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SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacteria Overgrowth)

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is a serious condition affecting the small intestine. It occurs when there is an increase in the bacterial population in the small intestine. These bacteria may be found in small amounts in other parts of the gut and eliminated regularly. This causes pain and diarrhea.

SIBO Symptoms:

SIBO symptoms mainly affect the gut. Symptoms may include

You may also experience unexpected weight loss or have difficulty losing weight.

How to test for SIBO:

A breath test is a common test for diagnosing SIBO. Excess bacteria in the small intestine can lead to the release of the gases hydrogen and methane, which can be identified through a breath test. This test is noninvasive and can be performed at home or in a doctor’s office. 

You’ll need to fast overnight before having a breath test. During the test, you’ll breathe into a tube. You’ll then drink a special sweet drink provided by your doctor. You’ll breathe into a series of additional tubes at regular intervals for 2 to 3 hours after consuming the drink.

IBS Vs. SIBO:

Have you been experiencing abdominal symptoms? Bloating? Cramping? Indigestion? Abdominal pain? Or maybe you are experiencing anxiety and depression? If so, you should know about small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), and how it is most often under-diagnosed as a source of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). 

Many individuals have a diagnosis of IBS that they have been given at some point in their lives by a doctor, and they are just trying to manage it on their own with no real solution to addressing the root cause. In most cases, IBS is in fact SIBO. 

SIBO is a serious condition affecting the small intestine and happens when bacteria that normally grow in other parts of the gut, grow in the small intestine.  When you are diagnosed with IBS it’s really important to make sure that you get the proper testing and determine if this is one of your root causes. Let’s now talk about how you can tell if your IBS is actually SIBO.

Causes of SIBO:

SIBO is not yet well understood. It can occur when:

  • your small bowel has anatomic abnormalities

  • the pH changes in your small bowel

  • your immune system is not working properly

  • the muscular activity of the small intestine malfunctions, which means that food and bacteria are not removed from the organ

Treatment of SIBO:

Antibiotics may decrease the number of bacteria in the small intestine, but they will not address the underlying issue that caused the problem in the first place. If a doctor determines that your SIBO is due to an underlying condition, you’ll also need to begin treatment for that condition. Diet changes may also help.

Your doctor may also recommend trying an elemental diet. This diet replaces food and drinks with certain liquid formulas for a specified amount of time. More research is needed, however. Work with your doctor before starting this diet, and follow their instructions.

If you have a diagnosis of SIBO or IBS, and you’re in the process of trying to determine how you can feel better, it’s highly recommended to go on a low FODMAP (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, and polyols) diet.  These are hard to digest fibers and sugars, and therefore do not pass through the small intestine well. In the colon, the high FODMAP foods will ferment and cause gas, and in the small intestine, they will pull water causing bloating and stretch in the intestinal area.

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