“SIBO Recipe & Diet Guide” was written by soon-to-be-Registered Dietitian Samantha Kane and edited by Angela Lago, MS, RD, LDN.
If you suffer from SIBO, you know it can be pretty confusing to navigate which diet is best to follow. I know this first hand through my own personal diagnosis with SIBO.
To save you the time, trouble, and frustration that I went through, I created this SIBO recipe and diet guide to help you decide what’s best for you and your SIBO healing journey!
Table of Contents
SIBO (pronounced “SEE”-Bo) stands for “small intestinal bacterial overgrowth”. I know, it sounds pretty disturbing, right?
Talk about bacteria in the gut, or the microbiome, is all the rage these days, especially as it pertains to beneficial probiotics. It’s true, microbes are definitely beneficial for your health. However, it’s important to know that the bacteria is only helpful when it stays in the correct location.
Bacteria in the colon, or large intestine, is an essential part of our health. These bacteria help us digest our food, absorb nutrients, keep bowel movements regular, and even go as far as to reduce inflammation.
Where issues arise is when the bacteria ascend to the small intestine, where they don’t belong. In a healthy gut, there should be minimal amounts of microbial growth in the small intestine. For people with SIBO, there is too much bacteria where it shouldn’t be!
Here’s the interesting part. The number of SIBO diagnoses is rapidly on the rise. But we must ask ourselves, “Is it because more people have SIBO than ever before or are we more proficient at looking for a SIBO diagnosis now?”
Let me elaborate on this. Preliminary research is showing that up to 80% of people with an Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) diagnosis actually have SIBO.
You may be asking, “How do I know if I have SIBO?” Let’s dive into the nitty gritty details on how to know if you have SIBO and the different SIBO recipes and diets you can try to improve it.
As always, it is best to consult with a physician or registered dietitian to ensure you are in fact receiving the appropriate nutrients your body needs to thrive.
Types of SIBO and Associated Symptoms
SIBO comes in three forms: methane dominant, hydrogen dominant, and hydrogen sulfide dominant. Each type is classified by differing symptoms and differentiated by the type of gas emitted. These gasses are produced by the bacteria or fungi that is residing inside your body.
Hydrogen sulfide is relatively new and a bit unpredictable with symptoms and testing. For the purpose of this post, we will focus on the two more common forms: methane SIBO and hydrogen SIBO.
Individuals with Methane SIBO are prone to constipation and may suffer from severe bloating and stomach distention.The methane form comes from a fungal overgrowth rather than from bacteria. The fungi in the small intestine emit methane gas.
To make things a bit more complicated, the fungi also feed off of the hydrogen producing bacteria, which is why people with methane production typically have both methane and hydrogen SIBO at one point or the other.
The hydrogen bacteria is usually revealed once the fungal overgrowth has been eliminated.
Hydrogen SIBO is generally characterized by diarrhea and may also cause severe bloating and stomach distention shortly after eating.
Individuals with Hydrogen SIBO often complain of the need to rush to the bathroom within hours of food consumption. Sometimes this occurs multiple times per day.
To make matters even worse, sometimes individuals with Hydrogen SIBO may exhibit nutrient deficiencies since food content is passed too quickly to allow nutrient absorption.
Testing for SIBO
Incase you are wondering, SIBO is not something that can be diagnosed by symptoms alone. A hydrogen and methane breath test is typically used to officially diagnose SIBO.
Preparing for a SIBO Breath Test
While a breath test may sound quite complex, don’t fret! You simply eat low-residue, bland foods the day before; like white rice, chicken with no seasoning, and lots of water!
The day of the test you breathe into a tube over the course of several hours. The results yield measured changes in gas levels. Anything above a standardized threshold signals SIBO bacteria and/or fungi is present in the small intestine.
How Do You Get SIBO?
You must be wondering, “How do you even get SIBO in the first place?”. There are many life events as well as physical conditions that can lead to SIBO. Below we will dive into some of the most common reasons for getting SIBO.
Stress reduces gastric secretions like stomach acid. This is critical because stomach acid helps digest foods and kills unwanted pathogens. With inadequate supply, bacteria can multiply rapidly.
Overuse of PPIs
PPIs, or proton pump inhibitors, such as TUMS and Nexium work to reduce stomach acid. Excessive use of PPIs creates a vicious cycle which leads to a long-term reduction of gastric secretions, forming the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and fungi.
Food poisoning can lead to SIBO by damaging the ileocecal valve that connects the last portion of the small intestine to the first portion of the large intestine. It is essentially a muscular flap that separates the two organs.
The damage occurs when this flap no longer remains shut appropriately. This allows for bacteria to back flow from the colon into the small intestine.
