Changes For The Better: A Diet To Treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome can be such a debilitating condition that 50 per cent of sufferers need to take days off work due to the symptoms, says dietitian Sue Shepherd. The condition impacts people’s quality of life – from their jobs through to sport and travelling. Shepherd says the condition (also known as IBS) includes symptoms of excess wind, bloating or stomach distention, abdominal pain and changes to bowel habits. The symptoms can be similar to those that people with coeliac disease experience. So similar, in fact, that when Shepherd was experiencing symptoms as a 20-year-old, her doctor suggested she had IBS before the diagnosis of coeliac disease was made. Shepherd was studying for a degree in dietetics at the time, so the diagnosis spurred her on to devote her work towards treating food intolerances. Eighteen years later and Shepherd has just had her ninth book published, Low FODMAP Recipes, which is based on the low-FODMAP diet for people with IBS and coeliac disease. Although Shepherd developed the FODMAP diet in 1999, she says the diet is in the early stages of general acceptance – much like how the gluten-free diet slowly became accepted in the early 1990s. FODMAP is an acronym for the naturally occuring sugars that people with IBS have difficulty with as they are not absorbed in the small bowel. These are fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols, found in everything from apples and wheat to garlic, onions and milk. Shepherd says there has been a marked increase in the number of people she sees suffering the effects of IBS. “People are a bit happier to talk about their symptoms these days,” she says. The 38-year-old now gets emails from across the world from people who say the FODMAP diet has changed their lives for the better. She recalls how a client had ambitions to be a professional golfer, and has only just returned to the course after years of being unable to complete a round because of IBS. Shepherd says the 150 meals inside Low FODMAP Recipes are easy to make and delicious.

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