A new smartphone app provides an on-the-go reference to help the one-in-seven adults who suffer irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) avoid the foods that trigger their symptoms.
The app, now available for iPhone and iPad, with an Android version scheduled for next year, is based on research conducted at Monash University’s Department of Gastroenterology. It provides a new, easy way to access the only database of foods shown by empirical research to trigger IBS.
The trigger foods listed in the app contain a family of carbohydrates, FODMAPs (fermentable, oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols) that are poorly absorbed by the digestive tract.
Director of Gastroenterology at Monash and The Alfred Hospital, Professor Peter Gibson, and Dr Jane Muir, Head of Translational Nutrition Science at Monash, led the first group in the world to measure the majority of FODMAPs in food.
Professor Gibson said accurately measuring FODMAP content allowed the researchers to design a diet based on peer-reviewed, scientific evidence.
“In the past there have been many diets which were proposed to help IBS symptoms, whereas our research has been done to profile the evidence that enables health professionals to accept the information and change how they manage patients with IBS,” Professor Gibson said.
Dr Muir said the FODMAP app was a response to increasing requests from the public and health professionals to access the team’s database.
“A smartphone application is an ideal way of delivering information to where it’s needed – to IBS patients, health professionals and scientists in the field,” Dr Muir said.
“All foods have been tested carefully and scientifically measured so the information is entirely accurate and not based on guess work or anecdotal evidence.”
The app rates foods using a traffic light system. ‘Red’ foods are high in FODMAPs and should be avoided, ‘orange’ foods contain moderate levels and may be tolerated by some people, while ‘green’ foods are low in FODMAPs.
It also lists specific serving sizes to guide how much food can be safely consumed. For example, half a cup of broccoli may be well tolerated but more than this can trigger symptoms.
Research Dietitian at Monash, Dr Jaci Barrett, said the app contained recipes, meal ideas and general information about IBS to help patients interpret and follow the diet.
“There are a lot of other resources about IBS on the internet but information has changed over the years as research has progressed,” Dr Barrett said.
“The new FODMAP app allows us to give consumers and health professionals the most up-to-date information, based on our research.”