I never wanted to write about the SIBO weight gain connection because I really hate talking about weight with you.
It’s not my thing. It’s not what I like to focus on. And I believe that, as women especially, we are inundated with far too much weight loss s#$@ every single day that I just don’t want to be part of it.
So then why am I talking about the SIBO weight gain connection today?
Honestly? I’m talking about it because weight gain not weight loss was my situation. And when I couldn’t figure out why, I began conducting a little research.
It was there that I realized a lot of people out there are in this boat vs. the SIBO patients scary weight loss boat (the one that doctor’s usually associate with SIBO – small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) so I wanted to help people understand what’s going on.
Not all SIBO symptoms will look and present the same way.
In my post, “When SIBO Keeps Relapsing,” I told you about the doctor who made the comment to me,
You don’t have SIBO. If you had SIBO, you would be losing weight quickly and very frail.
Well he was wrong then and he’s still wrong today. I’m not making this up, there is plenty of science and research around it.
And by the way, if any practitioner makes you feel awful, guess what? You GET TO fire them.
Let’s cut to the chase, and dig right in with something that might help you.
IBS/D – C: Irritable Bowel Syndrome / Inflammatory Bowel Disease – Constipation (Methane Dominant SIBO)
IBS/D – D: Irritable Bowel Syndrome / Inflammatory Bowel Disease – Diarrhea (Hydrogen Dominant SIBO)
(Note: That is typically what it looks like. Can it be different? Yes, in some cases; usually not.)
SIBO can be methane or hydrogen producing (or both – I produce both). Bacteria produces hydrogen and archaea produces methane. Updated to add: Also now a third type: Hydrogen Sulfide.
There is nothing wrong with having bacteria in the gut; everyone does and everyone should. The problem with those who have SIBO is that there is too much, an overgrowth of bacteria, in the small intestine causing problems.
If high levels of hydrogen are the problem, then bacteria will cause unabsorbed carbohydrates to ferment. Then, if you’re really lucky (insert sarcasm) you’ll have problems with methane production when the archaea feed off the hydrogen.
What are Archaea?
Archaea or methanogenic archaea, “are known as human gut inhabitants since more than 30 years ago through the detection of methane in the breath and isolation of two methanogenic species belonging to the order Methanobacteriales, Methanobrevibacter smithii and Methanosphaera stadtmanae.” (source)
Now to correlate archaea to SIBO (and Lehman’s terms), I like how Chris Kresser describes them,
Unlike bacteria, which primarily produce hydrogen, the archaea are what produce this methane, and they do this actually not by fermenting carbohydrates. So bacteria produce hydrogen and the way they do that is by fermenting fibers. The methane production works differently.
The archaea consume the hydrogen that’s produced by the hydrogen-producing bacteria, and then they produce methane as a by-product of that process.
So this is actually one of the ways that excess hydrogen in the gut gets metabolized, is by these methanogenic archaea converting that hydrogen into methane.
Problems Caused by Methane
Not everyone produces methane, and that’s a good thing, because here are some of the problems caused by methane.
And there it is, obesity.
So let’s discuss the topic at hand…..the SIBO weight gain connection and how to lose weight with SIBO.
The SIBO Weight Gain Connection
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Recent research has linked methane production to the pathogenesis of constipation and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), as well as obesity. (source)
From my research, methane dominant SIBO correlates with weight gain more often for these 3 reasons:
Slower Transit Time
I’ve talked about this at length in various places, but there is a correlation between slow transit time and methane production.
Slow transit time means there is a slow movement of food, food which sits in the gut for far longer than it should, causing many problems, including weight gain.
Archaea have been shown to affect the amount of calories your body absorbs by increasing the capacity of gut bacteria to digest specific glycans. (source)
What does that mean? Yet again, a calorie is not a calorie.
“So let’s say you have a high-fiber diet. Humans generally can’t eat fiber. Cows and ruminating animals have a lot of methanogens because the methanogens help facilitate digestion of fiber. So what does that mean? That means that you can get more calories from a meal if you’re a methane producer because you’re liberating calories from things that people who don’t have methane can’t get.” (source)
Metabolism impacts HOW your body is able to utilize the nutrients it receives from food. With a slow metabolism, your body is not able to efficiently use nutrients from food, so the excess is often stored as fat. A slow metabolism can also negatively impact some of our natural hunger hormones, such as leptin and insulin, which can keep us from staying full and cause further weight loss resistance. A vicious cycle, isn’t it? (source)
All of these can be traced back to poor gut health.
The good news is, as you fix your gut, you address all of these issues.
Spotlight on Inflammation
Practically a Gutsy buzzword at this point.
Truth be told, it is a huge component of the SIBO weight gain issue. Recent studies have shown that weight gain and inflammation are in a constant cycle with one another, each one furthering the other.
