3 Ways to Reverse Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth with Living Probiotics

Posted April 16, 2014. There have been 3 comments

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Recently, a fan of the Body Ecology Facebook page, Tiffany L., asked us about coconut water kefir.

SIBO occurs when food and microbes stagnate—or do not move—through the small intestine.

Coconut water kefir is made from the water of young coconuts, which is naturally sweet.

You can ferment this sweet, mineral-rich water with a kefir starter culture and create a delicious and refreshing beverage—one that is good for you and your inner ecology.

Tiffany wonders:

“Does Donna Gates-The Body Ecology Diet recommend consuming coconut kefir if someone has SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth)?”

What Is SIBO?

Stomach Ache

The best way to correct small intestinal bacterial overgrowth is by improving motility in the small intestine. This can ease common yet unpleasant SIBO symptoms, like cramping, heartburn, constipation, and diarrhea.

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is a condition marked by an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine, where the body continues to digest food after it exits the stomach.

The small intestine should be relatively free of any long-term housing for bacteria—even the good kind, the ones you find in probiotic foods. Your residential bacteria and yeast mostly live in the colon, or large intestine.

SIBO occurs when food and microbes stagnate—or do not move—through the small intestine.

Signs of SIBO range from heartburn and cramping in the upper gastrointestinal tract to constipation and diarrhea. SIBO makes the small intestine leaky. Over the long term, this affects the small intestine’s ability to absorb nutrients from food. An inflamed and leaky small intestine can lead to anemia from iron deficiency or from vitamin B12 deficiency. Other long-term affects of SIBO may include fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome. (1)

The most common way to diagnose SIBO is with a breath test—but even this is not always a reliable diagnosis.

According to Dr. LuPont at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Houston, “Studies suggest that breath testing measures variations in small bowel transit time occurring in patients with IBS, rather than the presence of SIBO.”

Dr. LuPont explains that SIBO may occur in a portion of patients that actually have IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome. This tells us that SIBO can affect the entire length of the gut—not just the small intestine. It also tells us that the repercussions of SIBO can be systemic, with cloudy thinking or depressed mood being the some of the key symptoms.

SIBO and Your Gut Bacteria

Cultured foods—like coconut water kefir, dairy kefir, and cultured vegetables—support digestion and help heal leaky gut.

In 2008, researchers at the Nestlé Research Center in Switzerland and Hohenheim University in Stuttgart, Germany, investigated the effect of probiotic foods in a group of elderly patients with SIBO. (2) They found that probiotic foods supported the immune system and reduced markers for chronic, low-grade inflammation.

In other words, probiotic foods may reverse leaky gut and reduce lab markers for SIBO. Even though coconut water kefir is fermented and contains probiotic bacteria, these bacteria will not make bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine worse. In fact, just the opposite is true.

Coconut water kefir can assist with the digestion of food and recovery from SIBO.

This is because the active, living probiotics in coconut water kefir do a lot of good. (3)(4)(5)(6) Such as:

  • Reverse bacterial overgrowth
  • Strengthen the barrier of the gut
  • Prevent bad bacteria from growing
  • Soothe inflammation in the small intestine
  • Reduce the sensation of pain in the small intestine

This is especially true when coconut water kefir is used in conjunction with the other principles of the Body Ecology Diet—namely the Principle of Food Combining and the Principle of 80/20.

Remember, SIBO occurs when food and microbes stop moving through the small intestine!

When food or microbes stagnate, bacteria begin to grow out of control and infect the small intestine. In order to reverse SIBO, you want to increase motility in the small intestine. This motility sweeps microbes along with food through the small intestine, moving it to the colon.

3 Quick Tips to Reverse SIBO

Following the principles of the Body Ecology Diet, we recommend that you:

  1. Eat Until 80% Full: If you eat too quickly, it will be difficult to recognize when you are truly full. Savor your meal and slowly enjoy your food; it takes roughly half an hour for your body to signal satiety.
  2. Food Combine for Success: We suggest that you fill 80% of your plate with lightly cooked or raw non-starchy vegetables, ocean vegetables, and cultured foods. This ensures you will have the enzymes and digestive fire to move food through the small intestine. If you still have trouble digesting meals, you can supplement with a full-spectrum of enzymes, which can help sidestep the effects of SIBO.
  3. Sip on Coconut Water Kefir: Enjoy coconut water kefir before, during, or after your meal. Because it is packed with active enzymes and living cultures, you will find that you have an easier time digesting food.

