SIBO & Gluten: The Truth You Need To Know with Dr. Lisa Shaver

Shivan Sarna interviews guest expert, Dr. Lisa Shaver on the topic of gluten.

Should you commit to a gluten-free diet if you have SIBO?

It’s one of the most common questions we hear from the SIBO SOS™ community.  

Some practitioners think only those with Celiac Disease need to be gluten-free.

Others think gluten is evil and should be avoided by everyone – especially those with gut issues like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO).

So what is the truth about gluten and SIBO?

Today, Dr. Lisa Shaver is going to explain Celiac Disease, non-Celiac gluten sensitivity, their connection to SIBO, and empower you to make the right decision for you about gluten.

We’re also going to talk about food sensitivities and how to find out which foods you may show sensitivity or react when exposed to even in small quantities.

What Is Gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, rye, barley, and spelt. It also is a common contaminant in grains that don’t naturally contain gluten, like oats. Gluten is a large molecule with two sub-molecules: gliadin and glutenin.

Many foods are naturally gluten-free – even some grains like rice, corn, and quinoa. Other foods, like oats, can be gluten-free if they are properly handled. But gluten can’t be removed from gluten-containing grains like wheat or rye. Gluten-containing grains must be avoided 100% by gluten-free people.

What Is Celiac Disease?

Celiac Disease is an autoimmune condition that causes damage to the small intestine. When someone with Celiac Disease eats gluten, their immune system reacts by damaging the small intestine.

About 40% of the population has the genes for Celiac Disease. You can have the genetic test easily with just a cheek swab. But, having the gene for Celiac doesn’t mean you necessarily have the disease. Only about 1% of the population actually has Celiac Disease.

But, about 5% of people who DO have Celiac Disease don’t have the gene for it, either.

Basically, this means having the gene for Celiac isn’t a sure way to know if you do or don’t have Celiac Disease. Instead, you need to be tested for Celiac Disease specifically using either a blood or stool test.

For a blood test to be accurate, you have to be eating gluten regularly. For the stool test, you don’t have to be currently eating gluten for the results to be accurate.

If you DO have Celiac Disease, you must stop eating gluten. You need to stay on a gluten-free diet for the rest of your life.

Beyond Celiac Disease

If only 1% of the population has Celiac Disease, does that mean only 1% of us need to avoid gluten?

It’s not quite that simple.

Doctors once believed that either you had Celiac and must avoid gluten, or you could tolerate it without any adverse symptoms. What the evidence shows, however, is that someone can have non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and that can cause a whole range of symptoms.

As mentioned earlier, gluten has two sub molecules, gliadin and glutenin. As a molecule itself it’s already very large and hard to digest for a vast majority of people.

While you may not think you have a gluten sensitivity, you really need to test for it to be sure. Cyrex is one laboratory that does offer the non-celiac gluten sensitivity panel along with the celiac panel. It may be an extra cost, but arming yourself with information could definitely be worth it, especially if your results are positive.

The Role of Gluten When It Comes to SIBO

SIBO, celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity appear to intertwine. While you may eliminate gluten, if you’re still heavily eating carbs, you may still have symptoms.

In many instances, patients who were celiacs, or who had non-celiac gluten sensitivity who eliminated gluten, may have felt great for a long time. But after eating gluten-free foods like cookies, English muffins, tortillas and gluten-free cakes, or even rice, sorghum, millet and nut flours like almond or cashew flour, found that they still had bloating and diarrhea.

If you have SIBO, indulging in a gluten-free carb-heavy diet might be the cause of a whole list of uncomfortable symptoms: burping, reflux, heartburn, abdominal pain, stomach pain, gurgling, distention, bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, alternating diarrhea constipation, and painful bowel movements.

This shows that it isn’t just gluten, but processed grains in general that people with SIBO really struggle with in terms of digesting them properly.

Beyond Gluten: What About Meal Spacing – Does It Help?

This is a topic not directly affected by gluten sensitivity, but something that many people with this condition wonder about. Meal spacing has theories all over the board… from don’t eat breakfast, to a twelve hour gap between a dinner and breakfast, to eating small meals throughout the day.  

For SIBO and to encourage a healthy digestive tract, it may be best to have a light breakfast. Then lunch and dinner meals that are at least four hours, preferably five hours apart. If you can go longer, you may feel better.

Listen to your body, and let it tell you when it’s hungry. The most important thing is to consume balanced meals with a serving of fat, lots of gluten-free fiber and a serving of protein.

Gluten-Free Foods That May Be Inflaming Your SIBO (And a Little-Known Mineral That May Help)

Many people with SIBO may have not only a sensitivity to gluten, but also naturally gluten-free, sulfur-containing foods like broccoli and cauliflower, brussel sprouts, bok choy other cruciferous veggies.

If you’re one of those people who has trouble digesting sulfuric vegetables, there’s a mineral called molybdenum you can take as a supplement and it may be able to help. What it does is reduces the sulfur, so you don’t have the sulfur burps or the sulfur gas.

Hopefully, this allows you to enjoy foods like  garlic and onions once again. Food sensitivities will vary from person to person, which is why it’s so important to have a customized diet plan, along with pharmaceuticals and herbs from a knowledgeable SIBO practitioner.

Diets such as FODMAPS, the Elemental Diet, or even a liquid diet for a time have had good results for some SIBO patients (with the main principle of the elimination of gluten-containing foods).

Hydration Is Key, When Going Gluten-Free

Drinking enough pure water is crucial, especially if you’re on a gluten-free regimen during an active treatment phase with your SIBO. Toxins are being released while the bad bacteria “die off” period happens, and can cause some discomfort while your gut “resets” itself.