Weight gain causes the immune system to react to produce low-grade inflammation, while inflammation causes hormonal imbalances that promote weight gain. This includes both insulin resistance and leptin resistance, which can raise blood sugar levels and promote fat storage.
So how do we stop the cycle?
Target the inflammation first.
Obviously the inflammation will slowly come down as you address your SIBO, but there are some more ways you can be soothing your gut in the mean time.
1. Identify your food sensitivities
This is one step that is extremely helpful in lowering inflammation across the body. By removing foods your body struggles to digest, you can help prevent inflammatory responses.
There are a couple ways to properly identify your food sensitivities, including a blood test, digestive breath testing, and the elimination diet.
2. Remove inflammatory foods
I will say this time and time again, but the inflammatory foods have got to go.
If you want to truly commit to this, you can try an elimination diet, which can help both lower inflammation and pinpoint specific triggers.
If not, try removing these foods and seeing how your body reacts:
- added sugars
3. Add in soothing herbs and supplements
Some herbs have natural properties that help to prevent inflammation in the gut.
These are also great for any type of digestive problems.
Some of my favorites include:
- Marshmallow root
- Slippery elm
How to Lose Weight with SIBO
While the real issue comes down to SIBO itself, there are some ways to temporarily help support your body’s natural weight in the process and getting to what you determine is a healthy weight.
Clearing SIBO can take quite some time and effort, so we want to give our body as much support as we can in the mean time.
This does NOT include any restrictive diets or over-exercising. Instead, we are leaning into supporting the digestive system for better metabolism and health.
Here are some ways to help “reverse” the SIBO weight gain:
Focus on natural ways to boost your metabolism
Metabolism is something that can be improved, given the right strategies. By doing things such as incorporating more movement into your day, taking 4-5 hour breaks in between eating, and increasing protein content, you can naturally improve your resting metabolic rate.
For more information on all things metabolism check out THIS article.
Incorporate natural prokinetics
Prokinetics are supplements or medications that promote movement throughout the digestive tract. This can help to prevent your food from sitting in your large intestine and causing undesirable weight gain.
Some of my favorite natural prokinetics include:
- Ginger (actually, the whole Digest Plus formula)
- Motil Pro
I have found each of these to be extremely helpful in not only preventing food from sitting in my body, but also for helping with digestive symptoms as a whole.
Find a short-term “diet” that works with you
Whether this be the elemental diet, the SIBO diet, or the low-fodmap diet, the specific carbohydrate diet (SCD Diet), or a combination of any one, find one that works for you.
There is no “best” diet, it just just whatever makes you feel better temporarily.
The goal of any of these diets is to address the underlying INFLAMMATION and give your GI tract the chance to slowly repair itself. It is NOT and I repeat NOT meant as a long term solution for any of your symptoms.
If you want to create the best diet for your own body, with the A Gutsy Girl method, you’ll find it in A Gutsy Girl’s Bible: a 21-day approach to healing the gut.
This book is called, A Gutsy Girl’s Bible: a 21-day approach to healing the gut and in it you’ll find my tried-and-true method for healing to apply to your OWN journey.
Before starting any of these protocols, make sure to consult with a trained practitioner.
Address your SIBO!!!!!
This is a bit of a gimmy, but I did need to throw it out there.
Your weight issues will not fully go away until the root issue is addressed. The weight is just your body’s way of saying, “Something is not right.”
The ultimate goal is to get rid of the imbalance of gut bacteria in your gut and rebuild that healthy microbiome. Any and all SIBO treatment must be a priority.
Once that is done you will certainly see improvements in your body weight and overall health.
My Personal Experience Arriving at Good Health
While I had high levels of both hydrogen and methane, I lean far more towards methane symptoms than hydrogen.
When it comes to the SIBO weight gain connection, I don’t complain about my weight gain because I still remain fairly small. That said, prior to SIBO, I was eating about double what I did during SIBO hell, and weighed about 7 pounds less.
Because of my research and all that has happened, my approach for healing post-antibiotics was so different than all the previous times. It was in line with A Gutsy Girl’s Bible vs. just doing and eating whatever I wanted.
And furthermore, I did not stop until I had that underlying cause figured out (and addressed). p.s. It was highly due to low stomach acid.
Having high levels of both hydrogen and methane has been a vicious, exhausting cycle. Until you’ve lived it, you don’t know and you can’t understand. This isn’t just a little “weight gain” complaining. This has affected, truly affected, every single last piece of my life.
Updated in 2023 to add: Shortly after this post was originally written, I healed for good. I have had zero issues or symptoms since late summer of 2018.
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p.s. If you liked this information regarding SIBO, check out my new guide, Reasonable SIBO.
You will heal. I will help.