Patients frequently come to see me looking for relief of their symptoms of chronic bloating, abdominal pain and gas. Many people want a quick fix such as a pill that will relieve their symptoms. Many over the counter products advertise themselves as providing that relief, only to prove to be a disappointment to those suffering. What I generally tell my patients is that relief is possible, but requires some work on their part. One of the mainstays of treatment is dietary modification. It should seem obvious that gut related symptoms are strongly influenced by the substances that we introduce into our GI tract. Modification of our diet by eating foods that promote gut health and avoiding those that have an adverse impact can significantly alleviate symptoms of abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea.
A diet low in “FODMAPs” can be particularly helpful to some people with these symptoms. FODMAPs are certain types of carbohydrates and alcohols that are “fermentable oligo-, di-, or monosaccharides and polyols”. Many common foods contain them, and it is thought that they may cause symptoms by drawing water into the GI tract and creating gas when fermented in the bowel. Examples include wheat, onions, garlic, apples, peaches, beans, lentils, and dairy and others. A study in the well respected medical journal Gastroenterology demonstrated significant improvement in irritable bowel symptoms in patients who followed this diet for at least a week. My own experience is that many of my patients who have these symptoms feel much better when they follow the diet. Those that don’t may be suffering from other problems or have other food intolerances. Patience and working together with your gastroenterologist will usually get the problem solved.