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Food intolerance & low-FODMAP eating

If you try all the tips for managing IBS but your symptoms don't get better, you may have a food intolerance. You may be able to pinpoint what foods you are intolerant to, and learn how to manage them.

What is the low-FODMAP diet?

FODMAPs are a group of carbohydrates (sugars) that some people don't absorb well. If you don't absorb these sugars well, they pass into your large bowel, where they provide food for the bacteria that normally live there. The bacteria break down (ferment) these sugars to produce gas, which can cause bloating, pain, and other IBS symptoms.

FODMAPs are found in the foods we eat. FODMAP stands for:

The low-FODMAP diet is a short-term eating plan where you avoid foods that are high in FODMAPs to see if your symptoms improve. Following a low-FODMAP diet improves symptoms for three out of four people with IBS.

Before you try a low-FODMAP diet, it's best to see a dietitian. A dietitian will look at how you eat, identify what foods trigger your symptoms, and make sure you are getting all the nutrients you need to stay healthy.

Your GP may refer you for group education on the low-FODMAP diet if you are eligible.

You can get more information about the low-FODMAP diet approach for IBS through the following links:

The low-FODMAP diet is not a lifetime diet

Don't stay on the low-FODMAP diet for more than six weeks. If your symptoms go away or get much better, you know that one or more FODMAPs are an issue. You can then gradually reintroduce one FODMAP group at a time to find out which cause your symptoms, and how much of each you can tolerate. It's best to do this with the guidance of a dietitian. Many people who are FODMAP-intolerant can return to their normal diet, just needing to avoid high amounts of a few high-FODMAP foods. Monash University gives a good explanation on why you should not stay on the low-FODMAP diet for life.

If your IBS symptoms don't go away or get better after four weeks then you don't have a problem with FODMAPs. You should go back to eating normally and talk to your doctor or practice nurse.

On the next page: Group education on the low-FODMAP diet

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by GP liaison, Gastroenterology, Canterbury DHB. Last reviewed March 2017. Last updated May 2019.


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Review key: HIIBS-27995