The Role of Food in the Treatment of Bowel Disorders: Focus on Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Functional Constipation

Am J Gastroenterol. 2022 Jun 1;117(6):947-957. doi: 10.14309/ajg.0000000000001767.Epub 2022 Apr 8.


Prashant Singh 1Caroline Tuck 2Peter R Gibson 3William D Chey 1


Author information

1Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

2Department of Dietetics, Nutrition and Sport, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Australia.

3Department of Gastroenterology, Central Clinical School, Monash University, Melbourne Victoria, Australia.


Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and functional constipation (FC) are among the most common disorders of gut-brain interaction, affecting millions of individuals worldwide. Most patients with disorders of gut-brain interaction perceive food as a trigger for their gastrointestinal symptoms, and specific dietary manipulations/advice have now been recognized as a cornerstone therapeutic option for IBS and FC. We discuss in detail the 2 most common dietary interventions used for the management of IBS-general dietary advice based on the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines and a diet low in fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols (FODMAPs). We summarize the literature around the possible mechanisms of FODMAP-mediated IBS pathophysiology, the current 3-step, top-down approach of administering a low FODMAP diet (LFD) (restriction phase, followed by reintroduction and personalization), the efficacy data of its restriction and personalization phases, and possible biomarkers for response to an LFD. We also summarize the limitations and challenges of an LFD along with the alternative approach to administering an LFD (e.g., bottom-up). Finally, we discuss the available efficacy data for fiber, other dietary interventions (e.g., Mediterranean diet, gluten-free diet, and holistic dietary interventions), and functional foods (e.g., kiwifruit, rhubarb, aloe, and prunes) in the management of IBS and FC.


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