How and where to eat for a healthy gut

Rebecca Coomes. Photo: Supplied

Rebecca Coomes. Photo: Supplied

Being diagnosed with SIBO in 2015 didn’t stop Clifton Hill foodie Rebecca Coomes eating yummy foods and going out with friends for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The author of the first SIBO cookbook and founder of the Healthy Gut website has plenty of tips for what and where to eat on a restricted diet.

Never heard of SIBO? You’re not alone. It stands for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth and causes symptoms including bloating, pain and diarrhoea, and can make day-to-day life pretty tough for sufferers. Indeed, Rebecca had spent a lifetime feeling bloated, sluggish and zapped.

“I felt really blah,” she says. “After years of going to the GP and saying I felt sick, I went to a naturopath as a last resort and she happened to be a SIBO specialist. She recommended I undertake the breath test and it came back as a very strong positive for SIBO.”

Like others diagnosed with a digestive condition, Rebecca was told that to reduce the amount of bacteria in her gut she should strip out dairy, sugar and carbohydrates as well as fermentable carbohydrates and starches, including gluten, grains, potatoes, onions and garlic). She was recommended a course of antibiotics or a herbal treatment to kill off the excess bacteria.

“I was given a list of foods and told to eat this and nothing else,” she says. “I could eat protein; meat, fish and eggs. No grains. Limited vegetables – salad, half a cup of broccoli, one spear of asparagus – limited amounts of nuts and seeds and plenty of water. No alcohol and no processed food.”


SIBO Family Favourites by Rebecca Coomes


Rebecca says she was happy to do whatever it took to get well, but cooking, eating and going out for meals suddenly got very tricky. But, she says, being put on a restricted diet doesn’t mean your social life has to die too.

“I called ahead whenever I was going out to tell the restaurant or cafe that I was coming and my experience was really positive, apart from a few uber-trendy cafes that just wouldn’t make changes to their menu,” she says. “My favourites were Mixed Business and The Terminus pub, both in Clifton Hill, they were really accommodating.”

One of the positives of being diagnosed with SIBO, besides the fact that it forces you to eat in a very clean and healthy way, is that it isn’t forever. After receiving the all-clear after six months, Rebecca could start introducing restricted foods like bread and cheese and vegetables back into her life.

“Once the bacteria has dropped and your symptoms subside you can slowly increase food,” she says. “When I got my all-clear diagnosis I went to France, where I ate cheese, croissants, wine and baguettes, all without the slightest grumble in my tummy.”

Rebecca lives on a “more relaxed SIBO diet” now, but was so stunned by the improvement it made to her life she wanted to share the love. She has just published her second cookbook, SIBO Family Favourites, a collaboration with Dr Nirala Jacobi, a naturopath and one of Australia’s leading SIBO specialists. The cookbook is full of recipes most SIBO dieters wouldn’t dream they could eat, like chicken parmigiana, choc-chip ice-cream, Aussie pizza, Mexican baked eggs and pumpkin pie. They’re all gluten-free and many are sugar and dairy-free too.

“I live off the more relaxed SIBO diet now because I feel really great,” Rebecca says. “But I allow myself the flexibility when I go out or eat at a friends’ house. But it’s not difficult any more, my lifestyle has changed. Now that I feel so good I don’t ever want to go back to the way I felt.”

So what’s her favourite recipe from her latest cookbook?

“One that I love which helps solve a problem is my butter chicken recipe,” she says. “Curries are mainly off limits on SIBO because you can’t eat onion or garlic. So I made a recipe that is onion and garlic free.

“I also have developed a decadent chocolate tart topped with pomegranate. I love the fact you can still feel like you’re having a treat but with incredibly healthy ingredients and no one knows it’s a SIBO friendly meal.”

Butter Chicken With Cauliflower Rice

Rebecca's SIBO-friendly butter chicken. Photo: supplied

Rebecca’s SIBO-friendly butter chicken. Photo: supplied

Butter chicken is a hugely popular Indian curry, yet normally contains onion, garlic and cream, making it unsuitable for those treating SIBO. This version packs a flavour punch and tastes just a good as the real thing, without causing any irritation. It’s destined to become a family favourite as it is easy to make, fills the house with a wonderful aroma and is delicious.

