Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that affects the large intestine. IBS affects about one of out every 10 persons in the world although rates vary from region to region. Some research suggests that about 14% of Americans have IBS although the vast majority are undiagnosed.
Signs and symptoms of IBS include cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea or constipation, or both. Some people can control their symptoms by managing diet, lifestyle and stress.
The role of food allergy or intolerance in IBS isn’t fully understood but science-based evidence indicates that the Low FODMAP Diet can help manage the gastrointestinal symptoms associated with IBS. And soyfoods can be part of the Low FODMAP Diet.
FODMAP is an acronym that stands for: Fermentable – meaning they are broken down (fermented) by bacteria in the large bowel, Oligosaccharides – “oligo” means “few” and “saccharide” means sugar. These molecules made up of individual sugars joined together in a chain. Disaccharides – “di” means two. This is a double sugar molecule. Monosaccharides – “mono” means single. This is a single-sugar molecule. And Polyols – these are sugar alcohols (however don’t lead to intoxication!).
When consumed in foods and/or drinks, FODMAPs can be poorly absorbed in the small intestine and pass through to the large intestine, where two major events happen:
- The FODMAPs are readily fermented by bacteria in the large bowel, contributing to the production of gas.
- The FODMAPs are also highly osmotic, meaning that they attract water into the large bowel, which can alter how quickly the bowels move.
These two processes can then trigger symptoms including excess wind, abdominal bloating and distension, abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhea, or a combination of both.
Many soyfoods, although not all, can be part of the Low FODMAP Diet. If you have IBS, good choices are firm tofu (as opposed to silken tofu), soymilk made using isolated soy protein, soy cheese and tempeh. Tempeh is made by fermenting whole soybeans. It has an excellent texture and is highly nutritious and may help to promote the growth of friendly bacteria, which could lead to an assortment of health benefits.