Water helps flush out the bad stuff and assists your liver in the detoxification process. After a time of adjustment, and with proper monitoring and testing, you should begin to feel better with the right guidance.

Gluten Tastes Great, But Is a Pretty Poison

In the end, gluten is not usually a good choice for anyone whether they have celiac disease or not. This molecule is especially dangerous for those with chronic autoimmune issues and SIBO. And may wreak all kinds of havoc on the body – from digestive woes, to brain fog, to skin rashes, and much more.

The good news is that there has been enormous progress made in living a gluten-free lifestyle – with delicious alternative foods, cooking methods, and meal plans. One need not ever feel deprived by living gluten-free.

Are you gluten free? Do you feel like this change makes a difference for you? Comment below…

24 thoughts on “SIBO & Gluten: The Truth You Need To Know with Dr. Lisa Shaver

        • Hi Rachna,
          I don’t mind responding at all. I took 1 tablet 3x a day and completed 2 bottles. I was prescribed the brand Biotics Research Mo-Zyme Forte™ – Molybdenum 150 mcg, for Liver Support, Detoxification, Essential Trace Element, Healthy Metabolism, Antioxidant Support 100 Tablets. This supplement isn’t something you should take without a practitioners advice. Your body produces molybdenum naturally, so by taking it when not needed, could create toxicity in the body. Just be mindful and check in with your doctor first.
          SIBO SOS Team

  • Molybdenum is essential to push the sulfur pathway. As a supplement, it comes in a variety of forms. I like to try a liquid molybdenum first. Three drops provides 75 mcg, and that’s perhaps all that is needed. The drops allow for individualization of treatment, going up with a more sulfur-rich meal, less or none in a low or non-sulfur containing meal.

    Sulfur rich foods include the Brassica family (cruciferous vegetables) such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, bok choy. Then there are eggs & meat, nuts and of course onions & garlic and other allium family (leeks, scallions and the white part of the green spring onion).

    Also have your water tested for sulfur levels. And pharmaceutical medications and some supplements contain sulfur as well, so make sure you explore all the areas where sulfur may be creeping into your body.

  • Thank you Shivan for this post. It’s very helpful now with the holidays coming and the colder weather. I feel drawn to more comfort foods and that includes looking at packages of frozen gluten free waffles and such. Luckily, I have passed them over. I often wonder about oatmeal too. It really doesn’t agree with me. I feel bloated from it. Sometimes, I try cream of rice cereal. Any comment about that one?

    Thank you LIsa and Shivan for this post. It’s very helpful to me. I’ve been diagnosed with SIBO. I’ve often wondered about oatmeal and why it doesn’t agree with me. Do you think Cream of Rice cereal is a good option? I find myself drawn to more comfort foods now with the holidays coming and the colder weather. I seem to do pretty well with yams or sweet potatoes. The suggestion about the supplement makes sense. Also, I”m staying away from gluten free frozen foods like waffles and things that are tempting but really don’t work well either. Good wishes to you both for the holidays.

    Thank you

  • I have been gluten free since 2009. I was losing bone density. I have been able to build back that density through diet and lifestyle. Now at 60 years of age, I still am completely free of any on-going pharmaceuticals. It is easy to eliminate gluten. I could have ended up on a ton of pharmaceuticals without ever addressing the real issue. I feel so blessed!

  • How much molybdenum is recommended? I’d like to give this a try but have no ideas as to dosage. This would be to help with the onions/garlic/broccoli/cruciferous veggies situation.

    • Hi Julie,
      See my response to Rachna…. I took 1 tablet 3x a day and completed 2 bottles. I was prescribed the brand Biotics Research Mo-Zyme Forte™ – Molybdenum 150 mcg, for Liver Support, Detoxification, Essential Trace Element, Healthy Metabolism, Antioxidant Support 100 Tablets. This supplement isn’t something you should take without a practitioners advice. Your body produces molybdenum naturally, so by taking it when not needed, could create toxicity in the body. Just be mindful and check in with your doctor first.
      SIBO SOS Team

  • Are there some advances to increase gluten tolerance? How can one test if
    they have become tolerant over time? I’ve heard this is possible as the gut
    gets healthier and one has given up the dairy or another irritant for a lot of
    Is there a test for gluten sensitivity to know if undetected damage is being done?
    I hear the Anti-Gladin test isn’t enough
    Are the HLA genes for gluten intolerance (not Celiac genes) by 23andme a good
    indicator to go by for refraining?
    to give it up?

    • BJ,
      So sorry you are dealing with gluten intolerance. Dr. Siebecker discussed it in yesterday’s Q&A. Did you happen to join us? Check out Dr. Siebecker’s website at It is a great resource. I hope you can find some answers there.

      SIBO SOS

    • That’s a hard one. Here’s a link to our list of vetted practitioners: You would have to reach out to their individual practices to learn about their insurance requirements.
      Good luck.

      SIBO SOS Team

  • I am glad that other people have these same problems as I do! I have seen some weight loss with meal spacing, especially after gaining 13 pounds – and then losing 6 – from eating 8oz of sprouted hummus and raw green beans within 36 hours. I am still suffering from the bloating!

  • ….i can see how the information is not coming freely : for exemple
    3 time the question about the cinammon is been asked
    the ansew is not coming clearly and evec avoid ..
    with cinamon ?? coming from where ? what makes the diference between common and medical ? many of us have allready essentiel oil is that the proper medical one …?

  • this is wonderful information like hidden pieces of the puzzle coming together to make sense of all the symptoms that doctors can’t make sense of, thank you so much!!!

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