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Gut Health

What You Need To Know About SIBO & Gut Health

What You Need To Know About SIBO & Gut Health
What You Need To Know About SIBO & Gut Health

Balance your gut and get rid of digestive problems with the right SIBO diet! Keep reading to find out more.

RELATED: Foods That Do Your Gut More Harm Than Good

In this article:

  1. What Is SIBO?
  2. Your Digestive Tract
  3. SIBO Symptoms and Your Gut
  4. SIBO Causes
  5. SIBO Diagnosis
  6. SIBO Treatment
  7. SIBO Diet Plan
  8. Help Can be Found

Understanding Your Gut and Setting Up the Right SIBO Diet

What Is SIBO?

SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) is exactly what it sounds like — excessive bacteria in your small intestine. It may sound like having bacteria in your digestive tract is normal, and it is — but only to an extent. Let's take a look at what causes SIBO, what it is, and what we can do about it.

Your Digestive Tract

Your Digestive Tract | SIBO & Gut Health

Your digestive tract is responsible for handling the food and drink you take in, from your mouth to your esophagus to your stomach. From there, it's pushed to and through the small intestine, then through the large intestine (which includes the colon) — and then whatever is left over exits your body in the form of poop. The small intestine is responsible for slowly breaking down the food we eat so its nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream. When there's a problem with the small intestine, the body fails to absorb the nutrients it needs to become healthy.

Dr. Josh Axe, a nutritionist, tells SheKnows that in a healthy system, the small intestine is home to some bacteria, but not a lot — you'll generally find the highest concentrations inside the colon. This is why SIBO can be such a huge problem. If there is bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine, it can affect how your gut deals with nutrients. This means if there's a problem with excess bacteria in this part of your body, then you're not getting what you need to keep healthy. If the small intestine has too much bad bacteria, it may cause nutrient deficiencies and various digestive issues, as well as develop symptoms of SIBO.

SIBO Symptoms and Your Gut

"When in proper balance, the bacteria in the colon helps digest foods and the body absorb essential nutrients," says Axe. "However, when bacteria invades and takes over the small intestine, it can lead to poor nutrient absorption, symptoms commonly associated with IBS, and may even lead to damage of the stomach lining." This can lead to a number of unpleasant symptoms. SIBO symptoms can include:
  • Excess gas
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Abdominal distension
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain

Keep in mind that a few people with SIBO may experience constipation instead of (or in addition to) diarrhea. More severe cases may cause extreme weight loss and vitamin deficiency-related symptoms.


SIBO Causes

Causes of SIBO

What could be causing your SIBO symptoms? It can be quite complex, but there are some risk factors for SIBO:

  • Celiac disease
  • Low gastric acid
  • Crohn's disease
  • Type I or II diabetes
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Other chronic digestive diseases
What Is Celiac Disease? This is an autoimmune disease caused by eating gluten. It results in inflammation and damage in the small intestine.

SIBO Diagnosis

As you can see, these symptoms may sound an awful lot like a ton of other abdominal maladies. This can make it hard to pin down — even for your physician. Your doctor might want to rule out other conditions (such as diabetes or celiac disease) before jumping to SIBO testing. However, your mileage may vary according to your doc's preferences. Direct bacterial sampling from the small intestine and culturing any bacteria found is one way to diagnose SIBO. This involves anesthesia and a scope. Another option is the hydrogen breath test, which is not invasive and only requires a pretest fast. During a hydrogen breath test, you will be instructed to do the following:
  • Exhaling into a balloon
  • Consuming some of the test substance (some sort of sugar, usually)
  • Then followed by more balloon breathing
  • Which is then tested for hydrogen and methane

After all these SIBO testing procedures, your doctor will be able to come up with proper diagnoses of whether or not you have an overgrowth of bacteria in your small intestine.

RELATED: 7 Signs Your Gut Is Out Of Balance

SIBO Treatment

SIBO Treatment from BIOHM Health

So your doctor diagnosed your digestive issues as SIBO. Treatment follows. Dr. Mahmoud A. Ghannoum, a professor of dermatology at Case Western Reserve University who specializes in medically important fungi and bacteria, explains that treatment depends on its underlying cause. It can be as relatively noninvasive as a diet change (such as is necessary for those who have celiac disease) or as involved as surgery for those who have a problem in the anatomy of their small bowel. Additionally, in patients who have experienced weight loss or other signs of nutritional deficiencies, Ghannoum says nutritional support is another aspect of SIBO treatment. Nutritional recommendations are usually based on the individual patient, but many find relief from symptoms by following a low-FODMAP diet.

What Is FODMAP? It stands for fermentable oligo-, di-, monosaccharides, and polyols, which are known for causing digestive problems like bloating and abdominal pain. And finally, the other step of treatment should target and eliminate the bacterial overgrowth. "Antibiotics reduce or eliminate the bacterial overload and reverse the mucosal inflammation associated with overgrowth and malabsorption," he notes. In some cases, patients get better and stay better after antibiotic treatment. However, others see their symptoms return when their course of antibiotics is complete and must take antibiotics repeatedly — or continuously. Since antibiotics kill both good and bad bacteria, it also disrupts the digestive system.

SIBO Diet Plan

A proper SIBO diet should have high fiber and low sugar. A low-FODMAP diet may include the following:
  • Oatmeal
  • Fish
  • Meat
  • Leafy greens
  • Olives
  • Peanuts
  • Quinoa
  • Gluten-free noodles
  • Potatoes
  • Pumpkin
  • Eggs
  • Carrots
  • Unsweetened cereals
  • Gluten-free crackers
  • Gluten-free noodles
  • Blueberries
  • Head of broccoli
If there are foods to eat, there are also those that should be eliminated from the SIBO diet. These include food with high amounts of FODMAPs such as:
  • Natural fructose like agave, honey, and high-fructose corn syrup
  • Sodas
  • Dried fruits
  • Ice cream
  • Barley
  • Grains
  • Cauliflowers
  • Artichoke
  • Beans
  • Flavored yogurt
  • Rye
  • Butternut squash
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Sweetened cereals

Help Can be Found

If you've been experiencing uncomfortable and distressing abdominal symptoms, a visit to your doctor is in order. While some people have a hard time getting a solid SIBO diagnosis and treatment plan, help can be found, and hopefully, you'll be feeling back to your old self soon.  

Here are 3 simple steps to boost digestive health in the morning from BIOHM Health: 

Following a SIBO diet plan can help balance the gut and relieve symptoms. Boost its effects on the body by supplementing with gut nourishing cultures. Do want to know more about creating a more detailed SIBO diet plan? Let us know in the comments section below! Up Next: 

Editor's Note: This post was originally published on April 13, 2018, and has been updated for quality and relevancy. 

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