Study finds the common occurrence of endometriosis in women with IBS, and the impact of diet in relieving symptoms

A low FODMAP diet can help relieve symptoms for women suffering from both irritable bowel syndrome and endometriosis, according to new research using data from a specialised clinic in Christchurch

Over 70% of these women had improved symptoms after a month on the diet, which is low in certain sugars and carbohydrates, compared to 50% of women with irritable bowel syndrome alone.

This was also the first study to note the common occurrence of endometriosis (36%) in women with IBS.

Women with endometriosis are often misdiagnosed with IBS for some time before a correct diagnosis is made. Visceral hypersensitivity is a key feature in both conditions.

Researchers collected data from women attending a specialist IBS service in Christchurch, New Zealand. Data from those who met Rome III criteria for IBS were sorted into two groups: concurrent endometriosis and those with IBS alone.

Demographics and symptom patterns were identified from a prospective questionnaire. A low FODMAP (fermentable oligosaccharides disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols) diet was taught to all women as the primary therapeutic intervention, and responses to the diet were noted against their ultimate disposition.

Of the 160 women who met Rome III criteria for IBS, 36% had concurrent endometriosis. The presence of dyspareunia, referred pain, bowel symptoms exacerbated by menstruation and a family history of endometriosis were associated with concurrent endometriosis.

Seventy two percent of these women reported a greater than 50% improvement in bowel symptoms after four weeks of a low FODMAP diet compared with 49% in those with no known endometriosis.

The researchers concluded that a low FODMAP diet appears effective in women with gut symptoms and endometriosis.