What To Remember Most About This Article:

SIBO, or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine. This triggers the body to continue to digest food after it has exited the stomach. Ideally, the small intestine should be free of most bacteria, even beneficial bacteria found in probiotics. Gut bacteria and yeast belong in the colon, or large intestine.

When food and microbes stagnate and do not move effectively through the small intestine, SIBO occurs. Some of the most common symptoms include heartburn, cramping, poor nutrient absorption, and anemia, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue over the long-term.

Cultured foods like coconut water kefir, dairy kefir, and cultured vegetables offer hope to heal digestion. You can use three helpful tips to increase motility in the small intestine and reverse the effects of SIBO:

  1. Eat Until 80% Full: Eat slowly and savor your meal; it takes half an hour for your body to recognize it is full.
  2. Use Food Combining: Fill 80% of your plate with raw or lightly cooked non-starchy vegetables, ocean vegetables, and cultured foods. Try the help of a full-spectrum of enzymes if you have difficulty digesting.
  3. Drink Coconut Water Kefir: Coconut water kefir can be enjoyed at every meal to support the digestive process with active enzymes and living cultures.


  1. Pimentel M, Chow EJ, Lin HC. (Feb 2003). Normalization of lactulose breath testing correlates with symptom improvement in irritable bowel syndrome. A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study. American Journal of Gastroenterology, 98(2):412-9.
  2. Schiffrin, E. J., Parlesak, A., Bode, C., Christian Bode, J., van't Hof, M. A., Grathwohl, D., & Guigoz, Y. (2009). Probiotic yogurt in the elderly with intestinal bacterial overgrowth: endotoxaemia and innate immune functions. British journal of nutrition, 101(07), 961-966.
  3. Preidis GA, Versalovic J. Targeting the human microbiome with antibiotics, probiotics, and prebiotics: gastroenterology enters the metagenomics era. Gastroenterology 2009;136:2015-31.
  4. Quigley EM, Quera R. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth: roles of antibiotics, prebiotics, and probiotics. Gastroenterology 2006;130:S78-S90.
  5. Quigley EM. Bacteria: a new player in gastrointestinal motility disorders: infections, bacterial overgrowth, and probiotics. Gastroenterology Clinics of North America 2007;36:735-48.
  6. Spiller R. Review article: probiotics and prebiotics in irritable bowel syndrome. Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics 2008;28:385-96.

Post Categories: Coconut Water Kefir Digestion Digestive Disorders Fermented Foods General Health Irritable Bowel Syndrome Leaky Gut Probiotics


  • Dear Donna,
    I've read your article about SIBO, which includes a lot of helpfull information.
    I'd like to ask you if it's suitable to eat sprouted grains, sauerkraut and chia seeds in case of IBS?
    Would you recommend to eat chia seeds in case that I need to gain some healthy lean muscle mass and have sensitive digestion?
    How many grams of chia seeds should I have in my daily diet?

    Thank you very much for your kindly response!

    P.S: I wish you nice and sunny sommer days!



    Posted on Apr 17 at 11:07 am

  • Hello, I was just diagnosed with Rosacea (skin disorder with papules and redness on my nose and cheeks with some broken blood vessels) I am 54.
    In my research it says not to use any fermented products if you have this condition. Thoughts?

    I eat 75% raw, some cooked vegetables, little to no meat, no packaged or processed foods,
    no dairy, nuts and seeds. I am allergic to coconut.

    What can you recommend?

    Posted on Apr 17 at 7:10 am

  • I believe this is a major health issue for many people who were dx'd with IBS. I was officially diagnosed with SIBO by a gastroenterologist while they were doing a celiac biopsy, after years of it being called IBS. But there is no cure for SIBO either, although raw milk kefir helped me, I can no longer get raw milk. And I can't afford coconut kefir long term, so am relying on homogenized dairy kefir....*shudders*, but I do feel it really helps. I've also started supplementing B12 and can clean my house now.

    Posted on Apr 17 at 5:27 am


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