In This Article
In This Article
SIBO can be cured, treated, or managed by a number of different methods, such as:
However, you should consult your healthcare provider before attempting to treat SIBO alone. A doctor or medical professional should check any kind of bacterial overgrowth before you take any steps.
If you want to treat SIBO, you need to understand it further.
SIBO, short for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, is a condition caused by the abnormal increase in bacteria in the small intestine.
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 many different negative symptoms, such as:
SIBO that develops after abdominal surgery can cause diseases and structural problems. For some, follow-up surgery is needed to correct the problem.
SIBO treatment may vary depending on the severity of the bacterial overgrowth. Some cases may require more intense antibiotic therapy than others.
SIBO can manifest in many different ways. Take note that you may not suffer from all of these symptoms, and not always in the same severity. Depending on your gut health and diet, some gastrointestinal symptoms may be worse than others.
Here are a few of them:
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 pain in your abdomen.
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In general, SIBO is caused by bacterial overgrowth.
Bacterial overgrowths can be caused by several things or circumstances. For example:
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, allowing harmful bacteria to grow. 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. If you’re feeling any of these symptoms, make sure you reach out to your healthcare provider immediately.
Even if you’re living a healthy lifestyle and have a relatively balanced gut microbiome, several risk factors may make you more susceptible to SIBO. We mentioned a few of them earlier, but here are a few more:
This is why being clear about your diet and medical history is important. They can help doctors figure out what to do and if you need SIBO treatment.
There are several tests your doctor may put you through in order to properly diagnose SIBO.
The breath test measures how much hydrogen gas or methane you exhale after drinking glucose and water. If there’s more hydrogen or methane than usual, it could be SIBO.
Similar to the previous breath test in that it also measures how much hydrogen gas or methane you are exhaling, but instead of glucose, you are ingesting lactulose.
If your SIBO was brought about by food poisoning, a blood test can determine its presence by measuring antibodies in your blood.
This is considered the gold standard for SIBO testing and is what doctors rely on the most. By collecting intestinal fluid from your small intestine, they better understand the bacteria there and if there’s an overgrowth.
Unfortunately, it is a little more invasive and expensive.
Yes. 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 the 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 amount of food they’re eating still isn’t giving them enough in terms 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 the 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.
Treating SIBO can also look like:
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.
An elemental diet may also be helpful so that you can better monitor your eating habits.
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.
Yes, but remember that if the symptoms go away, they may return. The bacteria may grow back, so be vigilant about how you’re feeling and any discomfort you may be experiencing.
While standard courses of antibiotics and lifestyle changes can cure SIBO, there is a chance it will recur.
Recovery from symptoms varies, but you can start to feel better as you take your antibiotics and make dietary and lifestyle changes. Most antibiotic courses may last up to two weeks, so your symptoms may dull by then.
However, you should make long-term changes to your diet and lifestyle to definitively keep SIBO at bay and improve gut health. Some report that it takes a few months of an adjusted diet after antibiotics for them to feel fully back to normal.
You could inadvertently help relieve your symptoms, but it is highly recommended you see a professional so you can be sure the overgrowth has been dealt with properly.
There is no solid guarantee that SIBO will go away via natural means alone.
SIBO occurs in the small intestine, which is part of the bigger system considered the “gut.” So if you have SIBO, you may have other gut-related problems as well.
If your gut is healthy, SIBO is less likely to occur.
If you don’t take care of your gut microbiota, have poor dietary habits, and have a sedentary lifestyle, you risk infections and overgrowth. You may put your gut at risk if it’s constantly imbalanced.
Stomach acid is naturally very strong and it “sterilizes” the gut to keep bad bacteria from overtaking the microbiome. If stomach or gastric acid production is interrupted or impacted negatively, the intestines become susceptible to more bacterial overgrowth.
This is because the small intestine is naturally a harsh environment where not a lot of bacteria thrive. But if stomach acid is not as strong and cannot eliminate other bacteria before they reach the small intestine, overgrowth is more likely to occur, causing SIBO.
Currently, there are no studies to support that SIBO can resolve itself.
However, you can help relieve SIBO symptoms by optimizing your gut health.
Your gut microbiome influences your body and wellness in general. So if you change your diet and balance your gut bacteria, the more severe symptoms of SIBO may dull, and you may feel better right away.
For the most part, it’s recommended that you talk to your doctor or healthcare provider if you’re experiencing symptoms. SIBO should be medically identified and addressed in order to be definitively treated.
While the rate of recovery from SIBO may vary depending on the severity of the bacterial overgrowth, you can at least double down on recovery and potentially speed it up by doing the following:
Taking care of your gut, in general, will help you feel better overall. SIBO symptoms and other potential conditions may improve faster if you make the proper adjustments and follow your doctor’s orders.
SIBO is not the same as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), but they share some similarities in terms of symptoms. If you are suffering from the following, it could be either of the two:
SIBO is a bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine, as the name implies. IBS, however, affects the large intestine.
While they are similar, they do two different jobs and are affected differently. This is why when you go to your doctor complaining about different gastrointestinal or digestive symptoms, they must check if it’s either one of these conditions.
Some people who do end up with SIBO may also get IBS. It’s not uncommon for bacterial overgrowth to affect both small and large intestine.
Treating SIBO will also be different from treating IBS. But, in general, there will be a lot of work done to manage bacterial overgrowth—whether in the small or large intestine.
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