The low FODMAP diet: recent advances in understanding its mechanisms and efficacy in IBS

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Abstract

There is an intensifying interest in the interaction between diet and the functional GI symptoms experienced in IBS. Recent studies have used MRI to demonstrate that short-chain fermentable carbohydrates increase small intestinal water volume and colonic gas production that, in those with visceral hypersensitivity, induces functional GI symptoms. Dietary restriction of short-chain fermentable carbohydrates (the low fermentable oligosaccharide, disaccharide, monosaccharide and polyol (FODMAP) diet) is now increasingly used in the clinical setting. Initial research evaluating the efficacy of the low FODMAP diet was limited by retrospective study design and lack of comparator groups, but more recently well-designed clinical trials have been published. There are currently at least 10 randomised controlled trials or randomised comparative trials showing the low FODMAP diet leads to clinical response in 50%–80% of patients with IBS, in particular with improvements in bloating, flatulence, diarrhoea and global symptoms. However, in conjunction with the beneficial clinical impact, recent studies have also demonstrated that the low FODMAP diet leads to profound changes in the microbiota and metabolome, the duration and clinical relevance of which are as yet unknown. This review aims to present recent advances in the understanding of the mechanisms by which the low FODMAP diet impacts on symptoms in IBS, recent evidence for its efficacy, current findings regarding the consequences of the diet on the microbiome and recommendations for areas for future research.

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