SIBO is known for coming back. And this can bring up a lot of anxiety and feel like you don’t have control.
But if you’re aware of your body and feel symptoms returning, you can intervene at this critical moment to stop the overgrowth before it reestablishes. Keeping SIBO at bay is about balance. If you find the tricks that work for reducing your symptoms when they start, it will keep you from falling into a full relapse.
So don’t worry, and keep an arsenal of valuable SIBO balancing tricks up your sleeve.
These are the tricks that I adopted in the aftermath of SIBO, when I would wake in the mornings with a slightly bloated feeling in my belly, while I was still following a low FODMAP diet.
At this point, retesting for SIBO is not a great option. If you know your body, it’s enough to know something’s off, and you need to step up the self care.
What may have caused my minor relapse was going off digestive enzymes with contained HCL (hydrocholric acid). I did this because I found out I had have h pylori (link) and HCL is not a good idea with h pylori. As a result my food was not digesting as well and there was more for the bacteria to eat.
And I wasn’t as super strict on my diet as I had been. I added in a bit of homemade cashew milk because I missed it and ran out of low FODMAP tigernuts (link) to make milk for my morning matcha latte. Cashews are high FODMAP. But I thought it might be ok, but my body told me otherwise.
At this point, the worst thing to do is to panic. Instead I created a 4-part plan to stop SIBO in its tracks.
Part 1: The elemental diet
This is a yummy formula made for SIBO and other gut related conditions. It’s a powder that contains fat, protein, vitamins, minerals and carbs, so pretty much all the nutrition you need to survive. Because all the nutrients are broken down into their simplest form (the protein is in amino acid form) your body doesn’t have to do any digesting to assimilate these nutrients.
So this diet is considered a predigested food, giving your body nutrition while giving your digestive system a rest. With all that extra energy your body is not spending digesting, it is focusing on balancing and healing.
The elemental diet can be done as a whole diet or a half diet. That means you either consume only the shake and nothing else for a few days or you eat normally for half of the day and do the elemental diet for the other half.
I chose to do the half elemental diet because I like to eat and got panicky at the idea of the whole diet. This is something people do for 2 to 3 weeks to kill SIBO, but you can also do it for a day or two when you feel a relapse coming on. It’s pretty effective.
The only downside of this approach is that this elemental formula is expensive and can only be ordered through a health care practitioner such as myself. But there are 3 other effective approaches if this one is not realistic.
Part 2: A 4 day bone broth cleanse
Anyone can make their own bone broth and do this. This 4 day cleanse is about lowering carbs and consuming easy to digest bone broth, 1 cup 3 times a day to boost nutrition and heal the gut lining.
You can also eat eggs, or lean proteins like chicken, turkey and fish with your broth and low carb veggies like green, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini and bell peppers are allowed.
This also lets your body rest and is an easier to digest diet than a regular diet. I found that eliminating cheese for a few days is extremely restful to my body.
To boost the power of the broth I add coconut oil with bacterial killing essential oils added. I make the oil by melting coconut oil in the jar and adding a few drops of oregano, cinnamon, clove, and thyme oil. I would put a teaspoon of oil in my broth. Gentle, yet effective.
It’s important to choose beef marrow bones over chicken bone broth, which can be higher in FODMAPs due to the breakdown process of chicken cartilage. Making your own bone broth is key, or buying homemade stuff in the store. Most shelf stable broth sold in cardboard cartons are not the same nutritious stuff. They are weak, dead and processed and will have little gut healing benefit.
Part 3: Low dose antibacterial herbs
I also took a low dose of antibacterial herbs. One GI Microb X capsule taken on an empty stomach first thing in the morning was enough for me. This was the herb I took during my treatment of SIBO and it worked well for me.
Part 4: Don’t panic
This is actually the most important thing to do, yet also the hardest. Worrying and stressing about SIBO coming back is an open invitation for it to come back.
Stress slows down your motility. So if you start worrying and panicking, it’s going to have the opposite effect that you desire. You want to keep SIBO away, so just keep calm and take action. Chances are you know what to do, so just do it and don’t worry about what’s going to happen.
You’ve got this. SIBO is not smarter or more resourceful that you. It just doesn’t panic, and that’s it’s advantage. It may wait for an opportunity to regrow, but if you won’t give it one then you are in control.
SIBO is psychologically challenging. I think that is the hardest thing about it. We may be a bit traumatized by how it felt to have SIBO and dread having it come back. But remember, it doesn’t have to. You have learned how to keep it at bay by getting rid of it in the first place, don’t freak out if it knocks on your door again, just don’t answer.
For me this really has been the hardest part of the journey. Because just like all of my clients and readers, anxiety is an issue for me. It’s the issue that affects my gut and my brain. So to keep both calm, I need to focus most of my efforts on staying positive and calm.
This is the hardest part and often takes some sort of practice or professional support.
I practice chi gong and yoga nidra. And I also have a cognitive behavioral therapist I see once a week. Lately I’ve been feeling a huge lack of support from family and friends and that has been really tough. I think that seeing me like this again has triggered anxiety in them and they are not a good source of support.
Finding that support is crucial. Whether it’s a therapist, support group or health coach, it’s important to have someone who has your back and will help ground you when the anxiety gets out of hand and the mind starts racing and over analyzing.
Doing something you enjoy doing to take your mind off what’s going on in your body is also important. Spending time in nature, moving your body, deep breathing, taking a bath, watching a funny movie, praying, reading an inspiring story or hanging out with pets, children, friends…are all balms for the soul. They will calm your heart, mind and gut.
Sometimes it is anxiety alone that drives our guts into a state of pain or chaos. This is not easy to control but it is in our power if we choose to believe and focus on the power of grounding and calming down.
Soothing anxiety are skills we are not taught by doctors or naturopaths. It is the missing links from my own personal experience and from working with clients.
Anxiety and fear are the key themes that we all share in our life journey and path to wellness. So know that you have a few tools in your arsenal to fight whatever symptoms come up, have faith that you have more control of your body than you think, get support or do something that calms you down and distracts you from your fears.
These are the golden rules of battling SIBO or any other gut condition.
What are your biggest challenges in dealing with SIBO or IBS?
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.