I’m still not sure if SIBO has been a blessing or a curse in my life.
At first it seemed like a curse and a health failure.
But it was also an opportunity to test out the digestive health knowledge I’ve gained over the years on how to conquer SIBO with diet, herbs and lifestyle changes.
While I taught everything I knew to my clients, I could never be sure if they were totally compliant. But by treating myself, and staying perfectly compliant I could truly test the herbs and diet that I’ve been teaching.
I also opened myself up to the lesson in this experience. Every difficulty that comes into our lives is teacher and SIBO was definitely here to teach me something, to make me stronger, wiser and more in tune with myself.
Already I have changed from it. I have reorganized my priorities.
My health and self care had somehow fallen lower on my list than taking care of my business/clients and other life chores. SIBO gave me permission to put myself first and step up that self care radically.
And the result of that has been miraculous. As I’m writing this, I’m finishing up my 5th week of treatment with diet and herbs, and I feel really good! Better than I have felt in a long time.
I have tweaked my protocol to really work for me, but I’ve also really made time for myself and worked hard on supporting my emotions. I understand, from watching clients over the years, that the power of mindset can make or break any healing program.
So I am sharing my protocol with you not so you can copy it, but so you can learn from someone who does this professionally. Someone who has experience working with a ton of people with the same problem and is not tackling it herself.
This is definitely NOT medical advice, this is just education, inspiration and a peak back stage at my personal recovery process which has 3 elements which I break down below.
SIBO is very complicated. Only amateurs or pros self treat. If you are not a professional, you should not be self treating. Find a SIBO-versed practitioner that will make your life easier and speed up your recovery process. Otherwise you’ll flounder with SIBO trial and error and get extremely frustrated and discouraged along the way. Or worse yet, hurt yourself.
I believe, from a Chinese medicine point of view, that SIBO is caused by stagnation. The body forgets how to cleanse and move bacteria and other toxins, from the small intestine downward.
During recovery, the body needs to learn how to get moving again. If the small intestine is suffering from stagnation, chances are that other body systems and fluids are lacking flow, such as the lymphatic system.
Getting body fluids moving is crucial during the treatment of SIBO because it will reduce die off symptoms as the toxins and dead bacteria are cleared out.
For this I use some supplements that I’ve written about below but I also use some detox and lifestyle tricks.
To promote flow and movement in my body daily, I’ve been walking a few miles and doing breathing exercises. Weekly, I’ve been doing massage, acupuncture, and sauna sessions.
Detox, flow and movement is an important part of treatment because you won’t feel as sick during the inevitable die off phase. People who experience severe die off are actually on the right track but the discomfort may make them abandon their program, especially if they’re not being guided professionally.
I’ve also been working on strengthening my vagus nerve, which is the main pathway of communication between my brain and gut. Vagal function tends to be sluggish in people with SIBO. I’ve been singing loudly in the car, and gargling every night. And of course continuing my practice of chi gong.
My SIBO antimicrobial protocol
I’ve been taking herbs for 5 weeks of my 6 week plan. Then I stop for 2 weeks (because you can’t be on antibacterial for two weeks prior to a SIBO test), and retest my gas levels at the 8 week mark and share my results.
Just because my symptoms have totally subsided doesn’t mean I am SIBO free. Testing is crucial to gauge progress. This is another amateur move, when symptoms go away people return to old eating habits without testing, and relapse.
SIBO does not resolve on it’s own with only diet. So anti-microbials are necessary. Some people choose antibiotics because the course is 2 weeks instead of 6 weeks. I find that to be a harsh and not super effective treatment and went with herbal anti-microbials instead.
My main antimicrobial is GI Microb X.
There are tons of herbal choices, I picked this one because it’s just the right strength for me and has the most important SIBO killing ingredient: berberine.
It also contains compounds to fight parasites (black walnut and sweet wormwood). Parasites are extremely tricky to test for and this supplement addresses them if they’re a hidden issue. It also has caprylic acid for candida yeast overgrowth, which is an issue for me, and common among SIBO sufferers.
I like GI Microb X because it’s a multi tasking anti microbial that knocks out several pathogens at once but won’t harm you if you don’t have any co-infections.
I take 2 capsules twice a day between meals, but it can be dosed as high as 2 capsules 3 times a day.
I’m also taking 1 oregano oil pearl two times a day with food. I like and use this brand.
Lastly, I’ve added 1 cinnamon capsule 2 times a day with food because it’s good for balancing blood sugar, taming inflammation and killing SIBO. You can also open it up and add it to your smoothie.
While I’m weeding my bacterial ecosystem with anti microbial, I’m also fertilizing with good bacteria to keep my biome in balance.
I use a SIBO-friendly probiotic called Megasporbiotic because it crowds out the bad bacteria when it sets up camp. As you kill bugs in your small intestine you want to keep the beneficial bacterial in your large intestine happy also and a daily dose of megasporbiotic is a good way to do that.
Megasporbiotic is considered a pharmaceutical grade probiotic due to its strength, and is not sold directly to the public. It must be purchased through a practitioner, such as myself, because the dosing instructions are very specific.
I’m also using a biofilm buster to break thorough any protective barriers formed by the pathogens I’m treating. H pylori, parasites and candida gather materials from your body (heavy metals and toxins) to form a protective shield against antibiotic treatment. Because I have a candida co-infection it’s important to also take a biofilm buster with my herbs.
The biofilm buster I’ve chosen is NAC. It’s an antioxidant that also supports the liver and lungs . I like this brand which can be taken with or without food. I think everyone should be on NAC because it helps detoxify the body and who doesn’t need that? (Of course whenever starting new supplements check with your doctor first).
