The super sensitive in IBS

The super sensitive in IBS

Caroline Tuck - Research Dietitian & PhD Candidate, 15 October 2015

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) can express itself in many different ways, resulting in different symptoms that may change over time. Therefore, IBS is not a straightforward condition to treat and the IBS management does not suit a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.

There are many IBS treatments available, including medications, dietary change, hypnotherapy and herbal remedies, with varying levels of evidence supporting their use. 

Therefore, two people (even with the same type of IBS – constipation predominant, diarrhoea predominant or mixed) may not respond to the same treatment.

At Monash University, we focus on diet therapies because this is our area of research expertise. We recommend people follow a low FODMAP diet for a short period of time followed by a period of rechallenges, during which higher FODMAP foods are reintroduced enabling people to assess their tolerance to the various FODMAP subgroups. Most people should not need to stay on a strict low FODMAP diet for life. The reason we suggest rechallenging with higher FODMAP foods is discussed in previous blog posts: 

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But for some people, reintroducing foods is not easy or straightforward. In fact, in more sensitive individuals, reintroducing higher FODMAP foods can be very hard. Some people find that symptoms return even if they reintroduce very small quantities of higher FODMAP foods. This may require the person to follow a strict low FODMAP diet for longer to maintain symptom control.

The complexities of treating IBS mean that consultation with a Dietitian is very important, especially in people very sensitive to dietary factors such as FODMAPs. 

How a Dietitian can help:

  • They can suggest other strategies (both dietary and non-dietary) to help improve food tolerance.
  • They can ensure your diet remains nutritionally adequate if you need to remain on a low FODMAP diet for longer periods.
  • They can recommend other dietary and non-dietary therapies that may improve symptoms further.
  • They can identify food triggers other than FODMAPs
  • They can work with your doctor/gastroenterologist to find the best treatment for you.

In the long term, we advise that a strict low FODMAP diet is not continued, even in super sensitive individuals. We also recommend you repeat unsuccessful food challenges because IBS symptoms and tolerance to different foods changes over time. Reintroducing foods very gradually can also improve your tolerance.

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