There are two camps in the managing SIBO dietary approach and they are FODMAPs and the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD). First up, we need to clear something up. Diet may help manage symptoms but it does not resolve the underlining condition. You have to address the SIBO before starting the diet. So see your doctor to get tested for which kind of SIBO you have: Hexane or Methane, get the proper meds and herbal supplements, do the elemental diet, get retested, THEN start the diet. Now, back to which diet is best.
LET’S DIVE INTO THE DIETS
First, we need to understand these two short-term therapeutic dietary approaches.
FODMAPs is a group of carbohydrates called “Fermentable Carbohydrates.” FODMAPs stands for Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides and Polyols. It has been found in scientific studies that when removed help people with IBS.
Here are the main groups of FODMAPs:
- Oligosaccharides: Carbs in this group include fructans (fructo-oligosaccarides and inulin) and galacto-oligosaccharides. Key dietary sources include wheat, rye, various fruits and vegetables, pulses and legumes.
- Disaccharides: Lactose is the main FODMAP in this group. Key dietary sources include milk, yogurt and soft cheese.
- Monosaccharides: Fructose is the main FODMAP in this group. Key dietary sources include various fruit, honey and agave nectar.
- Polyols: Carbs in this group include sorbitol, mannitol and xylitol. Key dietary sources include various fruits and vegetables, as well as some sweeteners like those in sugar-free gum.
Now let’s talk about the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD).
The Specific Carbohydrate Diet is a diet plan designed to help people with conditions such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, diverticulitis, cystic fibrosis, and chronic diarrhea. Pediatrician Sydney Haas, MD, created the Specific Carbohydrate Diet in the 1920s to treat celiac disease. Elaine Gottschall, a biochemist and the mother of one of Haas’s patients, made the diet more widely known in 1987 when she published Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Intestinal Health through Diet.
The diet allows some carbs and bans others, based on how hard they are to digest. You can have items including fresh fruit, most vegetables, meat without additives, and homemade yogurt, but not starches, grains, and processed or canned foods.
WHICH IS BETTER FOR SIBO?
While both have been found helpful with GI issues, in my opinion, the SCD diet is the clear winner for recovering from SIBO.
FODMAPs, while a great short-term elimination diet to find trigger foods for IBS, it is extremely difficult to follow for the 3-6 months needed to heal the intestines from the damage SIBO causes. FODMAPs is extremely restrictive as it eliminates a whole lot more food than SCD, the allowed foods are allowed in only limited amounts and vary person to person. When you look up the allowed foods, it’ll say “asparagus: 3 stalks.” Who eats just 3 stalks of asparagus?! It’s frustrating and extremely limiting.
SCD is much easier to follow long-term (3-6 months). It allows for a lot more nutrient-rich foods, has an extremely clear list of “legal and illegal” foods for the duration you’re on it (you aren’t limited to 1/4 of an avocado or 3 stalks of asparagus!), focuses on gut-healing foods, and still allows for homemade fermented yogurt which is still necessary for nutrient absorption, mood stability, and GI comfort.
A QUICK IMPORTANT NOTE BEFORE YOU GO
One misconception going on in the world is that you have to stay on a SIBO diet for life. This is completely false. Once you have your second (or third) test and it shows that SIBO is resolved, you only need to follow this diet for 3-6 months to allow for your gut to heal and prevent regrowth by not going right back to the lifestyle that led up to causing SIBO to occur in the first place.
If you’d like to know more about recovering from SIBO, the SIBO diet, and transitioning back to a normal healthy diet, head over here.