A diet that is low in fermented sugars may help alleviate symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a study suggests.
The study, “Effects of Low-FODMAP Diet on Symptoms, Fecal Microbiome, and Markers of Inflammation in Patients With Quiescent Inflammatory Bowel Disease in a Randomized Trial,” was published in the journal Gastroenterology.
Dietary interventions in IBD are of interest because they can help ease symptoms without the risks associated with medication. Here, researchers conducted a clinical trial (ISRCTN17061468) to assess the utility of one experimental diet.
The particular diet in question is called the low-FODMAP diet (short for low in fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols), which involves decreasing intake of certain types of sugars. Participants in the study who were on the diet were instructed to eat fewer foods such as wheat, dairy, onions, and garlic.
The study compared 27 people who were randomized to the low-FODMAP diet for four weeks with 25 people who were randomized to a “normal” diet. All participants had IBD that was causing persistent gut symptoms despite having no ongoing gut inflammation.
After the intervention, significantly more people on the low-FODMAP diet than on the normal diet reported adequate relief of gut symptoms (52% vs. 16%). Those on the low-FODMAP diet also had higher health-related quality of life scores following the intervention (81.9 vs. 78.3).
There was also a trend toward lower average irritable bowel syndrome severity scores in the low-FODMAP group; however, this difference did not reach statistical significance, so it could have been the result of chance.
In addition, analysis of the participants’ stools revealed that the low-FODMAP diet resulted in changes in the participants’ gut bacteria. In particular, the diet reduced the abundance of Bifidobacteria species, which are generally thought to be beneficial for gut health. However, there was no evidence that this change in bacteria — or the diet itself — altered inflammation in the gut.
“We carried out this randomised controlled trial to establish whether these common gut symptoms in patients with IBD in remission could be managed by the low FODMAP diet. Indeed, this could represent a safe and cost-effective management option,” Kevin Whelan, PhD, study co-author and a professor at King’s College London, said in a press release.
Researchers are now planning to test the diet over a longer period of time.