Millions of Americans experience SIBO at one point or another. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth occurs when bacteria that normally occupies the colon or other parts of your digestive tract grow in your small intestine instead.
Left unchecked, SIBO can lead to a wide range of symptoms and side effects, including malnutrition, diarrhea, pain, irritable bowel syndrome, and more.
Because SIBO is effectively a type of bacteria growing in the wrong spot, the best treatments involve adjusting the body’s microbiome, which is the composition of helpful or harmful bacteria that live throughout the digestive tract.
In order to treat SIBO, those with the condition must adjust their diets in order to starve certain types of bacteria in the small intestine and nourish other bacteria throughout the rest of the gastrointestinal tract.
Unfortunately, treating SIBO usually leads to side effects as well. When the bacteria in the small intestine don’t receive as many nutrients as they did before, they can release toxins leading to side effects like nausea, stomach pain, bloating, gas, constipation, and more.
For the best results, many people look into specialized SIBO diets to treat small intestine bacteria quickly and efficiently so they don’t have to deal with side effects for too long. If you want to treat SIBO as quickly as possible, you’ll want to target 10 specific foods to add to your SIBO diet ASAP.
There’s no singular SIBO diet. But there are a variety of diets that supposedly treat SIBO, especially when combined with antibiotics.
Instead, it’s best to think of your SIBO diet as a collection of foods that you target, as well as foods you avoid, in order to change your gut microbiome and eliminate harmful bacteria in the small intestine. Any good SIBO diet will reduce inflammation in your digestive tract, starve the bacteria in the small intestine, and replace those bacteria with helpful bacteria in the colon and other regions of the digestive tract.
In general, doctors recommend making dietary changes so your diet is low in FODMAPs, which are a selection of carbohydrates that are tough to digest quickly and that feed bacteria in the large intestine. During SUBO, these carbohydrates are fermented by gut bacteria that collect in the colon.
If the bacteria can’t break down, they can eventually lead to symptoms like bloating, diarrhea, and more. The bacteria can build up over time and lead to SIBO.
In this way, a low-FODMAP diet has the potential to treat SIBO, irritable bowel syndrome or IBS, and similar conditions (especially since many of the people who suffer from IBS also experience SIBO).
A SIBO diet is not exactly the same as a low FODMAP diet, but the two have so many similarities that they are often relatively interchangeable.
A low FODMAP diet will involve eliminating FODMAPs, which are comprised of the following primary sugars and similar compounds:
· Fructose, which is a simple sugar found in vegetables, agave, fruits, honey, and more. It’s the core sugar in high fructose corn syrup: the most common sweetener in American food products
· Lactose, the primary sugar molecule of dairy products like milk and cheese
· Polyols, which are sugary alcohols used as sweeteners
· Fructans, which are sugar compounds found in gluten products, vegetables, some fruits, and various prebiotic products
· Galactans, which are compounds found in certain legumes
More specifically, FODMAPs include fermentables, oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols (this is where the acronym comes from). All FODMAPs are very poorly absorbed by your small intestine and can build up over time if you eat too many of them.
A low-FODMAP diet will have you eliminate as many of these from your daily diet as possible. Given enough time, the bacteria irritating your small intestine will not have enough nutrients to reproduce or replenish themselves and will eventually be flushed from your system.
To get rid of FODMAPs, your SIBO diet will have you eliminate foods like:
· High-fructose corn syrup
· All sugary soft drinks
· Most beans
· Ice cream
· And more
For many people, it’s easier to stick with a SIBO or similar diet if they know what foods to target rather than what foods to avoid, especially since the list of foods to avoid for a low-FODMAP diet is quite long.
If you have irritable bowel syndrome, a low-FODMAP or SIBO-focused diet can also provide excellent results.
Sometimes, but not always. A paleo diet focuses on eating only the meats, fruits, and vegetables that our ancient Paleolithic ancestors would have been able to scavenge or harvest with the tools of their time.
