the low FODMAP diet) and a non-treatment group (a regular diet) for comparison.
In this review, researchers measured the low FODMAP diet’s effectiveness based on improvement in an individual’s IBS symptoms rather than the prevalence of the symptoms. With this measurement method, the results consider the IBS patient’s baseline or typical severity of symptoms.
In 13 randomized controlled trials involving 944 patients with IBS, the low FODMAP diet was significantly superior in improving symptoms, such as abdominal distention, bowel habits, and abdominal pain.
In other words, the research supports the low FODMAP diet as the most effective in reducing the uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptoms of IBS.
The evidence is clear that a low FODMAP diet can significantly reduce IBS symptoms. While the diet may have its detractors, many of whom see it as just another food fad, the results are impossible to deny. If you’re struggling with IBS, then it’s worth giving the diet a try. It’s a question of weighing your potential benefits against the temporary adjustments that you’ll need to make to your diet.
Black, C. J., Staudacher, H. M., & Ford, A. C. (2022, June 1). Efficacy of a low fodmap diet in Irritable bowel syndrome: Systematic review and network meta-analysis. Gut. Retrieved May 10, 2022, from https://gut.bmj.com/content/71/6/1117