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  • Writer's pictureLisa Smith

What is SIBO?

Updated: Apr 5

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Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is a condition characterized by the abnormal growth of bacteria in the small intestine. Normally, the small intestine has a lower bacterial population compared to the colon, but in SIBO there is an overgrowth of bacteria that interfere with the normal digestive process, leading to various symptoms.

What Causes SIBO?

The causes of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth are numerous, and it is not always clear what triggers this condition. Underlying conditions that affect the digestive system such as poor gut health, Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), celiac disease, and other autoimmune disorders can contribute to the development of SIBO by disrupting the normal balance of gut bacteria.

What are the symptoms of SIBO?

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth can cause a wide range of symptoms such as:

  • bloating

  • abdominal pain

  • diarrhoea

  • constipation

  • flatulence & bad breath

  • nutrient malabsorption

Bacterial overgrowth can also interfere with the normal digestion of carbohydrates, leading to the production of gases such as hydrogen and methane, causing discomfort and pain.

Other symptoms that can occur include fat and protein malabsorption, malnutrition, nausea, weight loss, B12 deficiency, fatigue, acne, and joint pain.

SIBO and Thyroid Health

SIBO may also compromise thyroid function, a recent study found 56% of people diagnosed with hypothyroidism (hashimotos) also tested positive for SIBO. In another study up to 80% of people with IBS may also have SIBO.

How Do You Test For SIBO?

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What is a Breath Test for SIBO?

There are several tests used to investigate small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. These include breath tests, blood tests and stool tests. There is no gold standard test to date, but the most common test used to diagnose SIBO is a breath test. This involves drinking a solution containing a sugar that is fermented by gut bacteria. The resulting gasses are then measured in the breath to determine the presence of SIBO.

Blood and stool tests can also be used to measure certain biomarkers that may be associated with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.

Managing SIBO through Diet

Diet can help manage small intestinal bacterial overgrowth symptoms.

A temporary low FODMAP diet which restricts certain carbohydrates may be helpful for food intolerance. This diet may reduce bloating and flatulence, in the short term. Eating smaller more frequent meals, improving gut health and increasing fibre intake can also be helpful for some people.

The Best Foods for SIBO

Nutrition and diet should be tailored to the individual, what works for one person may not work for another. A registered nutritional therapist can carry out SIBO breath testing, help identify trigger foods and develop an individualized plan for managing symptoms. They can help you manage SIBO through diet and offer SIBO-friendly recipe ideas. Furthermore, certain supplements and nutrients can also help manage gut symptoms.

Can Supplements Reduce SIBO Symptoms?

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Natural Remedies for SIBO

Probiotics and digestive enzymes may also be beneficial for reducing symptoms.

Probiotics for example may help balance the gut microbiome and reduce bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine. Digestive enzymes can aid in the breakdown and absorption of foods, which reduces the workload on the gut and reduces symptoms.

SIBO Treatment Options

SIBO can cause significant discomfort and interfere with daily life. The good news is, it is a treatable condition. Early diagnosis by a medical professional and appropriate treatment, which may involve antibiotics or herbal anti-microbials, can help people manage their symptoms.

Gut Health and SIBO

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth is a complex condition that can have a significant impact on a persons digestive health. SIBO has various causes and symptoms can be diverse, affecting many bodily functions.

If you suspect you may have SIBO visit a healthcare professional or book a free call with Lisa, registered nutritional therapist, to discuss how personalised nutrition and lifestyle advice can help you beat bloating, prevent SIBO recurrence and improve your gut health.

Please note: This blog post is meant for informational purposes only and should not replace personalised advice.

1 Comment

Rose Trombley
Mar 19

I've only been told i have IBS. I'm not very happy with my G.I. doctor, not very helpful, shoots my ideas down. Not very good listener.

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