Background: Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and functional digestive tract disorders, e.g. functional bloating, carbohydrate maldigestion and intolerances, are very common disorders frequently causing significant symptoms that challenge health care systems. A low Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols (FODMAP) diet is one of the possible therapeutic approaches for decreasing abdominal symptoms and improving quality of life.
Objectives: We aimed to meta-analyze data on the therapeutic effect of a low-FODMAP diet on symptoms of IBS and quality of life and compare its effectiveness to a regular, standard IBS diet with high FODMAP content, using a common scoring system, the IBS Symptom Severity Score (IBS-SSS).
Methods: A systematic literature search was conducted in PubMed, EMBASE and the Cochrane Library as well as in the references in a recent meta-analysis. Adult patients diagnosed with IBS according to the Rome II, Rome III, Rome IV or NICE criteria were included in the analysis.
Statistical methods: Mean differences with 95% confidence intervals were calculated from studies that contained means, standard deviation (SD) or mean differences and SD of differences and p-values. A random effect model was used because of the heterogeneity (Q test (χ2) and I2 indicator). A p-value of less than 0.05 was chosen to indicate a significant difference.
Results: The literature search yielded 902 publications, but only 10 were eligible for our meta-analysis. Both regular and low-FODMAP diets proved to be effective in IBS, but post-diet IBS-SSS values were significantly lower (p = 0.002) in the low-FODMAP group. The low-FODMAP diet showed a correlation with the improvement of general symptoms (by IBS-SSS) in patients with IBS.
Conclusions: This meta-analysis provides high-grade evidence of an improved general symptom score among patients with irritable bowel syndrome who have maintained a low-FODMAP diet compared to those on a traditional IBS diet, therefore showing its superiority to regular IBS dietary therapy. These data suggest that a low-FODMAP diet with dietitian control can be a candidate for first-line therapeutic modality in IBS. Because of a lack of data, well-planned randomized controlled studies are needed to ascertain the correlation between improvement of separate key IBS symptoms and the effect of a low-FODMAP diet.