7 Nov 2019

2019 CCS research highlights: Department of Gastroenterology

Low FODMAP diet enters US protocols;
Smart capsule captures gut data in humans
Monash University's Central Clinical School is at the cutting edge of medical research in national and international arenas.

We are publishing a series of our research highlights from across 2019. In this article we feature two highlights from the Department of Gastroenterology.
  • Low FODMAP diet gains US tick of approval
  • Travelling capsule provides new window into gut health

i. Low FODMAP diet gains US tick of approval

A highlight for Professor Peter Gibson, Head of the Department of Gastroenterology, has been the inclusion of the low FODMAP diet in the American College of Gastroenterology Clinical Practice Guidelines for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

 “Through our research publications, educational program and collaborations, the FODMAP diet has broken through the barriers of clinical practice in the USA by now being included in these guidelines for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome,” Professor Gibson said.

The low FODMAP diet was initially developed through the hard work of Professor Gibson and his team of researchers. It has become well known and is widely practised.

FODMAPs are a collection of short-chain carbohydrates (sugars), found naturally in many foods, that aren’t absorbed in the gut and which then trigger symptoms in people with IBS. One in seven adults suffer from the debilitating condition characterised by recurrent symptoms including lower abdominal pain and discomfort, bloating, wind, distension and altered bowel habit (ranging from diarrhoea to constipation).

The American College of Gastroenterology review was aimed at providing an updated, evidence-based document evaluating a range of IBS treatments. It found that in the randomized controlled trials surveyed, the low FODMAP diet led to adequate relief of IBS symptoms in at least half of the patients.

A swallowable capsule with a built-in
gas sensor, microprocessor and wireless
transmitter. Image: RMIT
ii. Travelling capsule provides new window into gut health

A novel swallowable capsule that can measure the concentrations of common gases (oxygen and hydrogen) as it travels along the entire gut could give valuable insights into changes occurring in our gut bacteria in health and disease.

A paper published in Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics reported that the capsule, which sends information to a smart phone, was successfully trialled in 12 healthy people.

Head of the Department of Gastroenterology Professor Peter Gibson said the capsule has potential for improving diagnostic precision for disorders such as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), a bacterial imbalance in the gut that can cause bloating, diarrhoea and pain. 

“This capsule will revolutionise our knowledge of gas production in the intestine and is likely to provide diagnostic, prognostic and monitoring potential for clinical practice,” Professor Gibson said. “It provides a window to the functioning of the microbiota in our gut and how it changes with diet.”

Intestinal gases, currently used in the diagnosis of gastrointestinal disorders, have traditionally been measured in breath samples.

The study was conducted with researchers from the School of Engineering, RMIT University, and the School of Chemical Engineering, University of New South Wales.

See our 2016 feature on the early stages of the research.

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