IRRITABLE bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic, relapsing and often life-long condition which affects over four million people in the UK.

Whilst not technically a disease, it is responsible for many missed work days and a lot of silent suffering. Symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, reflux and a change of bowel habit.

Sufferers often visit their GP many times throughout the year in order to get help and are often prescribed many different medication to help manage symptoms, leaving them dependent on a daily diet of pills.

Often treatments are unsuccessful and sufferers learn to put up with the symptoms.  

IBS symptoms such as bloating, ongoing reflux, indigestion and abdominal pain are often associated with the consumption of a group of FODMAP foods which are poorly absorbed in the small intestine and therefore enter the colon where they are fermented by bacteria.

It is this fermentation and subsequent gas formation which leads to many of the IBS symptoms.

FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols, which are a specific group of sugars found in certain carbohydrates present in a wide range of foods including onions, garlic, mushrooms, apples, lentils, rye and milk.

Recent research shows that up to 86% of people who follow a low FODMAP diet experience significant improvement in symptoms within just a few weeks.

Long term IBS sufferers have discovered that their symptoms were caused by FODMAP food intolerances and elimination of these foods allowed them to no longer depend on medications.

The diet is supported by numerous scientific studies and pioneered by specialists in Australia and King’s College London.
It is important to remember not everyone will have a problem with every FODMAP food group.

Some people might have symptoms triggered by one or two types of FODMAPs, whereas others may be sensitive to all five. Therefore, foods should only be restricted if they contribute to symptoms.

To find out if your IBS symptoms are linked to FODMAP food intolerances, you should consult a specialist for a full assessment.

Ideally this should include a hydrogen breath-test and celiac test to confirm if you have intolerance to certain foods such as lactose of gluten.

Once, this is eliminated you should seek guidance from a trained dietitian who will provided you with individualised advice and the FODMAP diet booklets.

Dr Rebeca Erikson PhD and Dr David Deardon MD provide an integrated team approach to the management of IBS at a number of clinics in Gibraltar and the Costa del Sol.