SIBO, which is short for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, is a condition caused by the abnormal increase in bacteria in the small intestine. Some people call SIBO blind loop syndrome.
In many cases, SIBO develops after someone is ill or they undergo surgery. If the passage of food through the digestive system slows, it causes waste to build up in the digestive tract. This creates a breeding ground for harmful bacteria.
This leads to:
SIBO that develops after abdominal surgery can cause diseases and structural problems. For some, follow-up surgery is needed to correct the problem.
Although stomach discomfort is an occasional problem for many people, it’s important to see a doctor if you experience:
You should contact your doctor or seek emergency medical attention any time you experience severe abdominal pain.
In general, SIBO is caused by bacterial overgrowth.
Several things increase a person’s risk of developing SIBO. For example:
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The small intestine has far fewer bacteria than what is found in the colon. This is due to bile and how quickly waste and food should move through the small intestine.
However, when someone develops SIBO, food remains in the small intestine too long and allows for the growth of harmful bacteria. This leads to the production of toxins that affect the body’s ability to absorb nutrients.
Left untreated, SIBO puts someone at risk of:
Vitamin deficiencies, especially the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, K, and B-12.
These vitamins support the nervous system, DNA production, and blood cell production. B-12 deficiencies lead to fatigue, tingling, mental confusion, weakness, and numbness in the hands and feet.
Some of these issues might be irreversible.
There are several SIBO treatments available.
The most important factor in curing SIBO is to identify the underlying problem. Once doctors know what caused SIBO to develop, they can target that issue and clear up the SIBO symptoms. For example, if someone develops a fistula, they’ll need to treat that.
In some cases, the problem cannot be cured or reversed with a quick-fix like surgery. In these cases, antibiotics are prescribed to treat the problem. This is the most common approach to treating SIBO caused by bacterial overgrowth.
Sometimes, antibiotics are the first course of treatment and then more exploration is done if medication doesn’t resolve the problem.
Antibiotics are effective because they reduce the number of harmful bacteria in the gut. Unfortunately, these bacteria can return once the medication is finished. If someone develops a loop in their small intestine, they might need recurrent courses of antibiotics when symptoms periodically develop.
Another concern when taking antibiotics is that they destroy both harmful and helpful gut bacteria. This means they eliminate SIBO, but using them can lead to other problems.
Using different antibiotics if you need periodic treatments and supplementing with pre- and probiotics during and after using antibiotics is essential for overall good health.
Many people find that eating a SIBO diet helps them eliminate the problem.
One of the most important factors in treating and curing SIBO is eating well. SIBO often leads to malnutrition. This doesn’t mean someone isn’t eating enough food. It means the adequate amount of food they eat isn’t providing them with the appropriate level of nutrition.
Their SIBO-affected body cannot take from food what it needs to stay healthy.
When nutrient absorption is a problem for people with SIBO, they should speak with their doctor about taking nutritional supplements, especially B-12.
Functional Medicine is also used to treat SIBO.
These treatments include:
Many people find that dietary changes are most effective. Eating a low FODMAP or Specific Carbohydrate (SCD) diet helps some people cure their symptoms.
Regardless of which dietary approach you choose, you’ll benefit from eating an abundant, diverse array of healthy, whole foods.
There are several antimicrobial herbs available that kill SIBO. Taking these for one to three months helps some people alleviate the problem.
Biofilm disruptors are supplements that penetrate bacteria that have built up in the small intestine.
Other SIBO cures include:
It might also help to eat a lactose-free diet.
This is because SIBO can damage the small intestine, making it impossible for the body to digest milk sugar (lactose).
Some people with SIBO can tolerate yogurt, but not milk, ice cream, cheese, and other lactose-containing dairy products.
If you’re experiencing diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, or other issues with digestive health, it could be due to unhealthy intestinal bacteria in the small intestine.
Your doctor can help you determine the cause and the best course of treatment.
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“Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) - Diagnosis and Treatment - Mayo Clinic.” www.mayoclinic.org.
Dukowicz, Andrew C., et al. “Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth.” Gastroenterology & Hepatology, vol. 3, no. 2, 1 Feb. 2007, pp. 112–122, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3099351/.
“SIBO- Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth.” SIBO- Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth,