A medical professional sits at a table and writes on a clipboard. The table holds measuring tape and fruit.
A person with irritable bowel syndrome may find some relief by eliminating troublesome carbs. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Have you heard of the FODMAP diet? This is a newer diet used in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome as well as some other gastrointestinal conditions, such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.

The diet, developed by researchers at Monash University in Australia, is scientifically proven to relieve symptoms experienced with irritable bowel syndrome, including abdominal pain, bloating, excessive gas, constipation and diarrhea.

FODMAP is an acronym for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols.

These are groups of carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed in the intestines—and they provide fast food for bacteria, leading to discomfort in affected individuals.

These carbohydrates are found in commonly consumed foods such as milk, breads, fruits, various vegetables and legumes.

The FODMAP diet restricts intake of foods with higher amounts of these carbohydrates, with a goal of reducing symptoms.

Typically, people who respond to the diet will feel better within one to two weeks. Because of the restrictive nature of this diet, however, it is not for long-term use—usually only four to six weeks.

Once a person has shown improvement by restricting the FODMAPs, they can begin introducing these foods back into the diet, assessing for tolerance. This “challenge phase” can help a person better understand which FODMAP-containing foods they can tolerate, or not, and in what quantities.

A person can often tolerate at least small amounts of some FODMAPs.

Before anyone follows a low-FODMAP diet, they should first get a formal diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome, if only to rule out other digestive issues that may display similar symptoms.

Ideally, a person on a low-FODMAP diet will work closely with a dietitian who is experienced with this type of diet.

The diet itself can sometimes lack nutrients, given its restrictive nature, so a skilled dietitian can prove invaluable in offering guidance for healthy meal planning, label reading and low-FODMAP recipes.

If you struggle to manage your diet because of irritable bowel syndrome or other persistent gastrointestinal issues, consider meeting with a dietitian to review your diet—they can help you design the low-FODMAP diet to meet your needs.