Galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) are dietary FODMAPs (fermentable carbohydrates) associated with triggering gastrointestinal symptoms in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial aimed to assess whether oral α-galactosidase co-ingestion with foods high in GOS and low in other FODMAPs would reduce symptoms.
Patients meeting the Rome III criteria for IBS who were hydrogen-producers on breath testing were recruited. Participants were treated with full-dose (300 GALU (galactosidic units) α-galactosidase) and half-dose enzyme (150 GALU α-galactosidase), and placebo (glucose) in a random order with ≤14 days washout between arms. Following a 3-day low FODMAP run-in period, participants consumed provided diets high in GOS for a further 3-days. Gastrointestinal symptoms were measured daily using a 100 mm visual-analogue-scale, and breath samples taken hourly on the second last day with hydrogen content analysed as area-under-the-curve.
Thirty-one patients with IBS (20 IBS-D, 4 IBS-C, 7 IBS-M) completed the study. The addition of high GOS foods resulted in a significant increase in overall symptoms with 21 patients exhibiting GOS-sensitivity (>10 mm increase for overall symptoms). Of those, full-dose enzyme reduced overall symptoms (median 24. 5(IQR 17.5–35.8) vs. 5.5(1.5–15.0) mm;P=0.006) and bloating (20.5(9.5–42.0) vs. 6.5(2.0–15.8);P=0.017). Breath hydrogen production was minimal with no differences seen between placebo and full-dose (P=0.597).
Oral α-galactosidase taken with high GOS foods provides a clinically significant reduction in symptoms in GOS-sensitive individuals with IBS. This strategy can be translated into practice to improve tolerance to high GOS foods as an adjunct therapy to the low FODMAP diet.