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Everything you need to know about SIBO

Everything you need to know about SIBO

We talk a lot about gut health here, which impacts so many aspects of the body and is so important to address when it comes to managing your health. The topic of SIBO is becoming more and more recognized, yet it can understandably be often misunderstood. So we’ll dive into what exactly it is, what may cause it, and what you can do about it below! 

What is SIBO?

SIBO is an acronym that stands for Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth, and is a condition in which higher than normal amounts of bacteria reside in the small intestine. Under normal circumstances, this bacteria lives in the colon (part of the large intestine) where it serves many important functions like digesting carbohydrates for energy and synthesizing some vitamins. In SIBO, however, this bacteria can wreak havoc on the gut and lead to many unwanted symptoms. 

Some symptoms of SIBO include:

  • Frequent and/or excessive bloating and gas
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Abnormal feeling of fullness after eating
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue

What causes SIBO?

SIBO can also cause malabsorption of nutrients, yet that is a symptom that is not usually felt by the body and can therefore often be hidden. If malabsorption becomes severe, though, weight loss and anemia are a couple of things that may occur and are also signs to watch out for.

There are many factors that can contribute to the development of SIBO. 

Some of these are:

  • Low stomach acid
  • Frequent antibiotic use
  • Hypothyroidism 
  • Pancreatitis, or any condition that causes a decrease in pancreatic enzyme function
  • Gut infections
  • Poorly controlled gut disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and irritable bowel disease (IBD), which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Abdominal surgeries that alter the normal anatomy of the gut (such as in short bowel syndrome and some gastric bypass procedures)
  • Frequent or chronic use of narcotics or anti-spasm medications

What can you do about SIBO?

In order to properly treat SIBO, formal diagnosis must be made. Since SIBO shares many similar symptoms to other gut disorders, it can be tricky to identify and therefore we always recommend working with a professional for formal evaluation of symptoms and diagnosis. 

The goal in treating SIBO is to both get rid of any excess bacteria in the small intestine as well as to identify and treat the underlying cause of what caused it to be there in the first place (because if you just treat the bacteria, the problem is likely to return!). There are two approaches to treating SIBO bacteria: herbal antimicrobials and prescription antibiotics. Both can work and the treatment used depends on both the severity and specific type of the SIBO (hydrogen or methane-predominant). 

Some herbal antimicrobials that we find help with treating SIBO bacteria are:

  • Berberine
  • Allicin, a compound found in garlic
  • Neem
  • Oil of oregano

In addition, the use of herbs that help stimulate normal movement and digestion of food in the intestines can also help manage SIBO and prevent its recurrence. These include prokinetic agents, digestive enzymes, and more. Keep in mind that these supplements should never be purchased on your own for self-treating, though, and should always be used only under the guidance of trained professionals like us. 

Is there a diet for SIBO?

Food nearly always plays a role in managing just about any condition, and SIBO is no exception. Changing your diet can help support the treatment of SIBO and prevent it from recurring. The type of diet to follow depends on the severity of the condition.  

Some examples of diets that may be used in the treatment of SIBO include*:

  • Elemental diet-this involves consuming a formula made up of pre-digested carbs, proteins and fats as well as vitamins and minerals that are in their most easily absorbed forms. The goal of this diet is to reduce the workload on the digestive tract and “starve” the bacteria. No whole food forms are allowed to be eaten. It’s usually reserved for severe cases of SIBO and is generally recommended to be followed for at least a few weeks. 
  • Low FODMAP diet-you may have heard about this one, which stands for fermentable oligo di- monosaccharides and polyols. It involves removing foods high in FODMAPS for a period of time to help starve bad bacteria, improve symptoms, and heal the gut.
  • Specific carbohydrate diet– this is another type of elimination diet that removes certain types of carbohydrates and instead focuses on short-chain, easily digested carbs. Its goal is to reduce the amount of harmful bacteria in the gut and improve digestive symptoms. 
  • Low carb diet-this is the most general type of diet which can be modified in many ways and serves to reduce the amount of carbs eaten. Since carbs are the only macronutrient that are fermented in the gut (and potentially lead to things like gas), reducing their intake can help improve symptoms and reduce bacterial growth. 

*Note that each of these diet plans should be followed using the guidance of a trained nutrition professional, like us! 

Bottom Line

SIBO can be a serious gut disorder that negatively impacts health in many ways. In order to properly diagnose and treat SIBO, it is essential to work alongside a trained healthcare professional to determine the potential causes and appropriate treatments. Feel free to reach out to us for additional guidance, evaluation, and support!)

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