There is a new approach for combating irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), focusing on eliminating specific foods which may be triggering the gas, bloating, constipation or diarrhea, commonplace with IBS. An article written by Melinda Beck, published in the Wall Street Journal (11/8/11), outlines the new FODMAP diet, devised by GI specialists in Australia. Fodmaps is an acronym for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols.

As many as 20% of American adults suffer from IBS, a disorder that is difficult to diagnose and has no cure-most current treatments are hit or miss. In addition, many sufferers never seek help because they find the symptoms hard to discuss. I’ve had personal experience with IBS. 12 years ago, I was suffering painful bloating, cramps, bloody stools, and frequent bowel movement episodes (as many as 20 times per day). At the time I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis (UC). Crohn’s disease is another type of IBS.

IBS has long baffled experts; some point to stress, others by imbalances in gut bacteria. Now, a small but growing contingent of specialists is  looking at food intolerances as a possible culprit-and a new approach, called the low-Fodmaps diet, which is gaining attention around the world. This theory is that many people with IBS have difficulty absorbing certain carbohydrates in their small intestines. Large molecules of these foods travel to the colon, where they are attacked by bacteria and ferment, causing the telltale signs of IBS stated above.

A long list of foods-including dairy products, some fruits and vegetables, wheat, rye, corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners, can potentially cause problems in susceptible people. The low-FODMAPS diet recommends eliminating all of these foods for six to eight weeks, then gradually adding back one group after another to identify which ones are causing trouble. Many IBS sufferers find that they can tolerate many foods on the list as long as they keep consumption under a certain level.

Small studies in Australia and the UK have shown that the diet reduces symptoms in about 75% of IBS sufferers-higher than any other diet or medication approaches. Also, there are no side effects. “Many people who have tried it say they can’t believe how much it’s changed their lives,” say Jeffery D. Roberts, who founded an online support community at that has 45,000 members.

The following foods to eliminate are:

Fruit: apples apricots, cherries, pears, watermelon, and dried fruit.

Vegetables: asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, eggplant, garlic, mushrooms, and onions.

Cereals/Grains: Wheat, rye, pasta, bread, cookies.

Milk Products: cow’s milk, custard, ice cream, yogurt, soft cheeses.

Other: sweeteners such as sorbitol, mannitol, isomalt, fructose, corn syrup, honey.

Beans/Legumes: Chick peas, kidney beans, lentils, soy beans.

Suitable foods are:

Fruit: bananas, blueberries, grapefruit, lemons, raspberries.

Vegetables: carrots, celery, green beans, potatoes, pumpkin, zucchini.

Grains: gluten-free bread or cereal, rice, oats, polenta, tapioca.

Milk Products: lactose-free milk and yogurt, hard cheeses.

Other: tofu, sugar, maple syrup, molasses.

On a personal note, I eliminated coffee, tea, peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes, alcohol, and processed meats. Within two years, I had added all back and have had no symptoms for seven years, and my colonoscopy shows that I’m completely healed. My savior, I think, was turmeric powder. I took, and still take, one tbsp each day in pomegranate juice.

Stay well, John R Blilie, M.S.