Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, or SIBO, occurs when bacteria usually grown in other parts of your digestive tract, grow in your small intestine. Left untreated, SIBO can cause pain, diarrhea, and malnutrition from losing the body’s main nutrients.

Proper nutrition can reduce these harmful bacteria. Incorporating the SIBO diet while being treated with antibiotics can help to speed your recovery and eliminate uncomfortable symptoms.

The SIBO diet is meant to reduce inflammation in the digestive tract and bacterial overgrowth in your small intestine through a gradual elimination diet. In some cases, eliminating only sugars can ease symptoms. Doctors often suggest incorporating a diet low in FODMAPs, or carbs that are difficult to digest. When carbs cannot break down, they sit in your gut and can cause symptoms such as diarrhea and bloating.

Foods to avoid

The low-FODMAP diet has been clinically proven to treat irritable bowel syndrome and related symptoms. Often those suffering from IBS also suffer from SIBO. Eliminating or reducing foods high in these carbs can improve your digestive health.

When eliminating FODMAPS from your SIBO diet, focus on the main categories including:

  • fructose, or simple, processed sugars commonly found in fruits and some vegetables
  • lactose, a sugar molecule in dairy products
  • fructans, a sugar compound found in gluten products and some vegetables
  • galactans, a compound found in some legumes
  • polyols, a sugar alcohol often used as a sweetener

Foods you may want to consider eliminating from your diet that include higher amounts of FODMAPs include:

Foods to eat

While the list of foods you should avoid can be restrictive, there are still a number of foods you can enjoy while on this temporary diet. A SIBO diet should focus on foods high in fiber and low in sugar. Some of these foods include:

Antibiotics are the primary treatment for SIBO symptoms. However, studies show dietary changes such as limiting sugars and lactose can help reduce bacterial overgrowth.

The SIBO diet can be used in combination with antibiotics and probiotics. A 2010 study showed that incorporating probiotic supplements and probiotic-rich foods in your diet helps reduce SIBO symptoms.

While on the SIBO diet, drinking more water will reduce pain and ease digestion. Before making any changes to your diet or implementing new treatment, discuss the risks with your doctor or dietitian.

The SIBO diet is a temporary elimination diet that incorporates low-FODMAP foods to decrease bacterial overgrowth. While seen as an effective treatment method, the SIBO diet treats related symptoms but may not treat the underlying cause. Traditional treatment methods should not be ignored.

Prior to incorporating any dietary changes to your treatment plan, discuss your options with your doctor. If your symptoms begin to worsen after implementing the SIBO or low-FODMAP diet, seek immediate medical attention.