Eating This Diet Could ‘Significantly’ Improve Your Gut Health, Says New Study

Updated: Jun. 24, 2024

The researchers identified the exact foods you should avoid from each food group to help you experience digestive relief.

When your gut health is out of whack, it can mess up your whole day; searing stomach pain or constantly running to the bathroom will quickly ruin plans. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, 15% of people in the US experience irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a condition identified by unusual bowel movements and stomach pain, which can be especially disruptive with symptoms such as bloating, cramping, diarrhea, constipation and more.

Whether you’re dealing with IBS or just an intense stomachache, though, you’d probably do anything for a little relief—and a new study suggests promising results if you stick to a certain, gut-friendly diet.

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The study, published in the June 2024 edition of Food Science & Nutrition, followed 73 patients with IBS for four weeks to measure the effects on gut health from both probiotics and a low-FODMAP diet.

FODMAPs are fermentable short-chain carbohydrates that can increase gas production, according to the Cleveland Clinic, and they’re found in a variety of foods. The word FODMAP is an acronym for:

  • Fermentable
  • Oligosaccharides
  • Disaccharides
  • Monosaccharides
  • And
  • Polyols

Doctors may recommend low-FODMAP diets—which eliminate categories of high-FODMAP foods that could contribute to digestive symptoms and then carefully add them back until the problematic foods have been identified—for people with digestive issues such as IBS.

The patients in the June 2024 study were divided into four groups: A control group, a group that began taking probiotics, a group that ate a low-FODMAP diet, and a group that both began probiotics and ate a low-FODMAP diet.

Patients in the low-FODMAP groups were asked to limit consumption of foods high in FODMAPs, such as:

  • Dairy, including milk, goat milk, ice cream, yogurt and raw cheese
  • Legumes, including chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils and soybeans
  • Certain vegetables, including ginger, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, fennel, garlic, leek, okra, onion, green onion, chicory, dandelion, inulin, cauliflower, green pepper, mushroom and sweet corn
  • Certain fruits, including apple, mango, pear, watermelon, apricot, avocado, blackberry, cherry
  • Foods with large amounts of wheat or rye, including cereals, noodles, bread, crackers, biscuits, steamed rye flour, pasta and chrysanthemum starch
  • Sweeteners, including fructose, corn syrup, juice, honey, sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol and xylitol

Patients in the control group were asked to continue their typical diet while following some standard nutrition advice, including eating regular meals, limiting their consumption of fat, alcohol, caffeine and spicy foods, and avoiding foods that might worsen intestinal symptoms.

Patients who started taking probiotics were given a chewable tablet to consume three times a day throughout the four weeks.

Participants completed a questionnaire about their experience at two and four weeks, and a stool sample was taken after four weeks.

The researchers found that after two and four weeks, the group that ate a low-FODMAP diet, the group taking a probiotic and the group that combined both strategies all experienced “significant relief” in the severity and frequency of IBS symptoms, including bloating and abdominal pain, and improved satisfaction in their bowel movements.

In the low-FODMAP group, the researchers observed that the presence of several harmful gut bacteria “significantly decreased.” However, when probiotics were added to the low-FODMAP diet in the combined group, beneficial bacteria “significantly increased,” which the study authors linked to improved IBS symptoms.

Managing your gut health can make a huge difference in your daily life, especially if you’re struggling with IBS or similar digestive issues. As this study reveals, eating a low-FODMAP diet and incorporating probiotics could significantly improve your symptoms—so consult with your healthcare provider to create a plan tailored to your needs and start taking steps towards a healthier, happier gut.