Managing Your Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common functional gastrointestinal disorder affecting many South Africans. Symptoms of IBS can be chronic or it may be triggered by specific foods.  The diagnosis of IBS should be done by a medical practitioner.

Symptoms to look out for are:

  • Lower abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Passing gas
  • Nausea
  • Distended stomach
  • Altered bowel habits (ranging from diarrhea to constipation)

The Low FODMAP diet was developed by researchers at Monash University.  FODMAPs refer to the terms: Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols.  These are complex names for some of the molecules that are found in food and are poorly absorbed by people with irritable bowel syndrome.  These molecules function as a food source to the good bacteria living in your large intestines (colon) when digested and fermented in the body which can lead to the symptoms listed above.

The Low FODMAP Diet has two phases: The first phase of the Low FODMAP Diet generally involves the strict restriction of all high FODMAP foods for 4-6 weeks, followed by the second phase is where foods that were restricted in the first phase are reintroduced gradually and the diet is then adapted according to each individual. It is recommended that you consult with an registered dietitian who specialises in teaching the low FODMAP diet for both phases, as FODMAP intolerances are different from one person to the next and can affect everyone differently. You therefore need an individualised treatment approach and not the same diet as your neighbour with IBS.

It is important that you don’t rely on reading information on the internet, books and other literature to self-diagnose and follow the diet on your own, but use these to supplement the information from your dietitian. It is strongly recommend that you consult with your medical practitioner first for diagnosis, and then work through your symptoms and diet with a specialist dietitian (find a registered dietitian near you at to ensure you follow the diet that is just what YOU need.


Anke van Waveren, Registered dietitian

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