Bloating, gas, abdominal pain, constipation, and/or diarrhea—we all have these symptoms at one time or another. But some children or adults have these symptoms day after day for prolonged period of time, and they often wonder if anything they are eating may be causing these symptoms. Is it celiac disease? A food allergy or intolerance? These are common questions that we get from our patients and their families.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a set of symptoms that occurs in about 10–15% of people as a result of extra sensitive nerves that trigger sensations and irregular muscle contractions along the gastrointestinal tract. Since the nerves are involved, stress and anxiety can make these symptoms worse. But just like stress and anxiety, certain foods you eat can exacerbate IBS symptoms.
You might think that cutting out gluten has helped. If it did, it wasn’t because of the gluten or protein in the food. It may have been the carbohydrate in that food. FODMAPs is an acronym for fermentable oligo-di-monosaccharides and polyols (just say FODMAPs!) which are specific carbohydrates found in natural foods that may cause fermentation in the GI tract, and this produces bacteria and carbon dioxide (gas). Does that mean you should avoid all FODMAPs? No. Unlike celiac disease or an allergy where you must fully eliminate the food that is causing systematic effects, a low-FODMAP diet is something that can be used as a tool to lessen your symptoms. After all, IBS is a disorder that causes unpleasant symptoms, but will almost never lead to more serious health problems. With that being said, the symptoms do negatively impact their quality of life, so a low-FODMAP diet is a good thing to trial.
MONASH University in Australia has done the predominance of the research on low-FODMAP diets, and they have the best practical tools when it comes to this eating plan. They provide tips, tricks, and food lists on their website and their phone app that gives you a nice visual of a green, yellow, or red dot for the foods that are low, medium, or high in FODMAPs.
FODMAPs are found in these components of food:
- Fructose (fruit, honey, and high-fructose corn syrup)
- Lactose (dairy products)
- Frusta’s (wheat, onion, and garlic)
- Galactans (beans, lentils, and legumes, including soy)
- Polyols (sweeteners containing sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, maltitol, and stone fruits)
For more detail on a beginner low-FODMAP diet, go to our website for a downloadable educational sheet. Some people may be sensitive to one of these types of carbohydrates while others are reactive to many of them. A registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) can walk you through a trial diet for your child for 4–6 weeks to see if there are any symptoms relief. After the trial, foods would be added back one by one to get the definitive on the offending food that is causing the symptoms.
If you or your child have ongoing GI symptoms such as gas, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea, seek an evaluation by your primary care doctor, and they may refer you over for a full evaluation by gastroenterologist.
Anytime there is a food trial conducted with a child, it is essential to receive guidance from an RDN to ensure there are no nutritional shortfalls in your eliminations. If the doctor and/or GI specialist has ruled out more serious complications and you are interested in pursuing a low-FODMAP diet trial, contact us at 972-422-9180 or lemondnutrition.com and we will customize a nutrition plan. In many cases, your insurance will cover the visit.
About the Author, Angela Lemond
Angela Lemond is a registered dietitian. Registered dietitians (RDs) are the food and nutrition experts who can translate the science of nutrition into practical solutions for healthy living. RDs use their nutrition expertise to help individuals make unique, positive lifestyle changes. RDs are advocates for advancing the nutritional status of Americans and people around the world.