Beyond IBS: Can the Low-FODMAP Diet Help Other Digestive Disorders?

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The low-FODMAP diet has received strong research support for its effectiveness in reducing the symptoms of IBS. The diet involves the restriction and re-introduction of certain types of carbohydrates found in ordinary foods, known collectively as FODMAPs. The diet's effectiveness for IBS begs the question: Can the low-FODMAP diet help people who have other types of digestive disorders? There are a couple of early hints - let's take a look.

Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis

Research into the benefits of the low-FODMAP diet for Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, the two inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), is quite preliminary but promising. In these cases, the low-FODMAP diet is not seen as a treatment for the IBD, but rather a way to reduce unwanted digestive symptoms when the underlying disease is quiet or well-treated medically.

No firm conclusions can be drawn about the effectiveness of the diet for people who have IBD, because the early studies done to date have been small and often have lacked a comparison control group. Findings to date include:

  • People who have IBD may be prone to having problems absorbing lactose and/or fructose, both of which are classified as FODMAPs, and therefore may benefit from reducing the intake of these carbohydrates.
  • One study found that symptoms of abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and flatulence, but not constipation, were lessened in approximately half of the IBD study participants who followed a low-FODMAP diet.
  • Another study found that following a low-FODMAP diet reduced stool frequency in IBD patients who have an ileal pouch, as long as there was no sign of pouchitis.

Click here to learn more about the treatment options for Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis...

Celiac Disease

There is little to no research to answer the question as to whether one can suffer from both IBS and celiac disease at the same time.

Since the two disorders have very different causes, it does seem entirely possible. In fact, I personally have heard from many people who report having continued gastrointestinal symptoms even when following a strict gluten-free diet.

Unfortunately, there does not seem to be any research to date as to whether the low-FODMAP diet would be of help to such individuals. However, the FODMAP researchers from Monash University do report that they have seen reduction of such gastrointestinal symptoms in celiac patients who restrict the amounts of FODMAPs that they consume in addition to strict adherence to a gluten-free diet. Hopefully, they will conduct some research to offer more light on the subject.

Click here to learn more about the gluten-free, diet, the standard treatment for celiac disease...

Intant Colic

Imagine if having a mother change her diet temporarily could save parents from the misery and frustration of trying to soothe an infant who suffers from colic? The Monash researchers report overwhelming success in two small, non-control group, studies on the use of the low-FODMAP diet in breast-feeding mothers with babies who have colic. For the sake of these stressed-out parents and the poor babies who are in so much distress, let's hope that these studies are followed up with comprehensive study designs to find out if the low-FODMAP diet is an effective option for these families.

Click here to learn some ways to soothe a baby who has colic...

The Bottom Line

Clearly more research is needed before we can come to any conclusions about the low-FODMAP diet's effectiveness in helping disorders other than IBS. However, if your underlying disease is well-managed and you are still experiencing unwanted symptoms of abdominal pain, gas and bloating, and diarrhea episodes, it might be worth your while to discuss the diet with your doctor. Remember that the diet is most effective when supervised by a qualified dietary professional. Also remember that the diet is recommended to be followed strictly for a short period of time, followed by a re-introduction of the various types of FODMAPs to assess your individual tolerance.


Barrett, J. "Extending Our Knowledge of Fermentable, Short-Chain Carbohydrates for Managing Gastrointestinal Symptoms" Nutrition in Clinical Practice 2013 28:300-306.

Croagh, C. "Pilot study on the effect of reducing dietary FODMAP intake on bowel function in patients without a colon" Inflammatory Bowel Diseases 2007 13:1522-1528.

Gearry, R., "Reduction of dietary poorly absorbed short-chain carbohydrates (FODMAPs) improves abdominal symptoms in patients with inflammatory bowel disease—a pilot study" Journal of Crohn's and Colitis 2009 3:8–14.

Muir, J. & Gibson, P. "The Low FODMAP Diet for Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Other Gastrointestinal Disorders" Gastroenterology & Hepatology 2013 9:450–452.

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