Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable Bowel Syndrome - Causes and Treatments

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects a wide portion of the population, and can be a debilitating condition. It is caused by a variety of factors. Symptoms and causes are rarely identical between individuals.

Research shows that following a diet that is low in FODMAPs can help relieve symptoms of IBS. FODMAPs are sugars that are found in food, and are poorly absorbed in people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. FODMAPs stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. They act as a food source to bacteria that live in the large intestine. When they are not absorbed properly, they are fermented. This can result in bloating, flatulence, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, constipation, nausea and other gastrointestinal symptoms.

It is important to remember that high FODMAPs foods are not always the only culprit for IBS symptoms. Consider being aware of your reaction to fatty foods, caffeine, alcohol, fibre (excess or lack of), medications and stress, which may also influence your symptoms.

What are FODMAPs? 


Fructans, which mostly comes from wheat products and some vegetables. It also includes inulin (a type of fibre), which is often added to yoghurt, and Fructo-oligosaccharides, which are found in packaged foods. Fructans are poorly absorbed by all individuals, we just differ in the amount our body can tolerate them.

Galacto-Oligosaccharides (GOS), are found in legumes. The technical names are raffinose and stachyose. As with fructans, we all have trouble absorbing GOS.


Lactose, which naturally occurs in varying amounts in milk and milk products. People vary in the amount of lactose they can absorb.


Fructose, often referred to as ‘fruit sugar’. It is naturally present in all fruits, and also in many other foods. It is usually only a problem if the food contains more fructose than glucose, or if too much is eaten at once.


Includes sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, xylitol. They occur naturally in some fruits and vegetables, and are also in artificial sweeteners. Food packaging with artificial sweetener as an ingredient will often state ‘excess consumption may have a laxative effect’. Polyols are only partially absorbed by everyone.

It is important to remember that some foods contain more than one type of FODMAPs.

Working closely with a dietitian is essential when determining which FODMAPs and/or other foods affect you. It is often a complicated process, and your dietitian can assist you with providing the most up to date research in the area, along with advice that is uniquely tailored to you.


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