What Is a Sibo Diet? Everything You Need to Know

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What is a sibo diet? It’s not the latest weight loss diet fad. But it may be just as life-changing and relieving for many.

If you have a gut feeling you’re due for a lifestyle change, keep reading.

RELATED: 7 Signs Of Unhealthy Gut And How To Improve Gut Health

In this article:

What Is a Sibo Diet, and Is It for Me?

chicken fillet salad healthy food keto | what is a sibo diet

What Is Sibo?

man holding his stomach pain photo | what to eat for sibo

Sibo is short for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.

It happens when food goes through your small intestines slower than it should. With food caught in your small intestines, it may cause bacteria to grow there excessively.

Note that there are normally more gut bacteria in your large intestines, with lesser microbes in your small intestines.

And when the carbs you eat ferment in your small intestines, you might bloat or become flatulent.

Other symptoms of sibo include:

  • appetite loss
  • diarrhea
  • abdominal pain
  • nausea
  • weight loss (without effort)
  • malnutrition

So how do you stop the overgrowth?

Some research points to a low FODMAP diet.

What Is a Sibo Diet?

shakshouka eggs poached sauce tomatoes olive | foods good for sibo

Bacteria ferment carbohydrates in your intestines. So by cutting back on carbs, in theory, you could control the number of bacteria in your gut.

Essentially, without anything to ferment or feed on, you could starve the bacteria in your small intestines and ease some symptoms.

And this concept is similar to the low FODMAP diet, a low- to a no-carb elimination diet.

FODMAPS are:

  • fermentable
  • oligosaccharides
  • disaccharides
  • monosaccharides
  • polyps

These are sugars (carbs) that could irritate your digestive tract.

It’s important to note that this isn’t a cure, but it could help with symptoms alongside your treatment.

While the low FODMAP diet is more studied to treat IBS, but IBS and sibo have similar symptoms. And a low FODMAP diet also shares the goal of cutting back on carbs.

What to Eat for Sibo Diet

woman holding kebab | sibo diet

This might be the one-and-only time your dietitian recommends you stay away from some veggies.

Carbs and fiber-rich foods are known culprits for causing digestive tract irritations. So the food you will be eating during your sibo diet will be very restrictive.

Here are foods you can eat and foods to stay away from.

Foods Good for Sibo | Protein

All types of meat are safe in a sibo diet, but plant proteins are rich in fiber and may not be great for sibo.

  • chicken
  • beef
  • milk
  • pork
  • lamb
  • poultry

Foods Good for Sibo | Grains

This is one of the rare times your dietitian might ask you to kick back on whole grains—an otherwise healthful food.

Whole grains are excellent sources of carbs and fiber. During your sibo diet, be wary of whole grains like bran, fiber-rich breakfast cereals, brown rice, quinoa, and other similar foods.

Enjoy foods like:

  • bread
  • starchy foods (pasta, rice, noodles)
  • crackers

Foods Good for Sibo | Vegetables

Some vegetables make the cut, but there are vegetables that are rich in both fiber and sugar.

Avoid veggies like:

  • asparagus
  • beets
  • broccoli
  • cabbage
  • cauliflower
  • corn
  • garlic
  • green peppers
  • leeks
  • onions
  • peas
  • shallots
  • sweet potatoes

Instead, stick to these vegetables:

  • starchy vegetables (white potato, butternut squash), limit to half a cup per meal
  • non-starchy vegetables (spinach, leafy greens, carrots), limit to half a cup per meal

Avoid dairy. If you need something rich and creamy, try rice milk or lactose-free milk. Important to note that scientists aren’t in agreement as to whether milk should be restricted or not.

But as you’re investigating potential culprits for your tummy aches, and lactose in milk is usually a prime suspect, it’s worth restricting (temporarily). 

Fruit juices are deceptively packed with sugar. Quench your thirst with water, black coffee, or unsweetened tea.

Natural sweeteners are a big no, but artificial sweeteners like Equal, Sweet N’ Low, or stevia may be fine.

Fruits are subject to the approval of your doctor or a registered dietitian.

Make a habit of studying nutritional labels and food packaging, choosing foods that are unsweetened and sugar-free.

Some supplements may contain sugar or sugar alcohol. If you’re struggling with sibo, clear these with your doctor first.

Probiotics might also be a great addition to your sibo diet.

Research shows that probiotics could ease inflammation in your gut, strengthen it, and improve your gut bacteria.

RELATED: Are Your Gut Microbes Eating Away At Your Medication

How Does the Sibo Diet Work?

calendar notebook vegetables on dish diet | what to eat for sibo

An elimination diet like the sibo diet or low-FODMAP diet begins by completely eliminating all banned foods.

Print out a list of all restricted foods, and steer clear of these for a few weeks.

You may notice that your symptoms improve over time.

Slowly reintroduce one banned food one by one, and see how your body reacts to this over three days.

For example, eat an apple on day one. On days two to four, observe if your gut reacts. If it doesn’t, that food is probably cleared. If your sibo symptoms return, you may have found your culprit.

Yes, it is a manual and tedious way to build an individualized sibo diet, but it could prove beneficial in the end.

How Do I Get Started?

woman reading shopping list supermarket | foods good for sibo

An elimination diet like the sibo diet could be hard to kick off. It’s restricting and makes dining out harder.

When motivation is running low, focus on what this diet could do for you.

Keep the spotlight on the foods you can eat rather than those you have to give up (for a while). Look up recipes that you could use them on, and find ways to enjoy those.

Preparation methods and the right seasoning could also help make your food taste great.

Make a habit of reading and understanding nutritional labels. Pay careful attention to how much sugar and total carbohydrates are in your meals.

smiling doctor posing arms crossed office | sibo diet

No, the sibo diet is not an official treatment for bacterial overgrowth.

In fact, there is no sibo-specific diet as research is scarce, and there’s still so much we don’t know about sibo.

But there’s some growing research on a low-FODMAP diet and what it could do for IBS and other symptoms related to your digestive tract.

Scientists believe that cutting back on carbs could be a great adjunct to antibiotic therapy to help treat sibo.

At the same time, there are anecdotes of what this diet can do to help with your symptoms.

Check out this delicious sibo diet recipe to get you started:

The sibo diet is great for those dealing with bacterial overgrowth. It’s not a cure and cannot replace antibiotics, but it may help you manage your symptoms when done right.

Cut back on carb-rich foods that are high in fiber and sugar. Take your time with this diet, and most of all, be patient.

This is quite literally a trial-and-error type of diet but could help your gut feel better. And partnering with your doctor and dietitian on this diet could help make it more effective—and safe.

Which sugar was the main culprit of your SIBO symptoms?

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Have you tried this diet before? Did it help? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below!

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