Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, or SIBO, is an often under-diagnosed condition believed to affect one in ten people globally. If you’re struggling with stomachaches, indigestion, and bloating, you may be one of them.
And getting a proper diagnosis is crucial to receive the treatment you need to heal your gut.
Read on for our complete small intestinal bacterial overgrowth guide for more on symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options.
What Is Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth?
Bacteria plays an important role in the gut and digestive system. But sometimes that bacteria can become imbalanced, creating bigger health issues.
This is the case in SIBO. SIBO occurs when there’s an unusual increase in bacteria in the small intestine. Not only are these bacteria overgrowing, but sometimes foreign bacteria invade the small intestine.
Then, the bacteria may start to feed on the body’s nutrients, causing malnutrition and a range of other symptoms and complications.
Signs and Symptoms of SIBO
SIBO symptoms aren’t always easily detected, nor are they properly diagnosed.
People suffering from SIBO may be given another diagnosis, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). While SIBO symptoms can overlap with other conditions, it’s worth discussing a possible SIBO diagnosis if you see these common signs:
- abdominal pain, especially after eating
- gas and excessive flatulence and/or belching
- feeling uncomfortably full after eating
- loss of appetite
- diarrhea and/or constipation
- acid reflux
If SIBO isn’t treated, you may notice some common complications like weight loss, nutrient deficiencies, and dehydration.
Causes of SIBO
When food can’t properly move through the digestive system, bacteria can overgrow, leading to SIBO.
There are many reasons why this may happen. For example, if you recently underwent surgery, especially in the abdomen, you could develop SIBO.
Anatomical issues can also lead to SIBO. Bowel abnormalities, muscular issues in the small intestine, and other anatomical issues can make it easier for bacteria to grow.
There are also some conditions that can increase the risk of developing SIBO.
Celiac disease is one condition that can coincide with SIBO. In a study, nearly one in three people suffering with ongoing celiac disease symptoms after going gluten-free were found to also have SIBO.
Other conditions that can affect the digestive system and lead to SIBO include diabetes, lupus, scleroderma, HIV, and inflammatory bowel diseases.
It’s also important to note that some medications can increase your risk of developing SIBO. Narcotics, acid medications, antibiotics, and other medications that slow down the gut may contribute to the development of SIBO.
Diagnosis and Treatment
To be treated for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, you should first receive a proper diagnosis. A trustworthy doctor can perform tests to check for SIBO.
There are several ways to test for SIBO. Imaging tests like X-rays, MRI, or CT scans can spot physical issues in the intestines.
Blood and stool tests can also be used to check fat and nutrient levels in the body. If fat and nutrients aren’t properly absorbed, this can signal SIBO.
Another common way to test for SIBO is by a breath test. In this type of test, you will blow into a balloon collecting your breath, which is then tested for high levels of methane or hydrogen.
If diagnostic tests suggest you have SIBO, use these small intestinal bacterial overgrowth tips to help treat your symptoms.
Many doctors will suggest antibiotics to treat small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. These antibiotics work to wipe out most bacteria from the gut, including in areas of overgrowth.
Antibiotics are highly effective, but their benefits may not be long-lasting. If you use antibiotics, you might also eliminate some of the “good” bacteria from your gut.
Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth Diet
Dietary changes are necessary for many SIBO patients.
Foods that trigger bacterial growth such as sugar, refined carbohydrates, and lactose should be reduced or eliminated in the SIBO diet.
If you have SIBO, discuss food and dietary options with one of our experienced diet and nutrition providers. That way, you can be sure you’re getting the nutrients and energy your body needs while healing your gut.
In theory, probiotics can help balance the bacteria in the gut by introducing new, healthier bacteria.
Because of this, probiotics have been suggested for some dealing with SIBO as a treatment option. However, probiotics may not work for everyone.
Herbal therapy may be a gentler treatment option for some, compared to aggressive antibiotics. And some research shows that herbs may be just as effective in treating SIBO as antibiotic treatment.
This form of alternative medicine is still being studied, but it’s a promising solution for those struggling with SIBO symptoms.
Treating Dehydration and Other SIBO Complications
A medical professional should also treat complications and other conditions related to SIBO.
For example, if you’re dehydrated because of SIBO, you should be given fluids and nutrients. And if your SIBO relates to another condition, such as an inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s, your doctor should work to treat both conditions simultaneously.
Follow Your Gut to Improve Your Health
If you’re struggling with digestive and gut-related issues, you may have small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Because this condition can lead to pain and other serious complications, it’s crucial to receive a proper diagnosis.
The Center for Health and Wellbeing can help, offering a range of medical services and in-depth treatment options.
Contact us to see one of our holistic and naturopathic doctors, who can help diagnose and treat your SIBO symptoms.