Answer to Irritable Bowel Syndrome 'spelt' out

One in seven Australians suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, but a new app and certification scheme launched by Monash University will help them find foods they can comfortably eat - and the ancient grain spelt appears to be part of the solution.

The Monash University Low FODMAP Certification Program certifies foods that are low in a group of carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed in the digestive system - Fermentable, Oligo-saccharides, Di-saccharides, Mono-saccharides  And Polyols (FODMAPs).

A low FODMAP diet can relieve symptoms in at least 75 per cent of IBS sufferers, according to research by Dr Jane Muir at Monash's Department of Gastroenterology. Those symptoms include abdominal pain, mucus in the stool, and alternating diarrhoea and constipation.

"This program will make it easier for IBS sufferers to identify low FODMAP food choices on the supermarket shelves," Dr Muir said.

"It will also assure IBS sufferers, that products displaying the certification stamp, are both nutritious and low in FODMAPs."

A smartphone app also developed by Dr Muir's team allows users to identify low FODMAP foods whether they're certified or not. The Monash University Low FODMAP Diet app uses a traffic light system showing foods that IBS sufferers should avoid in red and safe foods in green.

The app has reached number one in the medical category in the App Store in Australia and 41 other countries. Monash plans to release multiple language versions integrating local foods from a numerous countries later this year.

Monash has tested hundreds of foods and identified groups high in FODMAPs, such as wheat, rye, onions and garlic. While testing different breads, researchers discovered that spelt - an ancient form of wheat - was lower in FODMAPs than its modern relative.

Researchers have collaborated with the food industry to bake breads using 'speltα', a special flour developed by Weston Milling. The sourdough fermentation process also ensures the bread remained low in FODMAPs.

Bodhi's Bakehouse, Morpeth Sourdough and Naturis Organics Breads are the first food businesses to have products certified under the new program. Their low-FODMAP breads will be available from selected bakeries in various parts of Australia.

"There is growing awareness among both health professionals and the public, of the critical role that a low FODMAP diet plays in managing IBS symptoms", Dr Muir said.

"By collaborating with the food industry, Monash is able to bring scientific research to life in a practical way.

"We expect there will be many more products displaying the stamp over the coming months," Dr Muir added.

A list of certified Low FODMAP brands and products and more information on becoming a Certified Partner is available here:

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Important note: A low FODMAP diet should be trialled under the guidance of an experienced dietitian, for a period of 2-6 weeks. After this time, the dietitian will recommend which, and how much FODMAP containing food can be re-introduced into the diet. It is not appropriate for healthy individuals with  no gastrointestinal disorders to follow a strict low FODMAP diet.