Classification: Gluten Free, Dairy Free

4 serves


2 tsp garam masala

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cardamom

1 tsp salt

½ tsp ground paprika

¼ – ½ tsp ground cayenne pepper

1 cup coconut milk

Butter chicken

6 chicken thigh fillets, cubed

2 tbs coconut oil

2 tbs tomato paste

½ lemon, juiced

½ bunch coriander, chopped

Cauliflower rice

2 cups cauliflower florets

1 tbs coconut oil

½ tsp ground cumin

½ tsp ground coriander

½ tsp salt

¼ bunch coriander, chopped

To make the marinade, mix all of the spices together in a large bowl. Stir in the coconut milk and mix until thoroughly combined. Add in the chicken pieces, and stir to cover. Marinate for at least 6 hours, or preferably overnight.

To make the curry, remove the chicken pieces from the marinade, reserving the marinade.

Heat the coconut oil in a wok or deep frying pan over a medium-high heat.  In batches, brown the chicken on all sides then remove and set aside.  

Once all of the chicken pieces have been browned, return them to the pan with the remaining marinade.  Stir in the tomato paste and lemon juice.  Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the cauliflower rice.  Place the cauliflower florets in a food processor and blitz until it resembles rice.  Be careful not to over process as it will turn the cauliflower into mush.

Heat a wok over a high heat and melt the coconut oil.  Add in the cauliflower, and stir-fry for 1-2 minutes.  Stir in the spices and salt.  Remove from the heat and stir in the chopped coriander.

To serve, place some cauliflower rice in a bowl and top with the butter chicken.  Sprinkle with some extra chopped coriander.  You could also serve this with some steamed vegetables. 

Note: If you can tolerate rice, replace the cauliflower with 2 cups cooked basmati rice. This will make the recipe low FODMAP.

Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

SIBO-friendly double choc-chip ice cream. Photo: supplied

SIBO-friendly double choc-chip ice cream. Photo: supplied

Hooray! Ice cream is no longer off limits while treating SIBO. This decadent chocolate chip recipe tastes lovely and rich, but contains none of the common gut irritating properties of commercially made ice cream. The use of an ice cream machine delivers a lovely creamy result, and is definitely worth the investment.


Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Vegetarian

4 serves

Ice cream

1 cup coconut milk

1 cup almond milk, unsweetened

3 tbs raw cacao powder

2 tbs honey

Chocolate chips

½ cup raw cacao butter

½ cup raw cacao powder

½ tsp stevia


Pour the coconut and almond milk into a large bowl. Melt the cacao powder with ½ cup boiling water, stirring constantly to remove the lumps. Pour into the bowl. Add the honey then mix thoroughly.

Pour the chocolate milk mixture into your prepared ice cream machine and then follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Meanwhile, make your chocolate chips. Place the cacao butter in a plastic or heat resistant bowl. Microwave in 30 second intervals until the cacao butter has melted, stirring between each zap, and it has reached 40oC-45oC. Sift in the cacao powder and stevia, mixing thoroughly to combine.

Cover a cool surface with baking paper, then pour the chocolate mixture on to it.

Using a spatula, move the chocolate around constantly until it thickens to a toothpaste consistency. Return it to the bowl and microwave it in 5 second intervals until the temperature is between 28oC-34oC, mixing between each zap to remove any lumps.

Line a baking tray with baking paper. Pour the chocolate over the tray then allow to set. Once set, remove the chocolate and chop finely.

Once the ice cream is almost set, add in the chocolate chips. You may like to reserve some to garnish your ice cream. Serve immediately. This ice cream is best eaten at the time of making, as ice crystals can form once completely frozen, and it will lose its creamy texture.

Note: If you don’t have time to make chocolate chips, you can substitute them with 4 tablespoons of cacao nibs.

  • Extracts from SIBO Family Favourites by Rebecca Coomes, $32.95 paperback, $22.95 eBook, available at



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