“In adults with IBS, a low FODMAP diet [which limits carbs that are 'fermentable, oligo-, di-, monosaccharides and polyols'] is well‐established as a safe and effective dietary strategy to alleviate symptoms,” wrote researchers in the recent study.
Functional bowel disorders (FBD) affect 20% of children worldwide and can be caused by a variety of factors both genetic and environmental, according to one study published in 2005.
"To our knowledge the present study is the only one to report efficacy and safety data for the low FODMAP diet in children with functional bowel disorders in a real-world setting," said lead author of the study and pediatric gastroenterologist Dr Andrew Day.
The study included 29 children between the ages of 4 and 17 who had chronic, persistent, and relapsing symptoms consistent with an FBD.
All children and their families received three dietary consultations which guided the study’s participants in how to follow a low FODMAP diet, which called for a 4-week restriction of certain types of carbohydrates.
According to the study, the most common type of carbohydrates which cause gastrointestinal discomfort among children and adolescents include fructans (polymers of fructose molecules), lactose (milk sugar), polyols (sugar alcohols), fructose, and galactose oligosaccharides. Six children (24%) specifically identified that apples triggered symptoms.
After the four weeks, parents were instructed to reintroduce certain FODMAP carbohydrates to establish specific intolerances.
“One individual FODMAP carbohydrate was reintroduced each week over a period of three days using preselected foods and serving sizes in alignment with the Monash (the university that developed the low FODMAP diet) resources,” explained researchers.
Most participants reported a "substantial improvement" of their symptoms with those with abdominal bloating having the highest rate of improvement, followed by those with abdominal pain.
"This study showed that more than 50% of children with a bowel disorder who complete the FODMAP restriction and reintroduction process will have complete resolution of symptoms, particularly those with lower GI (gastrointestinal) symptoms," said Dr Day.
The results are similar to those previously reported in adults. The diet appears to be more beneficial for participants with symptoms of flatulence, diarrhea, abdominal pain and distention, noted researchers.