My SIBO cereal: soak sliced tigernuts in coconut milk, add blueberries and raspberries. Top with sprouted almond butter, sprouted pumpkin seeds and a dash of green leaf stevia.

My SIBO cereal: soak sliced tigernuts in coconut milk, add blueberries and raspberries. Top with sprouted almond butter, sprouted pumpkin seeds and a dash of green leaf stevia.

The microbiome! A word that refers to the environment of bacteria in our gut. I was beginning to feel that 'microbiome' was becoming quite a buzzword even though I know how important it is. However, I think I was under estimating the level at which it truly is our immune system. For those of you that are not familiar with SIBO, it stands for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. This is something that I have had experience with due to the slowdown of my body from copper toxicity. Although familiar with the gut-brain connection and the bacteria's role in defending our health, some of the side effects were alarming and this first hand experience has shown me what symptoms many suffer with on a regular basis and may not understand why. 

The environment of bacteria in our gut makes up for approximately 80% of our immune system. They grow based on the food we give them so if we are constantly eating junk food, we are encouraging the growth of bad bacteria and their byproducts, which can cause a toxic environment. They can also be encouraged to grow if you have a slow digestive tract or improper motility. This was my case, and the slow down allowed food to ferment, causing the overgrowth. If we eat healthy foods full of prebiotic fibers like fruits and vegetables, we are encouraging the growth of the good bacteria. The balance of good to bad should be about 85% to 15%. In today’s standard American diet, it can be very difficult to maintain this balance especially if you have gastrointestinal issues already. For some people, this could become a long-term challenge for the health issues that a dysbiosis or imbalance can present.

SIBO or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, is referring to the fact that some of those bad bacteria have migrated to the small intestine in the process of them overgrowing. The majority of all the bacteria in the gut are stored in the large intestine and so they are definitely in a place they should not be! This can cause a lot of additional health problems such as neurological issues, chronic pain and fatigue, nausea and digestive discomfort, pain shortly after eating, acne, indigestion and more. In fact, SIBO along with the general idea of bacterial overgrowth in our system has been linked to mental health, sleep disturbances, inflammation and disease in the body, autoimmune disorders and hormone imbalances. Because you have an interference in your gut, the rest of your body’s metabolic processes can also be affected.

The protocol for SIBO can include a few things. First, you'll want to find out what strains of bacteria you need to address. Your doctor can conduct tests for SIBO, such as a breath test. Although this can define whether or not you have SIBO, it does not specify the exact strains that could be the cause. I found that a stool analysis for specific strain information provided the most data, and if you can afford additional testing, an organic acids test will give you even more detail such as the byproducts they're giving off and vitamin deficiencies that could be occurring. If it is incredibly severe, courses of antibiotics might be necessary along with antibacterial medications. If you caught it early enough, chances are you can easily heal this on your own with natural antibiotics such as Oregano Oil, Grapefruit Seed Extract or Berberine to name a few. Regardless of the path you take, other supplements can be helpful in the process like Omega 3s, Vitamin D, probiotics and multi-vitamins, as well as bile acids and digestive enzymes since food absorption and breakdown is inhibited. There are many treatment options out there, so talk with your doctor about which would be right for your imbalance.

Next is diet. SIBO has particular dietary guidelines which are useful for all bacterial overgrowth. You start off with two weeks on the FODMAP Diet and then follow it with another two weeks on the GAPS Diet. Essentially you’re cutting out processed foods, sugars, high sugar fruits, lots of starches and a few others that may also start breaking down earlier in the digestive tract. You slowly add in foods to accommodate GAPS while still maintaining a diet free of common allergens and inflammatory foods. The Gut Makeover is another diet that has been referenced as a solution where patients have seen success. Eating small meals is helpful since digestion is more difficult, and food timing is also beneficial, where you give your body at least 12 hours of rest from eating so it can assimilate everything and heal. If you can manage eating in a 6-8 hour time, that would be ideal. Eating fruit in between meals or first thing in the morning is best since it can ferment if slowed down by other foods already in the stomach. I also recommend researching your particular strains that are out of whack and be sure of what they feed off of. I learned that these diets can be great for most, but you can relapse or find digestive discomfort if there are food sources that differ with bacterial strains.

Third is the importance of self-care. Many times high stress and the fight or flight reactions we are having on a regular basis cause the slow down of digestion and therefore promote fermentation in the gut or exacerbate any existing conditions. Making sure you are getting plenty of rest as well as doing deep breathing exercises or meditation can help to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) so your body can focus on eliminating these invaders. Especially before a meal, take a couple deep breaths prior and chew your food thoroughly, at least 25 times per bite. Not only will you be supporting this healing process, but you will be appreciative and present of your time and food. If you can continue exercising even in the slightest bit depending on your symptoms, it will help with stress while increasing your oxygen uptake which is a healer itself.

Needless to say, I retract my thought of the microbiome ever being a ‘buzzword’. In fact, I think every illness should include treatment of the gut since it can so easily get out of balance and the symptoms vary person to person. The healing process can be frustrating and the majority of people will need to be on the diet for longer than a month, however I’m trying to look at it as a few months are worth a lifetime of health. For me, this is the light at the end of the tunnel! I’m excited to eliminate the last few symptoms I’ve been having from the past year and really get back to my regular every day life. Have you had any experience with gut dysbiosis or SIBO? Please share below!