Shivan Sarna interviews SIBO expert, Dr. Norm Robillard
One of the first things I learned about after my Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) diagnosis in 2015 was this:
Diet alone is not enough to resolve SIBO.
That’s why many SIBO experts and SIBO doctors recommend using antibiotics like Rifaximin (Xifaxan) or herbals to treat SIBO.
But that doesn’t mean you can ignore diet! (Please don’t ignore it!)
While diet alone can’t cure SIBO, what you do and don’t eat is the probably single most powerful factor in how you will feel day to day. Your diet can make or break your SIBO experience!
One SIBO expert who really gets the importance of diet for SIBO recovery is Dr. Norm Robillard, PhD. He’s a microbiologist, researcher, and former pharmaceutical developer. Norm is also the founder of the Digestive Health Institute and the inventor of the Fast Tract Diet™.
I first connected with Norm during my SIBO summit, and he told me that he recommends people choose “diet over drugs,” when it comes to treating SIBO.
Are you surprised?
My Interview with Dr. Norm Robillard
Shivan Sarna: What approach do you recommend for killing the SIBO overgrowth?
Dr. Norm Robillard: I recommend diet over drugs, including antibiotics, for all but the most serious cases of SIBO. The success rate is high for diets that limit carbs.
Yes, you could come in and you can treat the symptoms with antibiotics. You can kill or inhibit these bacteria—which believe me, my background in microbiology, I spent the first half of my career figuring out how to kill bacteria. That’s what we did. They were the enemy. But we now know, when it comes to gut bacteria, it’s very different. The antibiotics can come in and kill bacteria, producing gas, causing symptoms, but they may also kill or inhibit some of the healthy or protective strains.
If you can go on a diet that accomplishes this—and maybe add some other things, maybe some supplementation, to improve digestion—it seems like a much safer bet than coming in with a powerful antibiotic and maybe doing more damage.
I’d say diet first—unless the case of SIBO is severe and there’s severe weight loss involved, failure to thrive in children. If you had a case of bone fractures where you had severe mineral deficiencies or anemia, maybe in some of those cases.
SS: Right! Put your thinking cap on and make your own decisions with the advice of smart people.
I want to talk about Rifaximin: Rifaximin has been studied to show that it does stay in the small intestine. What are your thoughts on that in terms of wreaking havoc on your whole microbiome, and how you’re saying that it’s probably better to try to do food versus antibiotics. I think, “Yeah, but… and… rifaximin has the ability to stay in the small intestine”?
NR: Yes, it does have the ability to stay in the small intestine and in the large intestine. It stays in the intestines throughout the whole way. That is much better and much safer than an antibiotic that is absorbed systemically, traveling throughout your whole body. Those do carry higher risks. Staying in your intestines is a good thing.
Another thing that’s been explored as a benefit of rifaximin is that, in the small intestine, it seems to be aided by bile salts in terms of its antimicrobial activity.
But, by the way, you can still beat up commensal strains in your small intestine just because there’s not as many bacteria there. There are still some important strains. Again, I’m not throwing my full hat in the ring for antibiotics. There are cases where they are appropriate.
So here, you have Rifaximin staying in the intestine, getting helped by bile acids, helping clear out some of these bacteria. Then it goes into the large intestine, and apparently, because it needs bile for its microbial activity, and 95% or more of bile is reabsorbed in the end of the small intestine, that’s another example of why Rifaximin won’t disturb your large intestinal bacteria. That’s a good thing, but what if we have some SIBO going on there?
It’s also not going to be as effective for treating any kind of excessive fermentation or an overgrowth in the large intestine. You could have somebody who didn’t respond because a lot of the activity of the strains was happening in the large intestine.
SS: How does your approach, your diet over drugs, deal with Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth?
NR: Right! Without talking about studies—which I was prepared to do, but it’s a little science-y. But without talking about those studies, I can tell you that whether you did have excess fermentation in the large intestine, as a couple of these studies suggest may be going on, or you have excessive fermentation in the small intestine, any approach that minimizes carbohydrate malabsorption.
You want most of the carbohydrate, if possible, to be digested, fully digested and absorbed into the bloodstream, so they don’t present a big fermentation burden on the intestines. Also, cutting back on some of those fermentable carbs should put these bacteria on a bit of a diet. It should help with bacteria in the small intestine if that’s a problem, or if there’s an issue in the large intestine.
You’d avoid lactose, fructose, resistant starch, fiber, and sugar alcohols. Those are the five types of carbohydrates targeted in the Fast Tract Diet™ approach. Believe me, there is a lot of science wrapped around this.
SS: Obviously. A lot of people experience fantastic results.
NR: I founded the Digestive Health Institute with a simple goal in mind, but it’s a big goal, to help 10 million people transition from drugs and antibiotics to regaining their health with holistic and science-based solutions—such as those that we embraced with the Fast Tract Diet™ principles.
Using The Fast Tract Diet™ For SIBO Recovery
But what’s really amazing about the Fast Tract Diet™ for SIBO is not just that it works to resolve SIBO symptoms (though it does!) – it’s that it’s actually really simple to follow.
Even if you have other dietary restrictions like allergies or being vegetarian (like me!).
It’s a diet you can follow when you’re traveling, when you’re eating with friends and family, and for the rest of your life (if you want or need to).
For people who are wary of using antibiotics for SIBO treatment – or for those of you who have tried every drug treatment out there and are still struggling – the Fast Tract Diet™ is a great alternative.
I am so passionate about the possibility of healing SIBO with the Fast Tract Diet™ that I asked Dr. Robillard if he would take a break from his research to teach my community more about the Fast Tract Diet™ (including how to get started right away!). Ready to learn more?
I’m excited to announce Dr. Norm Robillard’s SIBO SOS™ exclusive Masterclass and Q&A: How The Fast Tract Diet™ Works To Resolve SIBO. You can join the Masterclass by clicking here.
P.S. Have you tried diet as a treatment for SIBO? How did it work for you?