Today I’m going to chat about SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth), a condition that has had a lot of exposure within popular wellness websites and over social media within the past year. It’s also something that I’ve experienced first-hand. I’m going to assume that many of my readers already know its scientific premise. If you wish to find out more you can visit my favourite online SIBO resources: siboinfo.com, Aglaee Jacob, Chris Kresser, Diane Sanfilippo, the low histamine chef, sibo-with-hope and 10 reasons why your SIBO is not healing.
Let’s start by simplifying SIBO. Getting back to digestive roots and symptom patterns, there is an imbalance happening within this diagnosis called dysbiosis (imbalance of good to bad bacteria within the gut microbiome). With SIBO there is an overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria in the small intestine. How do you know if you have dysbiosis? You will generally have a number of symptoms that are related to digestive, immune, and mental-emotional health. You may be especially sensitive to foods containing FODMAPs.
Treatment of dysbiosis depends on the individuals root causes and present symptoms and because of this we can agree that each treatment is unique. Most effectively, microbial imbalances are treated with a 4R protocol (with varying variations depending on the practitioner) along with plenty of self care. The following guideline is also ideal for a seasonal cleanse regimen that is in tune to seasonal energetic guidelines.
The 4R Protocol for Balancing your Microbiome
*Avoid foods that increase your symptoms. This will allow inflammation to subside and healing to take place. Use a food journal to guide you along and always consider an elimination-reintroduction protocol such as the autoimmune paleo protocol, the wahls protocol, or nutritional ketosis (low inflammatory, gut healing, and nutrient dense).
*Don’t avoid fodmap foods completely during the treatment phase. A certain amount of fodmap ‘bait’ is needed to kill off the bad bacteria with herbs/medication. After treatment follow a low-fodmap diet for approximately 1 – 3 months.
*Aside from food, re-evaluate environmental and self-care toxins that may be stalling your healing process such as chemicals and molds from food, clothes, and your home.
*Removal of pathogenic bacteria will be aided by a rotated supplement regimen of herbal antimicrobials along with fiber (such as larch or acacia) to help with die-off and/or activated coconut charcoal, bentonite, and biofilm disruptors such as lauricidin or olive leaf tea. Prescription medication may be preferred over herbs depending on the patient and practitioner’s intentions. My protocol included 2 weeks of Ayush Herbs Neem Plus followed by 2 weeks of Thorne Berberine, along with Custom Probiotics D-Lactate Free Formula. It worked well!
* Generally, repair (healing) of your digestive lining can occur through nutrient dense, anti-inflammatory foods and supplements including specific amino acids and antioxidants, bone broth, healing fats, fish oil, enzymes, energetic work such as acupuncture and craniosacral therapy, and visceral manipulation. Although probiotics are generally supplemented within the ‘reinocculation’ phase they may be given throughout.
* Love and spiritual nourishment heals. Think loving thoughts, affirm, do what you love to do (authentically so), spend less time in front of the screen, and meditate. Meditation helps to calm overthinking (which can be energetically harmful for digestion), opens up space for loving, and nourishes one’s intuitive abilities — our voice/whisperings that guide us toward the ‘good paths’ that heal and teach. Intuition isn’t that voice that tells you to eat two chocolate bars for dessert or any other behaviour that makes you feel terrible after short term pleasure (unless there’s a deeper meaning here!). Rather, you may ask and receive insights that tell you to take care of yourself in a certain way, to get a specific test done for confirmation or clarity, or to see a practitioner who is skilled in differentiating your symptoms patterns and therefore route of treatment.
*Emotionally, allow yourself to let go of past events and held-beliefs that block your ability to digest life’s experiences.
* Move. Do types of exercise that best suit you to circulate your energy, blood, and body fluids. Be gentle with yourself — respect what is too much and too little for you and act on this. I generally recommend healing movement such as restorative yoga, walking or interval walking, light strength training and resistance exercises, and tai chi or dancing.
*Some foods may be re-introduced/challenged. Seek professional guidance! You may have to re-eliminate foods you react to for a prescribed amount of time or for life depending on severity of reaction.
* Challenging your immune and digestive system is important. If you extremely neglect to do so you may fall into patterns of disordered eating and an increased amount of food sensitivities. Similar to the ‘hygiene hypothesis’, staying away from certain otherwise healthy foods long-term coupled with overly cautious and dogmatic thinking can create a state of hypersensitivity in the body.
