What is SIBO?
SIBO stands for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth of normal bacteria. Simply put, SIBO is a chronic bacterial infection of the small intestine. The infection is caused by bacteria that normally live in the gastrointestinal tract but have abnormally overgrown in a location not meant for so many bacteria. Consider SIBO if you experience any Irritable Bowel Symptoms (IBS) or any of the symptoms listed below. Other tell-tale indicators include:
- your symptoms often improve with antibiotics (taken for unrelated infection)
- taking fibre worsens constipation
- symptoms worsen with xylitol use (a sweetener)
- Coeliac disease sufferers will not feel better even on a gluten free diet.
Signs and Symptoms of SIBO
Signs and symptoms of SIBO are variable and may be localised within the gut and more systemic (beyond the gut). They also overlap with symptoms of IBS; in fact, SIBO may well be a contributing factor towards IBS.
- abdominal pain
- constipation and/or diarrhoea
- Fatty stools
- Increase of symptoms after meals
- Chronic fatigue
- Acne rosacea
- restless legs syndrome
- Joint pain
- Anaemia (low iron)
- Interstitial cystitis (painful bladder issues)
- Chronic prostatitis (chronic pain and urinary issues)
- Polyneuropathy (nerve damage outside the brain or spinal cord)
- Liver issues such as cirrhosis (remarkably when alcohol is not a factor), fatty liver and obesity.
The problem with SIBO
The bacteria overgrowth interferes with our normal digestion and absorption of food and is associated with damage to the lining or membrane of the small intestine. SIBO is sometimes referred to as the ‘leaky gut of the small intestines’. In a nutshell:
- they consume some of our food which over time leads to deficiencies namely iron and B12, causing anaemia
- they consume food unable to be absorbed due to damage of the small intestine lining, which creates more bacterial overgrowth (a vicious cycle)
- after eating our food, they produce gas (flatulence within the small intestine). The gas causes IBS type symptoms (listed above)
- they decrease proper fat absorption leading to deficiencies of fat soluble vitamins A & D
- because of the damaged lining, larger food particles which are fully digested enter into the blood stream causing an immune reaction. This leads to food allergies/sensitivities.
- bacteria themselves can also enter the bloodstream also causing immune reactions
- finally, the bacteria excrete acids which in high amounts can cause neurological and cognitive symptoms.
Testing for SIBO
Doctors and some naturopaths/nutritionists use the hydrogen/lactulose breath test, which is an established non-invasive test for assessing malabsorption of sugars in the small intestine. However, false negatives are not uncommon as it is not sensitive enough for many patients (due to the fact they may produce little or no hydrogen, instead producing relatively large amounts of methane).
The production of small amounts of hydrogen and/or methane does not normally produce symptoms, whereas the production of higher levels can lead to a wide range of symptoms mentioned above.
Good news is I can conduct and arrange testing.
Treatment for SIBO
The current medical management strategies for SIBO centres on antibiotics, whereas a naturopathic holistic approach focuses on identifying and correcting underlying causes, addressing nutrition deficiencies, and the use of natural antimicrobials to treat symptomatic SIBO.
What is the best diet for SIBO?
The FODMAP diet may be recommended to you to follow during the concomitant treatment phase of SIBO . Lactose and other sugars are usually the main culprits and should be avoided. Avoiding known food allergens is also important to reduce the inflammatory response within the gut. Bioresonance testing for food allergens and intolerances is non-invasive, quick and accurate.
Nutrition therapy for SIBO
It is essential to address any nutrient deficiencies and correct these by working on the ‘nutrient points’ with bioresonance and taking prescribed supplements. The use of pre and probiotics should also be part of the treatment strategy to restore a healthy gut microbiome and for healing to take place.
An emerging promising prebiotic fibre is ‘partially hydrolyzed guar gum’ (PHGG). This is a unique soluble, simple fibre that improves intestinal bacteria and microbiota within the gut. It is very beneficial for SIBO as it rapidly stimulates bifido bacteria and butyrate, a short chain fatty acid (SCFA), necessary for optimal gut health. A low dose of 6g per day imparts benefits in the gut as early as 2 weeks of supplementation.
Experts admit efficacy of herbal antibiotics to relieve SIBO
Experts are coming forward admitting, herbal antibiotics, sourced from herbs, reduce inflammation and kill bacteria more effectively than prescribed antibiotics.
A team of researchers at the Johns Hopkins University studied over 250 patients who tested positive for SIBO and found the protocol of herbal antibiotics to be at least as effective as antibiotic therapy for resolution of SIBO by the lactulose breath test.
Herbal medicine for SIBO
A combination of berberine-containing herbs including goldenseal, barberry and oregano, alongside allicin (the antibacterial ingredient in garlic which exert powerful natural ‘antibiotic’ effects). Allicin is particularly indicated for those SIBO sufferers who produce too much methane. Neem may be another consideration.
Lastly, ‘die off’ (the breakdown and debris of pathogenic bacteria) often can occur more with herbal antibiotics than with prescription antibiotics so it is important to be under the care of your naturopath to prevent this happening.
Want to know more?
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