Up to 20% of people in the United States suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). IBS is a symptom-based condition, meaning that there is no widely accepted diagnostic test at this time (but that is changing quickly!). This means that diagnosing IBS relies on excluding other diagnoses in the presence of patient reported abdominal pain and altered bowel habits. It takes on average over 6 years to get a diagnosis, and sadly often costs patients thousands of dollars in medical expenses before they get to the IBS diagnosis. Even though it is incredibly common many suffer in silence because the symptoms are often felt to be embarrassing.
There are many different treatment offerings but forward thinking doctors are realizing that diet should be front and center when it comes to treating IBS.
The first-of-its-kind randomized controlled FODMAP research study in the United States was conducted by doctors at the University of Michigan – and the research and the results are promising. 90 IBS patients were prescribed a diet – half low FODMAP, half a ‘common sense’ IBS diet consisting of suggestions like eating smaller meals, avoiding caffeine and alcohol. To summarize the results, half of the patients treated with low-FODMAP diet enjoyed significant relief of IBS symptoms. The symptoms most likely to improve were abdominal pain and bloating, and more than half of the people on the low-FODMAP diet reported improved quality of life. Very encouraging results!
So while IBS is incredible and all too common, there is hope out there. One particularly promising (but certainly not the only) therapy out there, is the low-FODMAP diet. It is a tool that I work with all the time and I have had tremendous success in my practice helping patients to implement this diet.