* If you are sensitive to certain cruciferous and sulfur-rich fodmaps you may benefit from taking short-term molybdenum for a maximum of 6 days and on days you eat high amounts of sulfur foods that you feel may irritate you. For the other fodmap foods, remember to watch your threshold. They are often triggered by an enzyme deficiency and are okay to eat in small quantities before inducing symptoms.
* Avoid falling into the extremes of rigid cleansing and detoxification since the energetic body may read this as a form of ‘lack of nourishment and love’ or as ‘smothering.’ Eventually the extreme may turn to the opposite. The body may store more than it needs when re-introducing to make up for its ‘famine’ or it may adapt and swap past healthful patterns for new, less nourishing ones.
*After your prescribed amount of focusing on steps 1 – 3, it’s now time for probiotics and prebiotics in food and/or supplement form. Hey, maybe even a fecal transplant! Keep in mind that for some constitutions it’s necessary to supplement with probiotic supplements throughout their healing protocol.
* A word on patience. Depending on one’s constitution a healing program may take longer than others or than what one hoped. Some of us may have a genetic predisposition that delays our body’s ability to break down and remove environmental toxins. Don’t hold this as your determined prognosis — consider it as a gentle buffer to give yourself some respect for all the hard work you’ve been doing.
SIBO and Ancient Wisdom
Now that I’ve given you an idea of how healing SIBO works, I’m going to share energetic and emotional insights that I’ve learned at TCM school and with study. The symptoms of SIBO may fall within a number of different syndrome patterns depending on the individuals present symptoms of emphasis.
At the organ level SIBO could be caused by spleen deficiency (due to diet, over-thinking, etc.), liver qi stagnation (due to stress), or a combination thereof. When looking at environmental and energetic influences as guided by the eight principle theory, SIBO could be a manifestation of dampness (from the environment, specific foods, or water metabolism disorder due to deficient organ functioning) and qi stagnation (whether physical or energetic). Syndrome differentiation (assessment of signs, symptoms, theories, and observational information) and treatment vary widely within diagnoses and between individuals.
I believe that most SIBO symptoms are predominantly related to the spleen and stomach in Chinese medicine. There is likely involvement of the liver, heart, kidney, and san jiao as well. According to Chinese medicine the spleen rules the functional and energetic processes of the transformation and transportation of our food. It encompasses the nourishment received from the digestive processing from mouth to anus, our digestion of experience, and our thinking processes of information into knowledge. It is related to the earth element.
“Just as the Earth is the centre of the cosmos form the viewpoint of a human being, ‘Earth’s Organ’, the Spleen, is seen as holding a central place in the human body. Our well-being can be seen as dependent on our ability to absorb and process nourishment, physically and emotionally. It is also through the spleen that healing energy is received into the body. . . Without this central ability to transform food and experiences into nourishment, life lacks its central support.” – Daverick Leggett
You can look forward to an upcoming newsletter (or a consultation!) to learn more about the earth element and the spleen-stomach comprehensively, however I will give you a brief overview here. On a grand scheme our digestive system may reflect in part the health of the earth, since this is its associated element and because we are after-all interconnected to everything around us. Looking smaller now, you can help heal SIBO by nourishing yourself in a variety of ways while being aware of what your balance means between giving and receiving. The spleen especially loves touch (think of cuddling or massage therapy), the feeling of being comfortable in one’s body and environment (gratitude, nesting one’s home, tending to a garden), stretching, grounding your feet and body upon the earth, and structured self-care routines. Ask yourself, “What do I truly need to feel safe and supported in this world?”
Those with digestive imbalances can also reflect on one’s needs for social recognition, self esteem, the ‘victim mentality’, and the tendency for losing oneself in hyperactivity and strong impulses only to stop once consoled by another. These are all resonances of the 3rd chakra and ‘stomach-duodenum people’. The remedies for these imbalances are all rooted in love and self care. Consider counselling and act to shift into rediscovering your authentic passions while respecting your unique boundaries.
“Only when you truly inhabit your body can you begin the healing journey.” – Gabrielle Roth
I hope my post has given you insight today. I’d like to know, how did you or how are you healing SIBO? What do you do to support and maintain your digestive health?
Love and healing,