How many times a day do you do it?
You’re not really hungry but you stroll into the kitchen and open the fridge or pantry…
It’s not like new food has magically materialized.
Yet you find something to snack on.
But even when you’re done eating the last crumb, you’re already thinking about the next snack.
And all day long, it doesn’t stop. Popcorn on the couch at 11:00 at night while you’re binge-watching your favorite show.
Nothing wrong with unwinding after a hard day’s work with some mindless show.
But because I know about SIBO and how it can cause terrible bloating, constipation, gas, and skin problems, I avoid snacking almost entirely—especially after dinner.
What is SIBO?
SIBO stands for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.
Because of the popularity of probiotics, lots of people know about the importance of having a healthy gut microbiome.
Not sure what a gut microbiome is?
It’s everything in your gut that’s not you, like bacteria and fungus.
It’s important to have enough of these invisible friendly freeloaders in your gut. That’s because they help metabolize food and release byproducts that keep you healthy.
In other words, if you take care of these microscopic critters, they will take care of you.
Many people know it’s important to have enough friendly bacteria in the gut to keep the potentially disease-causing bacteria and yeast from overwhelming the immune system.
But what few people are aware of is exactly where the good stuff should be.
Yes, in the gut … but where exactly?
The answer is your colon.
And, no, the colon is not the same as the rectum, where poop comes out of; the colon is another term for the five-foot long large intestine.
Gut bacteria should predominantly be present in the large intestine. But when you snack a lot, it can cause an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine or SIBO.
What Causes SIBO?
There are other root causes besides snacking. But not giving your digestion enough of a break is one of the biggest culprits.
Chronic stress, medication, serious illness, surgery, hormonal imbalance (excess estrogen) … these are some of the other contributing SIBO factors.
But I want to focus on snacking here because almost everybody can relate to it and it’s really easy to correct.
So here’s why snacking can cause SIBO…
The bacteria in your small intestine normally gets literally swept down into the large intestine several times a day by a process called the migrating motor complex or MMC.
Not to geek out on this highly complex function of human physiology but the basics of the MMC are important to understand.
If the majority of your bacteria sits in your small intestine, you will not be able to absorb nutrients very well.
Malabsorption of nutrients can cause autoimmune disease, chronic fatigue, mood disorders and lots of other health concerns.
So you really need the bacteria to migrate from the small intestine to the large intestine. Otherwise, the friendly bacteria (probiotics) can’t digest their favorite food—prebiotic fiber—that eventually create short-chain fatty acids.
Short-chain fatty acids improve gut-brain communication. And basically every factor of health such as immunity is determined by gut-brain communication.
Why Snacking Causes SIBO
But it can take up to 4 hours in between meals for most of the bacteria to be swept into the colon.
You probably already know that frequent snacking is bad for managing blood sugar levels and keeping insulin levels low.
Now that you know about the MMC, add it to the list of why you really should never snack in between meals—unless you have a medical condition such as type 1 diabetes that necessitates eating frequent small meals.
Doing a 16 hour fast will help your body not only sweep all the excess bacteria down into the large intestine, it will also help your body get back in balance. Digestion requires an enormous amount of energy and resources. When you deprive your body of food short-term, it can focus on other tasks like self-repair.
(Fasting for 12-14 hours will also yield positive results but build up your temporary daily fast to 16 hours eventually.)
How To Get Tested For SIBO and Fix It
You have to get diagnosed for it by a medical doctor. You can also find a functional health practitioner who can run some diagnostic tests and assess your gut health.
Fixing SIBO requires dietary adjustments, probiotics and prebiotic fiber, for starters. You may have to eliminate all added sugars, gluten, processed soy, white flour, and wheat flour for the time being. Eat a plant-based diet consisting of real food (nothing packaged or processed) and stop snacking. And stop walking past the fridge and pantry so much!