People with SIBO put a lot of focus on food. Figuring out the Right Diet that will allay symptoms for good, once and for all, is basically our Holy Grail. I've talked about this a bunch, like in this earlier post about creating your own list of safe foods to eat. But what if not eating anything at all for a while was the answer?
In an article entitled "Effects of fasting on irritable bowel syndrome" (Kanazawa M, Fukudo S. Int J Behav Med. 2006;13(3):214-20), a study is described where fifty-eight patients with IBS were divided into two groups. One group was given prescription meds and psychotherapy to reduce their symptoms. The other group fasted for 10 days, drinking only water. To break the fast, food was reintroduced in a controlled manner over a 5 day period.
Results? The 10-day fasting group did better. Fasting was found to significantly improve 7 out of the 10 symptoms assessed: abdominal pain-discomfort, abdominal distension, diarrhea, anorexia, nausea, anxiety and "interference with life in general" (love that symptom). Drugs and psychotherapy improved only 3 symptoms (abdominal pain-discomfort, abdominal distension and interference with life.)
The researchers concluded that fasting may have beneficial effects on intractable IBS. "Intractable" would include those of us for whom IBS has advanced to SIBO, I fathom.
In my former life, I juice fasted on a regular basis (consuming only green juices and/or veggie juices with lemon and green apple added for flavor and sweetness, see photo above.) A 3-day fast was sufficient to give great results in the bloating department, although I remember feeling gassy was still a problem.
I hesitate to water fast, despite the great results reported above. Fasting on water alone is often not recommended for anyone. There are different reasons for this, such as potential to damage the intestinal lining due to lack of substrate for fiber-fermenting bacteria. (Hmmm...isn't that who we want to starve? I'm in a quandary.)
One popular SIBO therapy is to follow a 10-day+ Elemental Diet, which is essentially a modified fast with fortified liquid protein drinks taken daily. Supposedly they taste pretty nasty, though.
I'm having good luck doing a very simple, unflavored isolated whey protein shake in the AM, which I spike with powdered supplements including L-glutamine, quercetin and a powdered multivitamin/mineral. Now I'm thinking about doing some kind of fast, maybe drinking more of these shakes per day in place of meals, or adding in small quantities of low-FODMAP vegetable juices. Not sure, just contemplating. Would love to hear your thoughts.
Bottom line: Diet alone isn't cutting it.