An interesting phenomenon exists in the history of digestive health discoveries which parallels a more recent discovery in the field of nutrition and specifically its impact on digestive health issues such as IBS.
This phenomenon is what could be termed: “The Ten-Year Rule”. Let me explain.
In 1982 two Australian physicians, Barry Marshall and Robin Warren discovered that an organism – now known as Helicobacter pylori (or H. pylori for short) – was responsible for chronic gastritis, gastric and duodenal ulcers, and linked to the development of stomach cancer. At the time it was a controversial paradigm-changing idea that was dismissed and ridiculed. However, as it turned out it was a monumental discovery, subsequently rewarded by Nobel Prizes for Medicine for them both.
It took about ten years for their discovery to be accepted by the gastroenterology and medical community globally. Ultimately it spurred a massive amount of research that has fundamentally changed people’s lives.
Louis Pasteur noted back in 1854 that “chance favors only the prepared mind” – that is, the relationship between the hard work that precedes discovery and the discovery itself. Many others have observed the relation in the sciences between ten-years of hard work and then subsequent discovery that provides a breakthrough.
The parallel alluded to earlier is that in 2005, two Australian collaborators – one a Gastroenterology Professor (Peter Gibson, MD), the other a Dietician (Sue Shepherd, PhD) – published the first of many papers that laid the groundwork for their subsequent elaboration of the role that poorly absorbed sugars called FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-Saccharides and Polyols), common in the Western diet, may play in triggering symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
Although there are others who laid the groundwork, noting the relationship between various different non-absorbable carbohydrates and their effects on the gut, the Gibson-Shepherd team have formed a cohesive theory and given a name to a fundamental paradigm-shifting idea.
In 2015, ten years later, the paradigm-shift has begun as more and more people see the inherent wisdom behind the idea that these non-absorbable carbohydrates (my later posts will cover a fuller discussion on what FODMAPs are) are fermented in the colon and produce undesirable and painful symptoms in many people.
As a result, we are just now reaching a point in time of consensus on the value of a low FODMAP approach for folks with IBS – and, by extrapolation, also the value to others with digestive issues not necessarily carrying a formal diagnosis.
Look for my next blog post on how a diet with a low FODMAP strategy helps with IBS.
Remember, you are what you eat!
Warmly, Dr. Viv