If you’ve been diagnosed with small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) you may be wondering which foods you can eat to help alleviate your SIBO symptoms while systematically healing your gut.
To understand what to eat, it’s important to understand what causes SIBO symptoms. SIBO occurs when bacteria that normally inhabit your colon migrate upward into the small intestine. Too many bacteria in the small intestine can cause a variety of symptoms in the gut and throughout the body—such as bloating, diarrhea, heartburn, belching, and constipation.
The foods you eat can have a tremendous effect on easing SIBO symptoms, and one of the most effective eating plans is a low FODMAP diet.
What is a FODMAP?
FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. Essentially, these are carbohydrates and sugars contained in the foods we eat. If you’re body doesn’t fully digest these FODMAPs, they can cause gastrointestinal distress.
So, what foods should you avoid on a low FODMAP diet?
- Fermentable Oligosaccharides. These short chain complex carbohydrates are found in fruits and grains like wheat and rye, cruciferous vegetables, artichokes, garlic, and onions. They’re also found in beans and soy.
- Disaccharides. Lactose is the most problematic disaccharide found in dairy products, such as soft cheeses, milk, yogurt, and ice cream. Lactose-free milk products, however, are low FODMAP foods, as are aged hard cheeses.
- Monosaccharides. Some people have a difficult time breaking down fructose, a monosaccharide found in some fruits, agave, high fructose corn syrup, and honey. The best low FODMAP monosaccharide containing foods are grapes, bananas, melon, grapefruit, papaya, and blueberries which can be eaten in moderation.
- Polyols are also known as sugar alcohols such as sorbitol, mannitol, or xylitol. These compounds are found in chewing gums, candies, mints, and medications. Polyols are larger compounds that are difficult to absorb in the small intestine and can create a laxative effect in the GI tract.
How Does the Low FODMAP Diet Ease SIBO Symptoms?
The low FODMAP diet originated in Australia just over a decade ago, and now it’s gaining steam as an effective diet for treating many afflictions of the gut, including SIBO symptoms. Researchers and clinicians have found that a low FODMAP diet has a 75-85 percent success rate for relieving symptoms associated with SIBO and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
The problem with high FODMAP foods is they have an irritating effect on the digestive tract. When they enter the intestines, bacterial fermentation of these foods leads to the formation of gas.
Plus, high FODMAP foods attract water when they enter the colon, causing IBS-like symptoms such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.
If you have IBS or SIBO symptoms, the key is to eliminate high FODMAP foods. This helps to reduce the potential fermentation of carbohydrates and fibers, and prevent development of gastrointestinal symptoms.
By eating low FODMAP foods, your digestive tract is less irritated and able to heal more efficiently. After six weeks, you can slowly reintroduce high FODMAP foods to see if there is a negative reaction. If symptoms return, you may not be ready for that food, or it may be a food to avoid in general.
For a full list of high and low FODMAP foods please check out IBS.Net. If you are going to try a low FODMAP diet you may want to check in with your doctor or nutritionist (dietician) for recipe ideas.
I like to remind my patients that diets should always be tailored to individual needs. For example, some people with SIBO may need to completely avoid all grains including gluten-free grains, which are allowed on a low FODMAP diet. But the low FODMAP diet is a great place to start if you do suffer from IBS and/or SIBO symptoms, and tweaks can be made along the way to maximize benefits.