As a nutritionist who just put out the book, The SIBO Diet Plan, one might guess I’m a stickler for people staying on a strict SIBO diet. However, one of my favorite phrases is, “The diet works for you, you don’t work for the diet.” This means that if a strict SIBO diet is helping limit your symptoms and sets the stage for greater healing, then yes, by all means, follow the SIBO diet that is helping you.
If, on the other hand, you experience some of the issues listed below, it’s may be time to reevaluate and revamp your diet.
Reason #1 – You Keep “Cheating”: When someone tells me they’re “cheating” then something is off with their diet. Either there is too much restriction and they don’t have enough to eat, or somewhere along the way they were told they shouldn’t try new foods. Either of these can be emotionally or physically harmful.
If you’re going off the diet because you don’t have enough options than you need a wider diet with more choices. Either the low FODMAP diet or Dr. Siebecker’s SIBO Specific Food Guide (SSFG) should be tailored to the individual. And it’s important for everybody to have as wide of a variety of food as possible to ensure nutrient diversity. This becomes even more important in the case of malabsorption, which is quite common with SIBO.
When one gets to the point of having manageable symptoms, it’s important to try new foods and see which foods in general, and higher FODMAPs specifically one can add to their diet.
Reason #2 – You’re Losing Too Much Weight or Feeling Ill: Many people are told they need to be on a strict diet in order to cure their SIBO. There aren’t any studies that say diet cures SIBO, the diet typically just limits symptoms. It supports the system in healing, but for many people it’s not the cure.
If you’re losing weight rapidly or often feeling light headed, anxious, weak or extremely hungry, you may not be getting enough nutrients. It’s important to eat well-rounded meals that include healthy fats, carbs and protein. Grains, starches or other carbohydrates can be tried individually to test, and added in amounts and frequency that’s well tolerated.
Reason #3 – You’ll Need to Be on a Therapeutic Diet Indefinitely: If you’ll need to be on some sort of therapeutic diet indefinitely because of an anatomical issue or a concurrent medical issue, it’s important to find out what you can eat and start adding in higher FODMAP foods you tolerate. It’s both psychologically and physically harmful to be on a very restrictive diet long term so start to work toward adding in foods that you can tolerate with minimal symptoms.
Reason #4 – You Have Low Level Symptoms: The diet is meant to help limit symptoms but it typically doesn’t make them disappear. If you’re not reacting to high FODMAP foods, or starchy foods, it doesn’t make sense to limit them. If you miss something like avocado (high FODMAP in more than 1/8) and want to add it back in, try it out. Adding in foods you tolerate is likely to enhance healing since you’ll be getting enough calories from food you enjoy. If you begin to add in multiple foods at a time and start to experience symptoms, back off and add foods back in one at a time to ascertain what is bothering you. With adding in new foods, it’s important to look at both amount and frequency. For instance, maybe you can’t have a half of an avocado every day but you can eat ¼ of an avocado three times a week.
Reason #5 – Your Diet Sets the Stage For Increased Anxiety/Food Fear: If you are approaching each meal with trepidation and anxiety and are limiting yourself to fewer and fewer foods, it’s time to seek support. Disordered eating is very common in relation to a restrictive diet and severely limiting your calories or food choices won’t help cure your SIBO. Additionally, being in sympathetic (fight or flight) mode on an ongoing basis will further tax your entire system and hamper your digestion. Find a healthcare provider who knows about SIBO who can help widen your diet and who will work with you on ways to be present in the face of anxiety.
If any of this resonated with you, it may be time to take a second look at whether you need to widen your diet. Certainly, there are many people that a SIBO diet helps. It helped me tremendously and allowed me to heal over time. But there were also times I needed to take a break or take a look at my diet from a different angle. I hope you find a diet that includes beautiful food that you feel safe eating. If you need any help, I’m here. You can also find support via my new book, The SIBO Diet Plan.