Is Snacking Healthy?
We’re told and read so many different things so it’s hard to know if snacking is healthy or not. Some people prefer to graze or have multiple, smaller meals. As Americans, we experience an overabundance of food options. There is a Starbucks on every corner and food seems to always be within reach. We can get to a place where we don’t even remember what it’s like to feel hungry. Or we can believe hunger is a feeling we should never have. Certainly, no one should feel faint, lethargic, or have a headache from hunger but it is normal and natural to feel hungry before a meal. That’s why my recommendation, to keep digestion healthy, is not to routinely snack.
Is Snacking Healthy for IBS & SIBO?
For those with IBS or SIBO, the Migrating Motor Complex (MMC) and snacking are strongly linked. The MMC is a gastrointestinal cleansing wave that sweeps through the small intestine. It’s recommended to wait four to five hours in between meals so that the MMC will run. Many people with IBS or SIBO may already have MMC issues since damage to the MMC is strongly related to food poisoning. So whenever possible, it’s really helpful to wait for up to four to five hours between meals.
However, many people with SIBO are underweight and/or have malabsorption issues so they’re hungry all the time! First, examine whether you’re eating well balanced meals. Your meals should include healthy carbs, fats and protein. If you’re eating meals that includes carbs but not fats or protein, it’s likely that you’ll experience a momentary high and then a blood sugar crash. If you aren’t eating any carbs, because you are having a hard time tolerating fruits or vegetables, try making an electrolyte drink (page 177, The SIBO Diet Plan) or a soda sweetened with honey simple syrup. If you haven’t tried grains, adding white rice or white potatoes is an option as they are low FODMAP. Also, because they are high glycemic, they tend to not stick around to ferment and cause symptoms. Just make sure you’re adding grains to a well balanced meal and start with a small amount (1/4 to 1/2 cup depending on your sensitivity level) if grains haven’t previously been in your diet.
If you’ve reviewed your diet and it’s well balanced and yet you’re still hungry and need to snack – then do it. My recommendation is to wait four to five hours between meals when possible, but make sure your immediate health comes first. That means it’s not ok to be grouchy, light headed, listless or generally ill because you haven’t eaten frequently enough for your health needs right now. To give yourself as much time between meals as possible, place your snack closer to a meal. So if you have breakfast and feel satiated, try to wait three hours, have a snack and then have lunch in another hour. This at least gives you some meal spacing and as you heal, it’s likely you’ll be able to space them even further out. And if and when you snack, try to enjoy your food. It will further hamper your digestion if you’re stressed, rushed or feeling guilty. Take a bit of time to yourself, taste and chew your food slowly and relax.