Newsweek

Cut the IBS

Food giants are hustling to develop palatable products low in short-chain carbohydrates to ease the burden of digestive disorders.
Dishes like these vegetarian veggie pots—consisting of layers of quinoa, and roasted vegetables including aubergine, red onion, red pepper, tomato, and fresh spinach leaves and topped with a Skyr (Icelandic very low fat yogurt) dressing—are supposed to be suitable for IBS sufferers. Dieticians have seen remarkable benefits in FODMAP-restricted diets for patients with IBS and other gastrointestinal disorders.
11_18_Fodmaps_01 Source: Joan Ransley/Getty

Updated | Two years ago, Boston dietitian Kate Scarlata proudly stood before a roomful of colleagues at a conference sponsored by the New England Dairy Council and announced her professional goal was “to make talking about IBS more sexy.” Everyone laughed.

Now the council may wish it had taken her mission a little more seriously. Scarlata has helped hundreds of people who have suffered for years, sometimes decades, with chronic and debilitating symptoms that include diarrhea, constipation, bloating, gas and excessive abdominal pain. Usually, but not all the time, a physician diagnoses her clients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or another type of functional gastrointestinal disorder. Many tell her about enduring years of pain, embarrassment and unhelpful doctors’ visits. Scarlata wants to change that. “Discussions about digestive problems are generally taboo,” she says. “Ironically, when I am at a social gathering and openly talk about what I do for a living, everyone near me seems to lean in and asks questions. Interest in gut health is at an all-time high.”

What Scarlata usually ends up discussing with strangers, friends and clients is fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols (FODMAPs), short-chain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed by the small intestines. An increasing body of research shows that these food molecules trigger symptoms of IBS and some other digestive disorders—the malabsorption drags water into the intestines, which causes bloating. Because these

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