Good for your gut

Phoebe LaPine gives us the primer on gastrointestinal troubles.


You might be wondering what in the blue blazes is SIBO, so listen up: Those letters stand for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, and awardwinning blogger, author, and wellness and science researcher Phoebe Lapine, who lives in Brooklyn and enjoys strong ties to the Vineyard, has a new book to break it down for us, “SIBO Made Simple: 90 Healing Recipes and Practical Strategies to Rebalance Your Gut for Good.” If you’re suffering anywhere on the spectrum from the mildest tummy inflammation to debilitating gut problems, this guide to everything SIBO will set you straight.

What keeps this 323-page tome from intimidating those of us who would just as soon receive a pamphlet for our health needs is a wonderful array of color photos, sidebars, and shaded tips that keep the layout fascinating, plus Lapine’s engaging writing style to move along a doctoral-thesis level of information.

So what does SIBO cause, and how do we know if we’re among the 25 to 45 million Americans with a big or small need to remedy the situation? Well, listen up again: The multiple prongs of the problem are bloating, abdominal pain, weight fluctuations, and GI distress. Still leaning in? Here’s how LaPine came to write this captivating, informative, and frankly gorgeous book.

It starts with one’s own diagnosis. LaPine got hers in late 2017, and as she herself charts her course up until then, “I had already received an unofficial bachelor’s degree in gut health studies from Life University.” Tired of her struggle with autoimmune disease, she devised a list of monthly experiments that would help her take a hatchet to problem areas, one fix at a time. That rewarding exercise yielded a blog and a popular book called “The Wellness Project.”

And then came further health turmoil. As she writes in bold letters in the introduction to her new book, “Being healed is very different from being cured.” Her own mission has been to investigate everything that’s being discovered, developed, and newly understood about a subject whose complications and treatments are limitless. And so she sets about unpacking it all, synthesizing the ways doctors, dietitians, bodyworkers, psychiatrists, and nutritionists approach gut healing.

A glance through the sections and chapter headings gives the reader — and sufferer, let’s be real here — a bracing idea of what you’re in for: “Getting to the Bottom of Your IBS Symptoms,” “Yeast Is Also A Beast: The SIBO and Candida Connection,” “The Thyroid Thread,” “Strategies To Manage Stress and Anxiety.” Anything there for you? And there’s a bunch more.

You’ll be given ample opportunity to get cooking — literally and philosophically — with such culinary wisdom and encouragement as these rules:

  • Adapt, tweak, and get creative; cooking is not an exact science.
  • Don’t bite off more than you can chew; start small and build your skills from there.
  • Batch-cook on weekends, and make your freezer your new BFF.

On page 136 you’ll arrive at the recipes. At this point, this reviewer found herself famished by the glorious color photos, artistic layout, and the delicious-sounding titles such as French Bean and Carrot Salad with Green Harissa Sauce and Chicory Salad with Jammy Eggs and Bagna Cauda Dressing. (To the culinarily untutored among us, bagna cauda sauce is an Italian anchovy dip, and a “trifecta of healthy fats.”)

And lest you panic that you’ve fallen into the clutches of an uber-healthy vegan, know that you’ll arrive at the section “The Main Event,” where delicacies await such as Back-Pocket Chicken Paillard with Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette and Baked Halibut with Green Olive and Fennel Tapenade.

The tour through this book, scholarly, educational, and tasty, honestly made me want to fall over a fainting couch and wait for someone to come cook up a healthy storm for me. I did know this wasn’t about to happen, even if I dropped to my knees beside this same sofa and prayed my way through a dozen manifestations, including one to send me a kitchen-loving fairy godmother.

But I do recommend LaPine’s book to perform the following cooking feats for you: If you’ve never made more than a plate of scrambled eggs and toast, but if you’ve suffered from any of the SIBO ailments, settle into the luxurious book, and pretty soon you’ll be tackling that persistent case of diverticulosis and whipping up a pumpkin-chive risotto.

I reached Phoebe LaPine recently, and learned that she and her husband, art dealer Charles Moffett, recently spent a full seven months on the Island, in Edgartown, where they’re redoing her parents’ garage into an upstairs guest suite. The couple live in the Fort Green district of Brooklyn. “We look forward to spending more time here,” she enthused.

I asked if she had ever met anyone without some level of stomach ailment. She had to admit those instances were few. All the more reason to pick up a copy of “SIBO Made Simple” — available at Bunch of Grapes in Vineyard Haven and, of course, online — and to get to the heart — or the gut — of healing the problem. I myself intend to tackle the book again and take full advantage of LaPine’s expertise. And while I’m at it, I intend to dive into a full but simple production of Green Falafel with Magic Tahini Sauce (page 198).

Now can someone come over and make it for me? I’ll supply the apron. And cleanup duties.