SIBO, otherwise known as Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth, is one of the most common gastrointestinal disorders. This condition affects upwards of approximately 15% of people. It is prevalent among people who suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Symptoms of SIBO include GI issues such as diarrhea, feeling constipated, and bloating. Therefore, those who have SIBO may want to gut out foods that cause them gas. Unfortunately for vegans and those who follow a plant-based diet, that means eliminating staples in their diet such as legumes.
So what exactly is SIBO? If you are on a vegan or plant-based diet, how can you safely do so while suffering from gastrointestinal distress? Here is how to manage SIBO as a vegan.
- 1 What is SIBO?
- 2 Which Stomach Bacteria Cause SIBO?
- 3 Foods for Vegans with SIBO to Avoid
- 4 Food for Vegans with SIBO to Eat
- 5 Eat Properly With a SIBO Diet
- 6 Listen to Your Body as a Vegan with SIBO
- 7 Resources
What is SIBO?
SIBO, or Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth, is what happens when one particular kind of bacteria overgrows, taking over the intestine as a whole. This causes extreme inflammation, severe gastrointestinal distress, and left untreated, may even cause death.
Who Does SIBO Affect?
A comprehensive meta-analysis on SIBO stated,
“Although data are limited, the prevalence rates of SIBO in young and middle-aged adults appear to be low, whereas prevalence rates appear to be consistently higher in the older patient (14.5–15.6%) ”– Gastroenterol Hepatol (N Y)
The reason for this analysis seems to be in line with many theories on gut health. When you are young, your body is better equipped to handle inflammation, proper digestion of food, and fighting off gastrointestinal distress.
Over time, dietary choices, exposure to toxins, and side effects of medications all impact the bacteria in our system. These stomach bacteria play such a pivotal role in GI issues that are common symptoms of SIBO.
Which Stomach Bacteria Cause SIBO?
The word bacterial is in SIBO. Therefore, stomach bacteria plays an essential role in how this condition causes gastrointestinal distress. So, let’s start with the essentials, what causes SIBO in the first place.
What Causes SIBO?
Along your intestinal lining are a colony of cells which work in harmony on the digestion of food and absorption of nutrients. As we age, these microbes become compromised by opportunistic bacteria and chronic inflammation.
These adverse conditions cause a disruption in the functioning of the gut biome. As a result, the system doesn’t work in synergy. This lapse in cohesion allows room for opportunistic bacteria to get into the system. This bacterial overload leads to one of two precursors to SIBO
INTESTINAL FLORA AND GASTRIC ACID
Gastric acid is essential in preventing SIBO. It acts as the bouncer to the small intestines and doesn’t allow anyone with the right credentials through. However, compromised gut health lowers levels of gastric acid in the system, leaving our intestines susceptible to bacterial overgrowth.
Those with gastrointestinal distress and a low level of gastric acid are usually a victim of the opportunistic gut flora, Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). As H.pylori colonizes, the symptoms of SIBO will exasperate .
GUT BACTERIA AND GUT MOTILITY
The other major cause of SIBO is a breakdown in gut motility. We rely on out gut to function properly for the digestion of food. Any backup can cause a number of symptoms such as bloating and diarrhea. As a result, our body becomes more prone to bacterial overgrowth.
We should complete the digestion of food approximately 90 minutes after eating. Some people develop migrating motor complexes (MMC). That means their gut flora doesn’t facilitate the digestion of food and elimination of waste as efficiently as others.
“All but five patients had normal interdigestive motor complexes. The five patients in whom the motor complex was absent or greatly disordered had bacterial overgrowth as evidenced by 14CO2 bile acid breath tests before and after antibiotics. –
– Gastroenterol Hepatol (N Y)
With gut motility not working properly, it allows room for SIBO to set in. If you experience frequent symptoms of SIBO such as chronic gastrointestinal distress, bloating, or diarrhea, please contact your physician.
Microbiome Testing and SIBO
A study with 30 cases who tested positive for SIBO via a Hydrogen Test was conducted. Some volunteers were given probiotic treatments. While others were presented with a placebo .
“93.3 per cent patients showed negative result of the HBT at the end of treatment in the study group compared to 66.7 per cent in the control group, showing the effectiveness of the probiotic treatment.”– Indian J Med Res.
Since bacteria is causing your GI issues, you should get to the bottom of which intestinal flora is causing this disturbance. That way you can figure out how to get rid of bad bacteria in the gut and how to improve gut health naturally.
With microbiome testing, you use all the tools provided with the Thryve At-Home Gut Health Test Kit. Just mail your sample in the discreet and sterile vile and envelope we provide. Our specialists analyze the gut bacteria in your microbiome. We then formulate personalized probiotics based on the gut flora causing your SIBO.
While we work on your SIBO plan of attack, you can get started yourself. Vegans, here are some tips to avoid SIBO.