I’m also using an antioxidant called black cumin seed oil, 1 teaspoon once a day with food. I use this because it’s also a biofilm buster as well as an antifungal for candida. Side benefits: it helps with weight regulation and protects against cancer.
To improve small intestinal motility, which slows with SIBO, I’m using a prokinetic. The motility is your small intestine is independent of what your colon or bowels are doing. Prokinetics are a must if you have elevated methane gas on the SIBO test.
Two prokinetics are typically recommended. I use Motil pro because it contains ginger, 5HTP to boost serotonin, l-carnitine and vitamin B6. I take 3 capsules at night before bed.
The other option is Iberogast which is taken 60 drops in water at night. This is suspended in alcohol and tastes strong.
While I was not constipated before, I’m occasionally experiencing this symptom as a result of die off. It’s crucial to get bowels moving during die off otherwise the toxins and dead bacteria will get reabsorbed and you’ll feel lousy.
To get my bowels moving I take Oxy Powder, an oxygenated form of magnesium that works powerfully. I take 2 pills a night with a large glass of water.
Good elimination starts with good digestion so it’s very important to take digestive support with SIBO because bacteria feed on undigested food particles. I take a digestive enzyme that increases stomach acid with 200 mg of hydrochloric acid (HCL) and helps digest fats with oxbile.
I take 1 digestyme with every meal to help break down protein, fat and carbs.
Another tip for stomach acid, which I learned the hard way: don’t drink alkaline water, it is like drinking tums water. It will neutralize your stomach acid, which can eventually lead to SIBO down the line or worsen current symptoms.
If my numbers have not come down significantly on the retest my plan is to do the elemental diet for two weeks and retest again.
When my SIBO is gone I plan on doing a maintenance Fast Tract diet for two months to make sure it doesn’t come back.
My current SIBO Diet
Diet is a difficult topic because there’s a lot of emotion around food. Particularly anxiety and fear.
Food is also social and there’s feelings of deprivation. And the sugar and carb cravings can be intense, especially during die off.
The SIBO diet is a lower carb diet but not a NO CARB diet. Carbs are important for thyroid and adrenal function and energy. You need carbs to think clearly and mood support.
The secret to any SIBO diet is figuring out the level of carbs that work for you. I blogged last week about all the IBS/SIBO diet options. You can read it here.
I found my balance eating a low FODMAP diet that includes starches like yuca/cassava, plantain, white potato and white rice in limited quantities. I notice I have a problem if I eat too much and am ok with just a little.
Fruit is another tough one. At first I excluded all fruit, because I have a fructose sensitivity, but then after a few weeks I brought low FODMAP fruit back in but only eating it apart from other food and in small quantities.
I’ve reduced my nut consumption drastically, giving up my nut flour baked goods. I added lactose-free dairy (3-months or more aged Parmesan and cheddar cheese). Not everyone can do dairy because of a problematic protein called casein, but I’m ok with it.
I’ve also been enjoying lots of bone broth and eating yummy, brothy breakfast soups.
The idea with the SIBO diet is to do it strictly for 6 to 8 weeks and then start reintroducing higher FODMAP foods to gauge reaction. Low FODMAP is not a diet you stay on forever because it’s just not that good for your large intestine. The aim is to reintroduce fermentable carbs as quickly as possible.
If a food bloats you, avoid it for few more weeks and try again. Don’t be afraid of food, it is your friend, not your enemy!
Mastering the SIBO diet is a head game. Getting over the fear of food is fundamental to making progress. If you avoid foods indefinitely, your body forgets how to produce the enzymes that digest it. Many sensitivities will vanish so don’t be afraid to try a spoonful of forbidden food every now and then to see how you do. But if you’re celiac or very allergic to a certain food, it’s best to avoid it forever.
What you eat with SIBO is important, but how you eat is also crucial. I used to be a grazer, and I had to stop that habit. It is good to wait at least 3 hours between meals to give your migrating motor complex (downward brushing wave of the intestines) time to work on an empty stomach.
Another pro tip is not eating too many raw veggies or salads. Cook, saute and puree your food for easier digestion. This is a great tip for recovery from an IBS flare.
The hardest part of dealing with SIBO is the anxiety, doubt, depression and impatience it can bring up. This is where support is crucial.
For a lot of my clients, I provide that emotional support. They know they are not alone, I have their back.
There is lots of support out there. You just need to ask for it, focus on seeing it.
IBS folks tend to be suspicious and doubtful only seeing the world full of people trying to rip them off or take advantage of them. There is goodness out there. Seek it out. Sometimes all it takes is a change of perspective to see the good along with the bad.
Also take this opportunity to look at your life to see what’s not working for it and don’t be afraid to let it go. Do it with baby steps.
Support yourself by saying no, getting more rest or buying higher quality foods because you’re worth it.
For me healing SIBO is about reprioritizing what’s important in my life.
Putting myself first is not selfish because the world gets to benefit from a happy Angela.
And a happy Angela gives openly from her heart and makes the world a happier, healthier place.
Angela Privin is proof that IBS is NOT an incurable disease or a disease at all. IBS is a body out of balance. It’s an invitation for change. After solving her own IBS mystery more than a decade ago Angela trained as a health coach to help others.
Angela uses both science and intuition to help people figure out what’s out of balance in their body. She works with lab tests, dietary changes, supplementation and nervous system rebalancing. Get help rebalancing your digestive system and solving your IBS mystery here.