What Is SIBO and What Does It Mean For People With Fructose Malabsorption?

Bad Diet__No Sugaless GumI’ve been working on this post ever since I was diagnosed with SIBO a few months ago.  This whole situation has been a real challenge, although I’m excited to be where I am because it means I have an answer to my problems and a plan to get healthy.  There’s also a lot of hope for the future, even though it will probably be a few years, and one thing I’m hopeful of is a potential cure for fructose malabsorption!
It’s been about 4 months and I think I’ve made some progress.  It’s kind of hard to tell because it’s slow going, but I definitely look and feel less pregnant than I used to.  Still bloated, just less so.  Once the SIBO is gone there is still the damage I’ve done to my gut from a poor diet to address.  I’ve been eating well (a low-FODMAP, Paleo diet) a little over a year and that has been really helpful and hopefully has given me a head start!
This whole journey has really been a gift in disguise.  Yes, if I released a genie in a lamp my first wish would be to eat whatever I want without consequence.  But that’s not how the world works, so I’m glad to have been forced into recognizing that food should be something that nourishes our bodies, not tears it apart.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
                                     -Hippocrates

What is SIBO?
SIBO stands for Small Intestinal Bacteria Overgrowth.  It’s a condition when either too much bacteria or the wrong type of bacteria (or both) populate the small intestine.

What causes it?
Like everything having to do with SIBO, the answer can be complicated.
It can be a combination of any of the following:

  • Poor diet
  • Lack of cleansing waves in the intestines
  • Low stomach acidity
  • Moderate to heavy alcohol consumption
  • Oral contraceptive pills
  • Antibiotic use

What are the symptoms?
There are many more besides these, but here are some common and aggressive ones:

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Leaky gut

Is the a test for SIBO?
Yes!  A breath test, just like the one you took for Fructose Malabsorption.  Fun and easy.  This test can also tell if you’re hydrogen or methane dominant.  Hydrogen is more connected with diarrhea and methane is more connected with constipation.  If you’re lucky enough, like me, you are high in both.

Can it be cured?
Sorta.

Erm…can you elaborate?
Sure.
The most important thing to do is find a good doctor who knows about SIBO.  I found a naturopath to work with and I will never go to a traditional doctor again, if I can help it.  If you live in Minnesota in the Minneapolis area, I have 2 great resources if you want to get in touch with me.
So, getting rid of SIBO: first off you need to kill the bacteria present in the small intestine.  You can do this with antibiotics, but a lot of people prefer natural antibiotics like oil of oregano.  It takes longer but seems to have a higher success rate.  I took antibiotics and saw no difference, but could see some improvement with the oil of oregano.
You also need to starve the bacteria, which is the sucky part.  The diet for SIBO is NOT FUN!  If you’re on a diet for FM, you’re on your way there, but you need to follow a low-FODMAP diet as well as the specific carbohydrate diet (SCD).
There is also a delay in transit time in the small intestine for people with SIBO.  This means that food sits in the small intestine waiting to be swept out by the cleansing waves that push food through our systems.  (Most people have about 11 waves a day, people with SIBO have about 3 or 4.)  The waves don’t come often enough so the food sits in our guts, fermenting.  No good.  So it’s important to wait at least 4 hours in between meals with no snacking, and have a 12-hour fasting period at night.  This has been harder than I thought!
It’s also important to take the proper supplements, which your doctor should be able to help you with.

You can also try doing the Fast Tract Diet and the Elemental Diet, but I don’t have any experience with those.

It’s also important to heal your gut during this time.  SIBO can be damaging to your system, as well as any antibiotics you take (except the natural ones).  My doctor had a really good simile for this.  SIBO is like a fire in your gut, and the antibiotics put out that fire but then you have to rebuild from the ashes.

So if you’re dedicated and patient enough to cure yourself, there’s still a 50% chance of relapsing within a year.  I haven’t really been able to find out if that’s because the people that got rid of their SIBO went back to eating pizza and Oreos everyday and then were surprised to see their old symptoms returning, or if certain people are just prone to it.
Once my SIBO is gone I plan to keep eating healthy–lots of vegetables and high-quality meats–and avoiding processed foods as much as I can.  Except maybe on my birthday.

What are some resources?

The Facebook group SIBO Discussion/Support Group is a huge help.  It’s great to be able to talk to people who are experiencing the same things you are and to ask questions, or to exchange pictures of bloated bellies.  One woman said she uses her belly to park in the “expectant mothers” parking spaces.  Hilar.

The Ballad of Joe and Katie.  This blog is a dedicated account of a young gal’s battle with SIBO and allllll the fun problems that come with it.  It’s a very good read and very helpful.  She has a detailed account of the Elemental Diet and she also has experience with the Fast Tract Diet.

A Dietician Gone Paleo.  I’m not sure this blog is still in motion or just taking a hiatus, but the information is still good!  This woman also had some problems with PCOS, which I suffer from, and was able to fix her hormones after getting her diet back on track.

SIBO Specific Foodguide app.  This is an app for your phone that is a handy little food guide for SIBO!

So, what does SIBO have to do with Fructose Malabsorption?

I’ve done a lot of research on SIBO, and something I noticed that kept coming up was that it can cause food intolerances and malabsorptions.  I haven’t heard any first-hand accounts of anyone curing themselves of FM, but I hope to be able to report to you that it’s possible.  Even though I plan on eating low-FODMAP for the rest of my life, it would be nice not to have to be so obsessive about it.
So I guess I’ll let you know!

Do you have SIBO?  What are your experiences?

12 thoughts on “What Is SIBO and What Does It Mean For People With Fructose Malabsorption?

  1. In Melbourne Australia, Monash Uni is a local and leading the way in FM reasearch and the FODMAP diet. I have FM and a wonderful gastro enterologist who not only recognizes FM but affectively treated me for SIBO with a 2 week course of Flagyl. I felt terrible while I was taking the drug but have been symptom free now for close to 6 months. I still adhere to the FODMAP diet though. Find a doctor who is up to date with research in this area, that’s the real answer

  2. Hi there! I just came across your page while trying to find doctors to help treat SIBO in Minneapolis (I’m new to the area!)…. I would love to hear your recommendations that you mentioned in this post!! Also, so glad to have found your blog 🙂 Thanks so much!

    • Absolutely! Check out Dr. Meaghan Kirschling. She’s at Synapse Center for Health and Healing over in Eagan. Here’s the number: (651) 209-9906. They don’t take insurance (I think a visit is like $60? Not sure because I always buy supplements too), but totally worth it.

  3. Hi, I tested positive for SIBO the first time. I took two rounds of probiotics and felt no change in my digestive issues. I took the SIBO breath test again and it came back negative. I also did the fodmap diet for about 3 weeks and saw no difference. I just took a FM breath test and I’m waiting for the results. I feel like I’m running out of options and it’s quite frustrating! I know Dairy is a problem for me but I’m trying to figure out what else could be causing my constant pains. I’m currently sugar, dairy, and corn free and also don’t eat a lot of vegetables that bother me. Any advice for other diet changes?

    • Ugh. I’m sorry you’re going through this. It sounds a lot like my experience. I too got rid of SIBO with no noticeable changes. Honestly the best advice I can give at this point is finding a good homeopathic doctor. That was the best move I made during all this. It sounds like you’ve eliminated most of the “bad” foods, so maybe something else is going on? Have you done any gut healing? My doctor said SIBO causes a lot of damage that need repairing.

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