The idea is to simplify your food intake so that you eat what your digestive system has actually evolved to take in. Therefore, most paleo diets are high in lean meats, vegetables, certain types of organic fruits, and little else. Carbs and sugars are excluded in most cases, which can help with treating SIBO (remember, SIBO is primarily caused due to the prevalence of certain carbs in your diet, which leads to the formation of unhelpful bacteria in the small intestine).
But the paleo diet does sometimes include foods that can be harmful if you are trying to treat SIBO, such as onions, cauliflower, dried fruits, and so on.
Meanwhile, the SCD or specific carbohydrate diet is a very restrictive and grain-free diet plan normally followed by those looking to overcome the symptoms of conditions like Crohn's disease, celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, and more.
This diet does allow the consumption of certain carbohydrates but bans a wide range of others. It’s not specifically useful for treating SIBO or irritable bowel syndrome, although you may find success following this diet simply because it limits the carbohydrate fuel harmful bacteria in the small intestine can use.
All in all, it’s better to focus on a SIBO-specific or low-FODMAP diet plan if you want the best results.
Any good SIBO diet plan will focus on a few key objectives:
· Preventing harmful gut bacteria from multiplying
· Reducing inflammation and irritation in the gut
· Maintaining nutritional wellness or addressing nutritional deficiencies if present
Because of these limitations, you need to plan out your SIBO diet carefully. Done incorrectly, you could accidentally prevent yourself from getting all the nutrients you need for holistic bodily health.
But when followed correctly, a SIBO diet can relieve all the associated symptoms and complications of this condition, like cramping, diarrhea, weight loss, nausea, and more.
Your SIBO diet plan will have you avoid any high-FODMAP foods during a so-called “elimination phase”. At the end of the elimination phase, you’ll introduce each FODMAP food type back into your diet individually. This will allow you to identify which FODMAP(s) specifically cause your SIBO symptoms.
The elimination phase should last between two and eight weeks. Your symptoms should significantly decrease during this timeframe.
Over the next phase – the reintroduction face – you should pick one FODMAP to reintroduce to your diet using targeted food sources. Then track your symptoms and see if your SIBO condition resurfaces over the next few days.
It’s important to only maintain a SIBO diet temporarily, oscillating between the elimination and reintroduction phases, as many FODMAP foods are highly beneficial and nutritious.
To take care of SIBO over the long-term, you’ll want to narrow down the actual problematic foods in your diet, eliminate those, then keep everything else.
Now that you know how to put together a SIBO diet plan, we can discuss 10 top foods you should target during your elimination diet. These foods will allow you to maintain a delicious meal plan and make tasty dishes without exacerbating your SIBO symptoms, plus ensure that you maintain a nutritionally complete dietary profile.
Probiotics are an obvious choice. As their name suggests, probiotics are beneficial bacteria that collect in your gut microbiome and help your digestive system to function properly. As probiotics build up in your system, harmful bacteria – like the kind that can bother your small intestine – will have less room to grow and will gradually be pushed out by your body.
However, under a SIBO diet, you’ll need to be careful to only take certain probiotic foods. For example, you’ll want to avoid probiotic dairy products like yogurt.
Instead, it may be beneficial to look into a probiotic supplement for the duration of your SIBO diet. This allows you to benefit from the bolstering effects of healthy probiotics without accidentally making your SIBO symptoms worse.
Most types of meat should be okay during a SIBO diet. These include lean meats like chicken and red meats like beef, although red meat, in general, should be limited to maximize your health and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Fish are another excellent source of protein when following the SIBO diet, especially since they are low in carbohydrates. More crucially, fish (especially fatty fish like salmon and mackerel) are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are crucial compounds your body needs to survive.
