Elimination of Fermentable Carbohydrates to Reduce Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Pediatric Patients With Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Narrative Review

Nutr Clin Pract. 2020 Apr;35(2):231-245. doi: 10.1002/ncp.10269. Epub 2019 Apr 1.


Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is classified as a functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorder characterized by abdominal pain, bloating, and changes in bowel function. Although the pathophysiology of IBS is incompletely understood, fermentable carbohydrates are implicated as a potential cause of symptoms. An elimination diet, such as a low-FODMAP (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols) diet, represents a potential intervention for reducing GI symptoms in patients with IBS. The role of fermentable carbohydrates in symptom onset is well studied in adult patients with IBS; however, less research exists in the pediatric population. This review sought to explore evidence for the role of dietary fermentable carbohydrate elimination to reduce GI symptoms (abdominal pain, stool changes, abdominal bloating) in children and adolescents (4-19 years of age) diagnosed with IBS based on Rome III or IV criteria. Five studies of neutral to positive quality rating were identified and analyzed using the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Evidence Analysis Process. These studies demonstrate that dietary elimination of fermentable carbohydrates, such as through a low-FODMAP diet, reduces the severity of 1 or more GI symptoms in about one-quarter to one-half of pediatric patients with IBS. Patients without improvement are considered "nonresponders" and may require an alternative intervention. More research is needed to establish the best way to identify patients who would respond to elimination diets vs other IBS treatment strategies.

Keywords: FODMAP; disaccharides; gastrointesinal disorders; irritable bowel syndrome; monosaccharides; oligosaccharides; pediatrics; polyols.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diet / methods*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / adverse effects*
  • Disaccharides / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Fermentation
  • Fermented Foods / adverse effects*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / diet therapy*
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Monosaccharides / adverse effects
  • Oligosaccharides / adverse effects
  • Young Adult


  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Disaccharides
  • Monosaccharides
  • Oligosaccharides