Mediterranean Diet Shows Promise in Alleviating Irritable Bowel Symptoms

by Ella

Recent research examining the potential benefits of a Mediterranean diet for individuals with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) has revealed unexpected findings. The study, which focused on the consumption of a diet abundant in fruits, vegetables, and legumes, not only demonstrated improvements in the mental well-being of participants but also led to a reduction in gastrointestinal symptoms.

Dr. Heidi Staudacher, an Emerging Leadership Fellow at the National Health and Medical Research Council, affiliated with Deakin University’s Food & Mood Center, highlighted the conventional practice among individuals with IBS to avoid certain foods commonly found in a Mediterranean diet due to their known potential to exacerbate symptoms.


“Previously, there was a prevailing notion that foods such as legumes, specific whole grains, and onions could exacerbate gut symptoms in certain individuals,” noted Dr. Staudacher.


“However, this research suggests the possibility of a new approach to mitigating the burden of IBS symptoms without solely focusing on the elimination of foods recognized for their overall health benefits.”


Dr. Staudacher’s study, published in Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, assessed the outcomes of 59 participants over a six-week period. Participants were either counseled to follow a Mediterranean diet by a dietitian or instructed to maintain their regular diet as part of the control group.


“Our prior research has established the positive impact of the Mediterranean diet on depressive symptoms, prompting our investigation into its feasibility and potential benefits for individuals with IBS in terms of both depressive symptoms and gut health,” explained Dr. Staudacher.

“Given the well-established gut-brain connection, it is conceivable that enhancing mental well-being could translate into improvements in the gastrointestinal symptoms experienced by individuals with IBS.”

The study revealed the following key findings:

83% of participants adhering to the Mediterranean diet experienced a reduction in their IBS-SSS score (gut symptom severity score) over the course of the trial, compared to only 37% in the control group.

Depressive symptoms were notably lower among participants following the Mediterranean diet compared to those in the control group at the conclusion of the study, consistent with prior research on the Mediterranean diet’s efficacy in individuals with depression.

Surprisingly, gastrointestinal symptoms were also diminished in the Mediterranean diet group compared to the control group.

“These findings suggest the potential for exploring alternative dietary recommendations for individuals with IBS, advocating for a diet that promotes overall health to help manage their symptoms. It is imperative that we conduct larger-scale studies comparing the Mediterranean diet to a more comprehensive control diet to gain further insights into its effects on both gut and psychological symptoms,” emphasized Dr. Staudacher.

“Dietitians will play a crucial role in guiding individuals with IBS, facilitating the gradual incorporation of high-fiber and high-FODMAP foods into their diets to mitigate the risk of triggering gut symptoms.”



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