Intermittent fasting has been gaining popularity over the past few years as a tool for improving health, increasing energy, and reducing inflammation. Can it also cure SIBO in addition to all these benefits?
Let’s find out what SIBO is so we can understand how intermittent fasting tailored to one’s needs can enhance digestive health.
SIBO stands for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. When the natural balance of bacteria in the small intestine is disrupted, SIBO occurs, allowing harmful and opportunistic types of bacteria to thrive. This disruption brings about a host of uncomfortable consequences for many sufferers, such as:
- Abdominal pain,
- Unintentional weight loss,
- And malnutrition.
The diagnosis of SIBO is typically done through a breath test, which measures the levels of methane and hydrogen in the breath.
What is the relevance between SIBO and IBS?
SIBO and IBS are both conditions that can impact your gastrointestinal system and cause similar symptoms. When bacteria overgrow in the small intestine, they release hydrogen and methane gases, which can lead to symptoms like bloating, gas, and abdominal discomfort.
The underlying mechanisms of IBS still need to be fully understood. However, abnormal gut motility and altered gut bacteria are thought to play a role in its development, both of which are also seen in SIBO.
It’s important to note that not all cases of IBS are caused by SIBO, but there is a significant overlap between these two conditions.
What causes SIBO?
When digestive health is thrown off, Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) can set in. Some of the most common causes include:
- Impaired gut motility: Small intestine muscles move food through the digestive tract. If these muscles are not working properly, food can move too slowly through the small intestine, allowing bacteria to overgrow.
- Low stomach acid: Our stomach acid kills bacteria that may be present in food. In the small intestine, these bacteria can overgrow if the stomach does not produce enough acid.
- Structural abnormalities: Small intestine structural abnormalities can make it more susceptible to bacterial growth. These include conditions such as diverticulosis and strictures (narrowing of the intestine).
- Medications: The most common medications that can cause SIBO are antibiotics and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). Antibiotics can disrupt the balance of bacteria in the gut, while PPIs can reduce the amount of stomach acid, allowing bacteria to overgrow.
Radiation enteritis, scleroderma, celiac disease, and diabetes are also causes of SIBO.
SIBO diet: foods to avoid and beneficial foods
Diet can play a significant role in the development and management of SIBO. Certain foods can be a contributing factor to the development of SIBO.
These include high-carbohydrate foods, such as:
- Butternut squash,
- Flavored yogurt,
- And refined carbohydrates, which can provide an energy source for bacteria to grow.
A SIBO diet should consist of foods high in fiber and low in sugar. Carbohydrates are difficult to digest for people with SIBO. Low-carbohydrate diets, such as the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) or the Low FODMAP diet, can be helpful in managing SIBO. Some foods for a low-FODMAP diet include:
- Leafy greens,
Although diet alone may not cure SIBO, it can play a significant role in managing symptoms and improving gut health.
How does intermittent fasting affect SIBO?
For those suffering from SIBO, traditional treatments such as antimicrobials and dietary changes are known solutions. Yet there is an alternative to consider – supporting natural occurrences like the migrating motor complex (MMC).
The MMC helps clear out bacteria by sweeping down food particles in a cyclic reiteration every 90-120 minutes while fasting. This cycle of digestive rest allows the small intestine to reset & cleanse itself. It provides your body with optimal digestion health while not feeding unwanted bacteria. Normalizing the MMC could help with SIBO relapse and initial occurrence.
Intermittent fasting does not restrict your diet. It helps you determine what intervals you will eat during the day. During your fasting period, intermittent fasting helps restore gut bacteria. Moreover, intermittent fasting has many options, and you can find the one that works best for you. Finally, when eating, make sure that you follow the low FODMAP diet list.
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