New Research About Low FODMAP Diet
There are many studies about the potential causes of IBS. Currently, studies appear to show that IBS results from a miscommunication between the gut and the brain.1
One of the most effective treatments we currently have for IBS is the low FODMAP diet. By eliminating foods high in FODMAPs, many people find relief from their symptoms. However, we still don’t understand all the reasons why this diet is effective for treating IBS.
A study that came out in 2021 looked at the effect of the low FODMAP diet on the psychological and gut symptoms of IBS-D. Let's review some of the findings and what they mean for you.1
What causes IBS?
IBS may be caused by several different factors, including:1
- How our gut moves
- How sensitive our gut is
- Changes in how "leaky" our gut barrier is
- Changes in immune function
- Changes in our gut microbiota
It’s thought that all these different factors may affect the gut-brain connection and lead to the development of IBS.1
What is the gut barrier?
The gut barrier is a physical and chemical barrier that restricts harmful substances and bacteria from entering our gut. It consists of an outer mucus layer, a single central layer of epithelial cells, and an inner layer called the lamina propria. The outer mucus layer contains special proteins that kill bacteria, which helps protect the gut from infection. The lamina propria contains specialized immune cells that also protect the gut from infection.2
When the gut barrier works properly, it restricts access to bacteria and other substances while working in harmony with beneficial bacteria. In certain diseases, the barrier becomes "leaky" and lets through substances and microorganisms that it should not. It’s hypothesized that this is one of the potential causes of IBS.3
What does the research say?
A 2021 study looked at the effect of the low FODMAP diet on the psychological and gut symptoms of IBS-D. The study included 20 patients with IBS-D who followed the low FODMAP diet for 12 weeks and received dietary counseling from a registered dietitian.1
The study showed that many symptoms of IBS improved, including:1
- Frequency of abdominal pain
- Intensity of abdominal pain
- Abdominal distention (stretch)
- Stool frequency
Interestingly, the low FODMAP diet was also associated with improved psychological symptoms, including reduced physical symptoms of stress and anxiety levels, leading to improved quality of life. Additionally, it found significant reductions in gut leakiness markers and inflammation.1
It’s important to note that the study had some limitations. Only 20 people participated, making it hard to generalize to the wider public. Also, the participants knew they were on the low FODMAP diet, which may have influenced how they felt during the study.
Putting it all together
For many people, these findings are extremely validating. Many people with IBS feel like their bowels are inflamed during a flare, and the study seems to support that. The research helps us see how changes in diet might change the immune-inflammatory features of IBS-D. This may lead to more targeted treatments in the future.
If you're interested in using the low FODMAP diet as a tool to manage your IBS symptoms, it's recommended that you work with a registered dietitian. The diet is quite restrictive, so it is important to consult with someone who can help ensure you get all the nutrients you need.
Have you had success with the low FODMAP diet? Let us know in the comments below!
Do you have a good understanding of what triggers your flares?