Low Quality Evidence for IBS Dietary Therapy

A recent systematic review and meta-analysis (J Dionne et al. Am J Gastroenterol 2018; 113: 1290-1300) throws some shade on the effectiveness of dietary therapies for irritable bowel syndrome. Thanks to Ben Gold for this reference. The authors reviewed 1726 citations -only 9 were eligible for systematic review; two RCTs (n=111 participants) with gluten-free diet (GFD) and 7 RCTs (n=397) with low FODMAPs diet.

Key findings:

  • A GFD was associated with reduced global symptoms compared with control interventions (RR=0.42, CI 0.11-1.55) which was not statistically significant.  Thus, there is “insufficient evidence to recommend a GFD to reduce IBS symptoms.”
  • A low FODMAP diet was associated with reduced global symptoms compared with control interventions (RR=0.69, CI 0.54-0.88). The three RCTs with rigorous control diets found the least magnitude of effect. Thus, the overall quality of the data was “very low” according to the GRADE criteria.

Given the limited data supporting dietary therapy for IBS, the authors caution that in those who are placed on a low FODMAPs diet, that after a 2-6 week trial, those who “fail to improve should not continue the diet. ”

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