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Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) can occur after abdominal surgery, diabetes, due to related conditions such as Crohn’s disease, and has even been linked to Lyme disease. 

While gut bacteria are crucial in the breakdown of food, play a role in regulating your mood, thoughts, and feelings, and even outnumber your body’s own cells, the vast majority of healthy gut bacteria develop and thrive in the large intestine (colon). Those affected by SIBO experience an outbreak of potentially harmful bacteria in the small intestine, where stagnant food cause these bacteria to multiply and release toxins that trigger bloating, diarrhea, and other symptoms of digestive discomfort. 

Are you currently struggling with bloating and digestive discomfort? Discover how a SIBO diet plan can help alleviate your symptoms by reducing bacterial overgrowth in your small intestine. Here’s what you should know about SIBO diet plans.

What is a SIBO Diet Plan?

Researchers believe that small intestinal bacterial overgrowth is exacerbated by foods that take longer to pass through the small intestine and are more likely to be broken down into harmful byproducts by a legion of bacteria. Dietary plans are often part of a larger treatment plan for SIBO symptoms, alongside courses of antibiotic medication, to reduce bacterial populations in the small intestine. 

There are different SIBO diet plans recommended by specialists, dietitians, and doctors, although most can be broken down into two types: elimination diets and elemental diets. 

Elimination diets, or low fermentation diets, try to either slowly eliminate different foods from a person’s diet until symptoms improve – thus identifying food items that affect the symptoms the most – or radically cut out all potential foods linked to an increase in fermentation and bacterial growth, before slowly reintroducing them to discover the most likely culprits. Elimination diets or low fermentation diets aren’t a forever solution to SIBO – instead, they’re usually planned over a specific period – usually about two months – to give the body time to recover and respond to the treatment. 

Elemental diets are also supplementary to a SIBO treatment plan, providing the most basic daily nutritional needs through a liquid diet – usually in the form of a powder mixed with water – containing essential amino acids, glucose, fat, vitamins, and minerals. Elemental diets are more radical, since solid food is completely taken out of the equation, but they may be helpful in cases where any solid food passing through the small intestine causes great discomfort. Because the diet is entirely liquid and no additional flavoring is used, it can be very hard to follow without professional and family support. 

Why bother treating SIBO at all? Aside from physical discomfort, which can greatly reduce quality of life and often becomes chronic without a serious medical intervention, SIBO also reduces the absorption of essential nutrients through regular food, which can trigger malnutrition and open the floodgates to a whole host of other health problems, which range from mild to life-threatening. 

Will a SIBO diet end my symptoms? Not necessarily on its own. SIBO diets alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life – during treatment. It’s still recommended to see a specialist to address the root causes of your issue, such as Lyme disease, and potentially combine a dietary plan with medication to further reduce the bacteria in your small intestine, rather than taking on your gastrointestinal problems on your own.

 

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Low Fermentation Diet

Low fermentation diets mostly focus on eliminating FODMAPs. These are types of carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed by the small intestine, meaning they provide more food for bacteria to grow. While carbohydrates (carbs) cover all “sugars”, there are many kinds of carbohydrates differing in their chemical makeup and structure. FODMAPs refer to fermentable oligo-, di-, and mono-saccharides and polyols. These are short-chain carbs that are resistant to digestion, and thus, more fermentable. 

A low FODMAP diet is often used in the management of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), often to great success, and even as a first-line therapeutic modality according to a meta-analysis of existing data. The idea is simple – reduce the amount of carbohydrates available to bacteria in the small intestine, either sending them into a dormant state or reducing their total activity before or during intensive treatment. 

FODMAP foods unfortunately include quite a large variety of fruits and vegetables. This means you will have to be a pickier eater, and your cooking options may be limited. However, do note that successful treatment means you can eventually return to a whole and balanced diet. 

FODMAPs include fructose (found in most fruits), lactose (found in dairy), fructans (found in many grains), galactans (found in legumes), and polyols (found in most sweeteners and some fruits). In general, you should avoid: 

  • Fruits high in fructose
  • Sweeteners, including honey, molasses, agave syrup, and artificial sweeteners. 
  • Gourds and squashes, onions, garlic, and shallots, artichokes, many cruciferous vegetables (except kale and bok choy), fennel, and mushrooms. 
  • All dairy products and dairy-derived products, such as whey powder. 
  • Legumes (most beans). 
  • Wheat, amaranth, barley, and rye products. 
  • Kombucha, fruit juices, wines, oat and oat milk, rum, and drinks containing fructose.  

You can eat: 

  • Meat, fish, eggs. 
  • Nuts and seeds except pistachios, cashews, and almonds. 
  • Low-fructose fruits, such as oranges, grapefruit, cantaloupe and other melons except watermelons, and strawberries. 
  • Kale, spinach, and bok choy, as well as most kinds of lettuce. 
  • Green beans. 
  • Chives. 
  • Potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, radishes, and yams. 
  • Tomatoes. 
  • Corn (but not corn-derived fructose syrup). 
  • Rice. 
  • Quinoa. 
  • Tapioca. 
  • Any sources of fat. 
  • Maple syrup and stevia. 
  • Lactose-free dairy and aged or hard cheeses. 
  • Coffee and tea (green, black, or white, but not herbal infusions with fennel or chamomile). 

Elemental Diet

An elemental diet reduces a person’s intake to a nutrient-rich liquid diet, consisting of a bland drink containing about 300 calories per serving. The makeup and source of these drinks differ from provider to provider, and these types of drinks are often also used in the treatment of diabetes or other intestinal health conditions. 

Elemental diets are difficult to follow, and there isn’t much data available on their effectiveness due to low sample sizes. But in practice, they have helped people who might not have other options for nutrition during the treatment of a chronic gut condition, such as SIBO. 

It’s best to opt for an elemental diet with the support and help of your family, and your medical provider. 

Conclusion

A SIBO diet plan is essential for managing symptoms of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth by limiting fermentable carbohydrates, and as a result, controlling harmful bacterial growth. While low fermentation and elemental diets offer effective strategies, combining dietary changes with a targeted medical treatment that combats the root cause of your intestinal issues is key. 

It’s important to consult a respective specialist for your underlying condition. Consider traveling outside the United States, Canada, and the UK to Mexico to meet with a top clinic, Lyme Mexico.

Lyme Mexico Clinic can meet all your diagnostic and treatment needs. We can discuss your symptoms and the alternative treatment options that work.

 

sibo diet - Lyme Mexico

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