Clearly, the SIBO diet doesn’t lack for protein. Eggs are well known as a kind of superfood: the perfect breakfast staple that provides you with protein and energy for the duration of your day. Eggs are also relatively filling when combined with vegetables, so they can make a great SIBO diet cornerstone to prevent you from overheating or snacking over the rest of your day.
Many of us love dairy products because of their flavor or because of the major role they play in our staple recipes. You don't have to give up on dairy-derived dishes entirely if you follow the SIBO diet.
Instead, target lactose-free dairy products, including lactose-free milk and yogurt. You can instead use alternatives like oat milk and soy milk if you want to eat something with your oatmeal or cereal (although cereal, in general, should be avoided due to its heavy carbohydrate concentration).
Lactose-free dairy products can also help you to keep most of your favorite recipes with overall minor adjustments, at least until the reintroduction phase of your diet plan.
Quinoa is a phenomenal alternative to white rice, which can exacerbate SIBO symptoms and is overall not as nutritious as other rice species like wild rice or brown rice. Quinoa provides extra nutritional benefits and goes well with most classic rice dishes. It’s a perfect replacement for white rice, both during your SIBO diet and afterward if you want to be healthier.
Many SIBO and low-FODMAP diets prioritize the consumption of leafy green vegetables for two reasons: vitamins and fiber.
The vitamins and leafy green vegetables, as well as many minerals like magnesium and calcium, are phenomenal for overall bodily health and wellness. More importantly, the fiber contained in leafy green vegetables like broccoli and spinach is important for overall intestinal health.
Eat enough fiber and the bacteria in your small intestine will likely be phased out of your body more quickly than it would otherwise.
Lentils are types of legumes that service fantastic replacements for beans, many of which are excluded from SIBO or low-FODMAP diets. You can add legumes to a variety of dishes and enjoy their rich flavor and high protein content without having to adjust your recipes all that much.
Most SIBO diets will allow you to eat a variety of fruits, which can be useful when you are hankering for a snack or as a dessert replacement in place of ice cream or chocolate. Fruits you should target include strawberries, blueberries, oranges, and grapes, all of which have high vitamin contents and some other minerals that are helpful for bodily health. You can drink fruit juices from these fruit types for a tasty beverage, too.
Veggies like zucchini, artichokes, and green beans can all contribute to gut health, overall bodily wellness, and are excellent additions to any SIBO treatment.
Lastly, consider adding oatmeal to your daily diet when following the SIBO diet plan above. Oatmeal is incredibly healthy, especially for your heart, and is a great breakfast staple without having a ton of hard-to-digest carbohydrates like many other breakfast cereals and other foods.
Furthermore, oatmeal can easily be combined with the dairy-free alternatives mentioned above, like oat milk or soy milk, or even mixed with some of the fruits mentioned above.
If some of the above 10 food choices don’t agree with your system, or if you are allergic to one or more of the picks, speak to your doctor about customizing a SIBO diet perfect for your needs. They should be able to recommend low-FODMAP foods that can still help you narrow down which carbs are causing your SIBO symptoms.
As you can see, the SIBO diet – while restrictive to an extent – does not prevent you from making delicious meals or from enjoying your day-to-day life while following it. In fact, once you see everything that you can eat safely, you should be able to maintain your SIBO diet for the weeks and months necessary it might be too narrow down the FODMAPs causing your small intestine irritation in the first place.
When done correctly, a SIBO diet can almost entirely eliminate the symptoms of SIBO. However, it’s also a good idea to speak to your doctor about antibiotic prescriptions.
Antibiotics and other antimicrobial treatments can directly attack the bacteria in your small intestine and alleviate the symptoms of SIBO faster. That being said, it might still be worthwhile to follow the SIBO diet after taking care of your current SIBO symptoms.
Without alleviating the primary cause of SIBO in the first place, you’ll just have to take antibiotics again at a later date. As any doctor or dietitian will tell you, repeated antibiotic use is not recommended, as overexposure to antibiotics can actually harm the helpful probiotics in your gut microbiome.