Can the low FODMAP diet be used for managing IBD symptoms ?

Your IBD (Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis; UC) is in remission but you still experience symptoms such as diarrhoea, constipation, belly pain, abdominal cramps, etc.?

You are not alone!

According to Ozer et al., the prevalence of IBS-like symptoms in IBD patients in remission is 2 to 3 times higher than that in healthy control participants (1).

The low FODMAP diet can be used for managing IBD symptoms

Symptoms are not always food-related. Stress, excess or lack of physical activity, infection, lack of sleep, etc. can trigger your symptoms.

However, dietary patterns play an important role, and some foods can be the culprit. Also, the low FODMAP diet aims to decrease fermentation and eventually identify food intolerance.

Is the low FODMAP diet appropriate during IBD remission ?

The low-FODMAP approach was actually first created to release IBD symptoms (2).

Nowadays, the low-FODMAP diet is mostly used for people with IBS, but can also help people with celiac disease or IBS who still experiment symptoms depiste they treatment.

Yet, people with IBD (Crohn’s and Ulcerative colitis) are more likely to have lactose intolerance, and people with Crohn’s fructose malabsorption (3).

A trial involving 88 patients with IBD (39 Crohn’s disease, 38 ulcerative colitis, 11 IBD unclassified) who were advised to follow a low-FODMAPs diet for at least 6 weeks, showed a significant decrease in the severity of most symptoms and significant improvements in stool consistency and frequency (4).

Hence, some studies suggest that a low-FODMAPs diet is an efficacious treatment solution in the management of functional bowel symptoms for IBS and IBD patients (3-6).

However, most of the studies are unblended (no control group) and a low-FODMAP diet is not recommended in everyone.

The low FODMAP diet does not suit everyone

While the low FODMAP diet can benefit for people with IBD, there are some things to keep in mind :

  • The low FODMAP diet is restrictive and can lead to nutritional deficiencies such as calcium or iron, as well as lower energy intakes. Malnutrition is very common in IBD patients (3) Thus, following a low FODMAP diet can worsen the nutritional status or put frail people at risk.
  • Most of the high FODMAP foods are pre and/or probiotics. Reducing the consumption of these foods seems to have a negative impact on the microbiota diversity, and the microbiota composition plays a key role in IBD.
  • Gut bacteria’s roles are many. They include the regulation of the immune system and inflammation. By reducing the amount of beneficial bacteria, the inflammation can raise in the already-fragile intestine of people with IBD (3).
  • The low FODMAP diet can be quite overwhelming, and can affect your mental health. However, some people feel so much better in the first phase and stay under a low FODMAPs diet for weeks. This is absolutely not how the low FODMAP diet should be done because of the reasons mentioned above.

stress is a IBD trigger

So, is the low FODMAP diet a good idea?

I can’t write a better conclusion than Gibson’s review:

Evidence from unblinded and observational studies regarding the efficacy of reducing FODMAP intake for IBS‐like symptoms in patients with quiescent IBD is compelling despite the lack of high‐quality evidence. However, the risks associated with such dietary change have to be seriously considered in this patient group. Dietitian‐led implementation of the diet is strongly recommended” (3).

If you want to give the low FODMAP diet a try, I highly recommend you to seek for professional advice.

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  1. Ozer M, Bengi G, Colak R, Cengiz O, Akpinar H. Prevalence of irritable bowel syndrome-like symptoms using Rome IV criteria in patients with inactive inflammatory bowel disease and relation with quality of life. Medicine. 2020;99(19).
  2. Gibson PR, Shepherd SJ. Personal view: food for thought–western lifestyle and susceptibility to Crohn’s disease. The FODMAP hypothesis. Alimentary pharmacology & therapeutics. 2005;21(12):1399-409.
  3. Gibson PR. Use of the low‐FODMAP diet in inflammatory bowel disease. Journal of gastroenterology and hepatology. 2017;32:40-2.
  4. Prince AC, Myers CE, Joyce T, Irving P, Lomer M, Whelan K. Fermentable carbohydrate restriction (low FODMAP diet) in clinical practice improves functional gastrointestinal symptoms in patients with inflammatory bowel disease. Inflammatory bowel diseases. 2016;22(5):1129-36.
  5. Maagaard L, Ankersen DV, Végh Z, Burisch J, Jensen L, Pedersen N, et al. Follow-up of patients with functional bowel symptoms treated with a low FODMAP diet. World journal of gastroenterology. 2016;22(15):4009.
  6. Zhan Y-a, Dai S-x. Is a low FODMAP diet beneficial for patients with inflammatory bowel disease? A meta-analysis and systematic review. Clinical nutrition. 2018;37(1):123-9.
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