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Digestive Health and Wellness

Everything You Need to Know About a Low-FODMAP Diet

Dr. Sue Shepherd, co-author of “The Complete Low-FODMAP Diet” and author of “The Low-FODMAP Diet Cookbook,” shares her insights into improving gut health and relieving IBS symptoms.

Sue Shepherd

Co-Author, “The Complete Low-FODMAP Diet”; Author, “The Low-FODMAP Diet Cookbook

Who is most likely to benefit from a low-FODMAP diet?

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The low-FODMAP diet is a simple treatment for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a condition that affects 1 in 7 people worldwide. The classic symptoms of IBS are abdominal pain, bloating, distension, excess wind, and altered bowel habits. Sufferers of fructose, lactose, and wheat intolerances may also experience similar symptoms. These days, these various conditions are seen as closely related, and the low-FODMAP diet is effective in treating the symptoms of all of them. In the last decade, the low-FODMAP diet has come to be regarded as the most effective dietary treatment for the symptoms of IBS, providing relief in 75% of patients.

Dietitians with expertise in gastrointestinal nutrition recommend the low-FODMAP diet as a cornerstone of their treatment for people with IBS.

Sue Shepherd

The low-FODMAP diet is used internationally as a treatment for IBS, as it’s the most effective diet for managing IBS symptoms. The low-FODMAP diet can also help people who suffer from some or all of these symptoms who haven’t been formally diagnosed with IBS by their doctor. The low-FODMAP diet has been embraced by sufferers of digestive symptoms from around the world and is also recommended by doctors because it’s backed by scientific evidence.

It’s a diet that’s effective around the world, as FODMAPs are not unique to a specific cuisine. The diet has been used as an effective therapy for IBS in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Denmark, Austria, Switzerland, Norway, France, Australia, and the United States, among other countries.

What are the health advantages of eating low-FODMAP foods?

The low-FODMAP diet is the first program scientifically proven to relieve the symptoms of IBS, and it can also help with other digestive conditions including Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and celiac disease (alongside a fully gluten-free diet).

Dietitians with expertise in gastrointestinal nutrition recommend the low-FODMAP diet as a cornerstone of their treatment for people with IBS. The majority of IBS sufferers who have tried the diet have experienced greatly improved symptoms and a markedly reduced need for medication.

How long should someone maintain the low-FODMAP diet?

The low-FODMAP diet can continue to offer symptom relief in the long term. People have continued to follow the diet for many years. Interestingly, the low-FODMAP diet differs from other diets used to manage adverse reactions to food, such as celiac disease and allergies. For example, a gluten-free diet for celiac disease involves the strict restriction of all gluten (even crumbs!) for life – no “breaking” the diet! For those with an anaphylactic allergy to nuts, it is important not to break the diet either, as there can be dire life-threatening consequences. These are examples of diets that require strict avoidance – eating a little bit of problematic foods is not OK. By contrast, the low-FODMAP diet has a lot of flexibility. This is a dietary management plan that is tailored just for you. People following the low-FODMAP diet will all have different needs.

The low-FODMAP diet has been proven to work for the treatment of IBS symptoms in both the short and long term. People have lived symptom-free for months and even years.

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What resources would you recommend to someone considering this diet?

Ask your gastroenterologist or GP about dietitians with expertise in the low-FODMAP diet. You can also look for food with the FODMAP-friendly certification logo. This logo appears on food products that have been tested to be low-FODMAP per serving and has been registered around the world. You can eat with confidence the foods that display the logo on their packaging. Visit www.fodmapfriendly.com for an up-to-date list of the foods bearing the logo.

Shepherd Works is my dietetic consulting practice. Although it’s based in Melbourne, Australia, Skype consultations are available for people living interstate or overseas. Commencing consultations in 1997, Shepherd Works is Australia’s largest gastrointestinal nutrition dietitian practice, and it has seen more than 10,000 patients with food intolerances. There are 13 expert dietitians and two psychologists. Various low-FODMAP and gluten-free cookbooks are available via www.shepherdworks.com.au, along with other relevant resources and a repository of research studies.

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