Foods for Vegans with SIBO to Avoid
One of the main things that people do as a form of self-treatment for their SIBO is through their diet. Many avoid many kinds of foods and try to eat a low FODMAP diet.
FODMAP stands for:
While most people do not have an issue with these types of foods, for many, it can cause bloating, gas, diarrhea, cramping, and other items . So avoiding these foods can benefit a vast number of people, and help to improve their quality of life.
Foods that are often avoided are any foods with:
- Gluten (What, Rye, Barley)
- Alliums (Onion, Garlic)
- Sweeteners (Sorbitol/Xylitol)
That seems to cover a lot of ground…and a lot of vegan staples. Luckily, there are some foods here you can handle in small quantities. For instance, lectins in legumes cause a lot of people gastrointestinal distress. However, soaking them help remove the lectins and eases the digestion of food. Therefore, vegans with SIBO may be able to have legumes in small doses.
Go a week without these foods and slowly introduce some back. Take note of how your body reacts. Everyone is different, and each food interacts with us differently.
Food for Vegans with SIBO to Eat
Since the stomach bacteria that cause SIBO feeds off of fiber, many people seek to consume less fiber and consume more animal products. This can make it incredibly hard to remain vegan, as a vegan diet is often high in fiber, and is devoid all animal products. So a vegan diet might actually fuel the SIBO, thus making it worse.
Eliminating Fiber on a Vegan SIBO Diet
This often conflicts with tons of scientific data showing that a diet high in fiber can help reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. So what are the facts?
Well, by eliminating fiber, you are reducing the food source for both the good and the harmful bacteria. This leaves foods such as meat, dairy, and eggs, which are also food sources for harmful bacteria. This means that by eliminating plant foods, you are removing the source of fuel for the beneficial bacteria in your diet.
Getting Protein and Low Fiber in a Vegan SIBO Diet
So, it is possible to remain vegan while also working to treat your SIBO, especially if you avoid FODMAP?. One of the best things to do would be to try to lower your fiber intake, this means including more calorically dense or processed plant foods to your diet.
- Faux Meats
- Whole Oats
- Brazil Nuts
- Sunflower Seeds
- Hemp Oil
- Brown Rice
You can still live your cruelty-free lifestyle, get a ton of nutrients, and say good-bye to SIBO!
Probiotics Foods for Vegans with SIBO
You need to help your probiotics grow because they are going to be lacking in prebiotics. Try finding probiotics foods that are also vegan such as:
- Plant-Based Yogurts
- Pickled Oranges
Remember, with SIBO, not all fermented foods equally react with your gastrointestinal distress. Therefore, stay away from foods like kimchi, which is made with cabbage (not to mention many kimchis are made with fish oil).
Eat Properly With a SIBO Diet
When you have to restrict a lot of foods for SIBO, as well as restrict foods for veganism, it can be very easy to become deficient in specific vitamins and minerals. For instance, not being able to consume beans or meat can cause you to potentially not consume enough iron or zinc. While these can easily be remedied with a daily multivitamin, some people would instead get their nutrients from diet alone.
If this is you, consider consuming more nuts and seeds, and higher protein pseudo-grains like quinoa. Foods that are higher in protein often also are higher in iron and zinc. More protein can also help you to feel more energized during the day, so that can help you get into good health overall.
Listen to Your Body as a Vegan with SIBO
All-in-all, do what is best for your body. Try out foods and see which ones flare you up more, and which ones don’t. That way you do not have to avoid tons of food outright, and you can see what foods you should not eat. Doing this is healthier both mentally, as well as physically, as you do not have to stress over everything you eat. It also allows you to feel better in the long term.
But always go to a doctor, and listen to their advice first and foremost. While certain natural remedies like cinnamon, or oregano can be beneficial to your gut health overall, you may need to take a strong antibiotic. If that’s the case, you will definitely want to start a round of probiotics to help rebuild gut flora. Your health should come first, and focusing on what experts say, as well as your own body, will help you overall.
 Dukowicz, A. C., Lacy, B. E., & Levine, G. M. (2007). Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth: a comprehensive review. Gastroenterology & hepatology, 3(2), 112–122.
 Saltzman JR, Kowdley KV, Pedrosa MC, et al. Bacterial overgrowth without clinical malabsorption in elderly hypochlorhydric subjects. Gastroenterology. 1994;106:615–623. ]
 Khalighi, A. R., Khalighi, M. R., Behdani, R., Jamali, J., Khosravi, A., Kouhestani, S. h., … Khalighi, N. (2014). Evaluating the efficacy of probiotic on treatment in patients with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)–a pilot study. The Indian journal of medical research, 140(5), 604–608.
 A, M., & al., et. (2016, April). Does a diet low in FODMAPs reduce symptoms associated with functional gastrointestinal disorders? A comprehensive systematic review and meta-analysis. – PubMed – NCBI. Retrieved from ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25982757