Severe Stomach Bug
Repeated episodes of vomiting or severe diarrhea can damage the nerves that coordinate regular bowel movements and overall gut motility. This gives bacteria more time to breed and grow in the small intestine, leading to SIBO.
Can You Recover From SIBO?
Fortunately, Yes, you can recover from SIBO! But, it is important to get to the root cause so you can appropriately manage the best treatment option for you.
The best way to keep SIBO away is to eat a diet filled with nourishing foods, such as a variety of vegetables, probiotic rich foods, and good sources of protein.
Additionally, a high fiber will keep bowel movements regular and prevent bad bacteria from rebuilding in places they are not welcomed!
SIBO Recipes and Diet Types
If you’ve never heard of SIBO, it may be for good reason. SIBO research is relatively new, which also means the treatment options are even newer. It is a dynamic work in progress that is constantly evolving.
To date, this has yielded some polarizing opinions within the medical and nutrition community for the best ways to treat symptoms.
I have outlined different solutions that you can mix-and-match depending on what suits your lifestyle best! These diets typically need to be combined with other medication or antimicrobials in order to resolve symptoms for the long-term. A temporary band-aid should not be your end-goal.
Low FODMAP Diet
One of the more popular diets to follow for SIBO is the Low FODMAP diet. The acronym FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligo-Di and Mono saccharides And Polyols.
A Low FODMAP diet requires removal of dietary fibers and sugars that are challenging to digest. FODMAP foods have a higher tendency to cause constipation, diarrhea, and pesky bloat.
Following a Low FODMAP diet gives your body a break from attempting to digest these fibers and sugars. The key here is that it should only be temporary.
Where individuals get into trouble is when they try to stay on this diet longer than 6 weeks. This is important because Low FODMAP diets can be very restrictive, which may cause further exacerbate of SIBO symptoms.
- FeedMePhoebe is an excellent blog that provides a plethora of Low-FODMAP dishes that will make this restrictive diet more bearable.
- SIBO Survivor has an E-cookbook with beautiful recipes, many of which are Low FODMAP. The authors personal journey is inspiring and will encourage you to stay hopeful and persistent!
- FunWithoutFODMAPS is exactly what it sounds like! It includes exciting recipes and ingredient replacements so you don’t feel deprived when following a FODMAP diet.
The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD)
Another popular diet theorizes that particular types of carbohydrates promote inflammation. In turn this increases the number of “bad” gut bacteria in the gut. The goal of this diet is to help your medication “starve” the bad bacteria in the small intestine, while the good bacteria have the chance to recover and re-populate.
Just like the Low FODMAP diet, I must emphasize this is a very temporary solution as the diet is restrictive and can deprive the body of essential nutrients for the long-term. It ultimately emphasizes a drastic decrease in eating both simple and complex carbohydrates.
- Elanas Pantry has SCD compliant recipes that will help you not feel deprived as you embark on this SIBO recipe and diet journey! Her statement pieces like this cashew-based bread help reduce the carbohydrates ingested in one sitting.
- Every Last Bite is a miracle in the form of a website. It clearly labels which recipes are SCD friendly, but also includes plant-based recipes for vegans and vegetarians.
- SIBO Made Simple is great for people who love to cook and don’t want to lose that ability when following an SCD diet. Phoebe has recipe-tested flawlessly on your behalf.
Rest and Digest Approach
Doesn’t this just sound like such a pleasing SIBO diet to follow? I’m sure you’ll be happy to hear that vegetable and protein packed smoothies are excellent ways to get some much needed nutrients while managing symptoms.
With this SIBO diet regimen, the tough-to-digest fibers typically found in vegetables are already broken down for you in smoothie form. Additionally, any proteins that need extra help being broken down with stomach acid are also already ground up!
Say hello to a mini vacation for your gut! While again not a long-term solution, adding smoothies to replace one meal per day can be helpful.
Pro Tip: I recommend crafting smoothies that contain a lot of fiber and protein to help keep you stay satisfied. You can achieve this by including protein, fat, fiber, and greens (or non-starchy veggies) in your gut healthy smoothies!
*Items marked with an asterisk are affiliate links. If you purchase through this link, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Use code 32844 for $10 off Amare Global products*
These guidelines may also be helpful and provide some unique ideas for your next gut healthy smoothie:
- Protein: Protein powders like collagen, beef based, and/or *plant-based
- Fat: Avocado, chia seeds, flax seeds, any and all nuts or seeds
- Greens or Non-starchy veggie: spinach, riced cauliflower, cucumber
- Fiber: Chia and flax can double-dip into this category as well, as can starchy carbs like bananas, pumpkin, and fruit!
