Are you suffering from chronic digestive issues such as diarrhea, constipation, unintentional weight loss, bloating, and/or abdominal pain? Though these symptoms could indicate a number of gastrointestinal disorders, they may also be pointing to a condition called Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, or SIBO. We’re sharing some things you need to know about SIBO, including how to treat and prevent it, so keep reading to learn more!

Things You Need to Know About SIBO

What is SIBO?

SIBO stands for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth and is characterized by an abnormally high number and abnormal type of bacteria in the small intestine. While your large intestine, or colon, is home to many gut microbes, the small intestine does not normally contain much bacteria due to its role in digestion and absorption. The uncharacteristic presence of bacteria can lead to a number of uncomfortable symptoms including loss of appetite, bloating, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, and unintended weight loss.

What Causes SIBO?

There are several potential conditions that can lead to SIBO. If you’ve recently had abdominal surgery, such as gastric bypass, have certain structural issues like scar tissue in your intestine, or have medical conditions including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), celiac, diabetes, Lyme, hypothyroidism, or Crohn’s disease, you may experience small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. This is often due to decreased ability to move food through your digestive tract, as well as decreased secretions of enzymes necessary to break food down and absorb nutrients. These issues combined become a breeding ground for bacteria, which can cause inflammation, produce toxins, compete for nutrient absorption, and break down into products that cause diarrhea and the other characteristic symptoms.

How is SIBO Diagnosed?

SIBO can be tricky to diagnose, but if suspected, a breath test may be used to test for hydrogen and methane, two gases not produced by humans and instead produced by bacteria found in SIBO. Symptoms alone may also be used to diagnose SIBO, and a stool analysis can infer (but not fully diagnose) an overgrowth.

How is SIBO Treated?

There are several approaches to treating SIBO, with the goals of addressing the root cause, providing nutritional support, and reducing the overgrowth. Antibiotics and antimicrobial herbs may be used to reduce the number of bacteria residing in your intestine, and nutritional support may be necessary to address malabsorption or malnourishment occurring as a result of the overgrowth. Discovering the underlying cause, whether it be anatomical or due to another GI condition (such as IBS), is key in taking a holistic approach to treatment. A low FODMAP diet may work to help starve the bacteria, as they rely on these kinds of carbohydrates as food. A functional medicine practitioner can work with you to help identify underlying causes and come up with a treatment plan that works best for you.

How Can You Prevent SIBO?

One way to reduce your risk of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth is through intermittent fasting. Fasting can help to improve the migrating motor complex (MMC), helping food move along the digestive tract and preventing the conditions in which bacteria thrive. Read more about this with our blog here.

For more information on how we can help you treat gut health issues in holistic and natural way, book a free 20-minute discovery call here.

Wondering what foods are best for IBS or SIBO? Download our 7-Day Beat the Bloat meal program here.

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