Low FODMAP Diet: A Kid Friendly Option for IBS

Marie Erobu
Marie Erobu is a dietetic intern at the Jill Roberts Center for Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

By Marie Erobu

A low FODMAP diet has benefited many adults with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), but what about kids? Recall that FODMAPs are certain types of poorly absorbed carbohydrates that are highly fermentable in the presence of bacteria.

Good news! A new study provides evidence that a low FODMAP diet reduces abdominal pain in children. Kids and their tummies rejoice!

Thirty-three children between 7-17 years old with IBS participated in this study. The children ate their usual diet for five days, then were randomly assigned to a low FODMAP diet or the typical American childhood diet (TACD) for 48 hours. The TACD, as you can imagine, implies a diet high in sugar and FODMAPs.

Afterwards, they went back on their usual diet for five days before switching over to the other diet, thus allowing the children to take part in both diets. The meals were prepared and delivered to the children to ensure the kids had no “uh-oh’s” in diet preparation. The children were unaware of what diet they were on and what the diets were testing for.

The results…

The low FODMAP diet significantly decreased abdominal pain and gas production in children when compared to the TACD.

Interestingly, this study also examined the children’s gut bacteria and the bacteria’s ability to digest sugars. To do this, some lucky researcher collected samples of bacteria from the children’s stool because gut bacteria is thought to play a large role in IBS and related symptoms.

Turns out that the gut bacteria of children who responded well to the low FODMAP diet had high sugar metabolizing ability. These children produced more gas when following the TACD thanks to their bacteria feeding on fermentable sugars. A low FODMAP diet would be beneficial at starving those fermentable-sugar-loving bacteria, and thus reducing IBS symptoms.

So, what’s the take home message here? A low FODMAP diet can benefit both adults and children with IBS. Some may respond better than others to the diet depending on the makeup of their gut bacteria.

Trialing a low FODMAP diet can be a simple way to determine individual benefits. This study only tested the diet for two days, but in my experience with the low FODMAP diet and IBS, it may take up to a week plus to notice remarkable changes. If you have a child with IBS, speak with your doctor or registered dietitian about the possible benefits and how-to’s of following a low FODMAP diet.

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