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Summary

Background and aim

Current treatment for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is suboptimal. Fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols (FODMAPs) may trigger gastrointestinal symptoms in IBS patients. Our aim was to determine whether a low FODMAP diet improves symptoms in IBS patients.

Methods

Irritable bowel syndrome patients, who had performed hydrogen/methane breath testing for fructose and lactose malabsorption and had received dietary advice regarding the low FODMAP diet, were included. The effect of low FODMAP diet was prospectively evaluated using a symptom questionnaire. Furthermore, questions about adherence and satisfaction with symptom improvement, dietary advice and diet were assessed.

Results

Ninety patients with a mean follow up of 15.7 months were studied. Most symptoms including abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence and diarrhoea significantly improved (p < 0.001 for all). 75.6%, 37.8% and 13.3% of patients had fructose, lactose malabsorption or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth respectively. Fructose malabsorption was significantly associated with symptom improvement (abdominal pain odds ratio (OR) 7.09 [95% confidence interval (CI) 2.01–25.0], bloating OR 8.71 (95% CI 2.76–27.5), flatulence OR 7.64 (95% CI 2.53–23.0) and diarrhoea OR 3.39 (95% CI 1.17–9.78), p < 0.029 for all). Most patients (75.6%) were adherent to the diet, which was associated with symptom improvement (abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence and diarrhoea all significantly associated with adherence, r > 0.27, p < 0.011). Most patients (72.1%) were satisfied with their symptoms.

Conclusions

The low FODMAP diet shows efficacy for IBS patients. The current strategy of breath testing and dietary advice provides a good basis to understand and adhere to the diet.