Adding natural spices like cinnamon or unsweetened cocoa powder also creates wonderful flavors and aromas that are too mouth watering to resist!
Emphasis on Blood Sugar
Blood sugar or glucose, in simplified terms, is the energy we get from food. Glucose enters your bloodstream, and then our cells scoop it up using a carrier hormone called insulin.
It’s important to know that large fluctuations in blood sugar can cause stress on the body and our cells. Stress, as discussed previously, exacerbates SIBO.
To achieve a stabilized blood sugar it is best to pair protein and fiber together for the majority of all meals and snacks. And most importantly, avoid “naked” carbohydrates; carbs without a protein, fiber, or fat to compensate for the “glucose rush”.
Some simple, but effective blood sugar pairing ideas include:
- High fiber crackers with hummus, peppers, and cucumber sticks
- 2 boiled eggs with sliced peppers and chickpeas
- Canned tuna with cucumber slices on sourdough bread
- Plain greek yogurt with berries and high-fiber oat bran or shredded wheat
Below I’ve listed several blogs written by Registered Dietitians that include nourishing and blood-sugar balancing recipes. These professionals take on a more inclusive dietary approach rather than an elimination strategy. The endgame is to strengthen the gut and improve fiber tolerance.
- The Gut Health Doctor has an emphasis on a gorgeous selection of soulful recipes that promote balanced meals with plant-diversity.
- Ayten is a gut health dietitian trained in Low FODMAP, IBS, and SIBO recipes. She features fun and balanced recipes.
- DrHeatherFinley has personal experience with bloat and constipation, and her empathy shines through in her recipes, blog, and cook book. Whatever was lacking in digestion is made up for in recipe development. You’ll want to make everything she shares!
A Personalized Hybrid
This SIBO recipe & diet guide provides information that may work for you at different points throughout your SIBO treatment. The key concept is to take a pause and listen to your body and symptoms.
I understand this is easier said than done, as you’ve probably spent months, maybe years, trying to ignore symptoms and just get by.
Pro Tip: These diets can be combined as needed to meet your needs.
To provide a little more clarity on what I mean by that, focusing on blood sugar control does not have to be independent of following a Low FODMAP diet. You can balance carbs and proteins while sticking with the Low FODMAP vegetables and fruits.
You can also add in smoothies on days where your gut feels extra sensitive, without going full force into a smoothie-based diet.
If this all feels too overwhelming, just start slow with one change at a time. Atomic Habits is a fantastic read that shows you how to build habits and knowledge sustainably so you can successfully follow through with your goals. This is a personal favorite self-help book!
My Favorite SIBO Recipe
This recipe was my favorite go-to when I was treating my SIBO symptoms for several reasons. First, the blended food was a more gentle and forgiving way to start my day. I was also still able to “eat” nutritious vegetables minus the pain.
As hard as it is to admit sometimes, individuals that have trouble digesting fiber are usually the ones who need it the most! Starting my day intentionally and with purpose set a powerful tone for the rest of my day when I was healing from SIBO. I hope you enjoy this SIBO smoothie as much as I did!
Creamy Pumpkin Protein Smoothie
- High-Speed Blender
- Measuring Cups
- Measuring Spoons
- 1/3 Cup Pumpkin Puree
- 1/2 Cup Riced Cauliflower frozen
- 1/4 Cup Spinach frozen
- 2 Tbsp Cashews raw
- 2 Dates pitted
- 2 Scoops Vital Proteins Beef Collagen
- 1.5 Cups Soy Milk unsweetened
- 1 Dash Pumpkin Pie Spice or Cinnamon
- Place all ingredients in a high speed blender.
- Blend until smooth.
In closing, SIBO studies are ever-evolving. This is good news because it means SIBO is a focus of research and medical communities alike. As studies change, so will the dietary approaches.
For now, practicing patience, kindness with yourself, and persistence is critical to feeling your best. You can expect some trial and error with the differing diets. In the long run, your body will definitely thank you!
Finding the right gut health dietitian to work with may also help make this process less scary and overwhelming. Working with a professional can help you evaluate the best SIBO recipes and diet for you!
If you try this recipe, please share a photo on Instagram and tag @eatloveguthealth!
The purpose of this information is to inform and empower the reader to make positive lifestyle changes. The intent is not to replace medical advice or instructions given by your doctor or healthcare provider.
Angela Lago is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and holds a Master’s of Science in Nutrition. She is passionate about researching the connection between gut health and mental wellness. Learn more about Angela’s journey from being depressed, anxious, and sleep deprived to being happy, healthy, and thriving!