The truth about snacking and meal spacing for SIBO and IBS

Is meal spacing for SIBO important?

Are you a three-square-meals kind of person… or more of a grazer or snacker?

The answer actually matters quite a bit if you have SIBO (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth), IMO (Intestinal methanogen Overgrowth, aka Methane SIBO) or IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). Meal spacing for SIBO is an important tool that can help you feel better. 

And if you’re one over the other…. Switching things up and trying meal spacing for SIBO might actually help heal SIBO, keep it in remission, and better manage your symptoms. 

Today, I’m explaining it ALL!

First, Let’s Talk About What Happens In Your Gut

Quick anatomy lesson: the gut is made of several organs: the stomach, where swallowed foods goes first; the small intestine, where nutrients are absorbed from food into the bloodstream; and finally the large intestine where waste is formed and then excreted.

Along this whole process, the digestive organs have many helpers:

  • Digestive fluids like stomach acid and bile which kill bad pathogens and help with absorption
  • Digestive enzymes which help break down food into absorbable nutrients
  • Gut Bacteria which break down anything the body can’t absorb, like fiber. Bacteria primarily reside in the large intestine. 

Your body also has natural movements that help move food along the digestive tract, including peristalsis and the Migrating Motor Complex (MMC). 

Now, Let’s Look At What Happens With SIBO

With SIBO, bacteria overgrow in the small intestine. 

When bacteria overgrow in the small intestine, according to Dr. Siebecker they can:

  • Damage the brush border (where nutrients exit the small intestine and enter the bloodstream)
  • Damage digestive enzymes (making it harder for you to break down food)
  • Deconjugate bile, making it harder to absorb fat 
  • Steal nutrients, eating them before your body has a chance to digest and absorb them

For all these reasons, digesting and absorbing food becomes more difficult when you have SIBO. That’s why so many people with SIBO see huge benefits from a high quality digestive enzyme like Healthy Gut Holozymes

What Does That Have To Do With Snacking?

I’ve explained what SIBO does to your gut… but I haven’t explained why it happens.

According to Dr. Allison Siebecker, ND, SIBO shouldn’t occur thanks to one or more of the body’s natural protections against SIBO. 

One of the primary and most important mechanisms that fails, allowing SIBO to occur, is a deficient Migrating Motor Complex (MMC). 

The MMC is also called the “housekeeping wave.” Its job is to “sweep” through the small intestine, moving food waste and any bacteria along into the large intestine for further digestion.

In the healthy body, the MMC does its “sweep” about every 90 minutes, and this frequent clean up keeps the small intestine from ever giving bacteria the chance to overgrow

However, there is a catch: eating or drinking food disrupts the MMC – and that means anything that contains calories, from a cup of coffee with cream to a hard candy. This is actually a great design, because it stops the MMC from sweeping food out before it has had a chance to be digested.

However, if the MMC doesn’t sweep enough times per day due to consistent eating or drinking, it can lead to the perfect conditions for SIBO to emerge.

And if you already have a deficient MMC, eating frequently can further disrupt your MMC, intensifying the issue. 

Ideal Meal Spacing for SIBO and IBS Schedule 

Based on my previous interviews with SIBO experts like Dr. Siebecker and Dr. Mark Pimentel, MD, – two of the leading SIBO experts in the world – the best eating schedule for a person with SIBO is 3 meals per day, ideally spaced 4 hours apart, without snacking or drinking caloric beverages in between (plain water is fine).

This gives your body time to digest and absorb nutrients, and the MMC to sweep, before the next meal begins. 

Whether you’re in the “just suspecting” stage of SIBO, in active treatment, or in remission (and tryin to stay that way!) trying to space meals a minimum of 3-4 hours apart and avoid snacking may really help. 

HELP! I Love or Need to Snack… Am I Doomed?

As a person with SIBO who prefers snacking to 3 larger meals… I really empathize with you. 

If you haven’t given it a try, I recommend trying meal spacing as described above for 2-3 weeks to see if it makes a difference for you. 

If you can’t follow a meal spacing schedule for any reason, though, it doesn’t mean you’re doomed to have SIBO forever. 

Using digestive enzymes (like Healthy Gut Holozyme) and a prescription or herbal prokinetic (like prucalopride or ginger) can help a lot – whether or not you’re able to meal space. Digestive enzymes improve food digestion and absorption in the small intestine and prokinetics stimulate the MMC.

5 Ways To Make Your Body More SIBO Resistant

Meal spacing for SIBO is just one way you can help make your body more “SIBO resistant” – to learn more (including four more key steps), you can get a FREE recording with digestion expert Steve Wright.

Here’s what Steve covers:

5 Ways to Make Your Body More SIBO Resistant

  1. Nervous System tuning
  2. Meal Spacing for SIBO
  3. Movement – Brisk walk or whole body vibration or rebounding daily 
  4. Stomach acid support
  5. Small intestine support

Here is the recording!

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