Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth Diet, Treatment and Advice
There are 3 symptoms of SIBO that stand-out and which we deal with in detail here. Everyone has bacteria naturally throughout their digestive tract. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) happens when there is an abnormal increase in the overall bacteria in our small intestine. As a result, essential nutrients can’t be properly absorbed. Many of the symptoms of SIBO highlighted here are due to malabsorption of nutrients [Ref]
This malabsorption can result in iron deficiency, calcium deficiency, and vitamin B12 as well as other vitamin deficiencies. [Ref] The good news is that whilst SIBO can be a chronic condition, it can be cured. Here we focus on the symptoms of SIBO and point to testing and treatment. Testing is non-invasive and straightforward, so whilst these symptoms are no fun, if they are familiar then rest assured they can be dealt with.
How do I know if I've got SIBO?
3 Primary symptoms of SIBO
#1 – Abdominal bloating and flatulence
SIBO results when a circumstance – such as surgery, certain medications, and disease – slow the passage of food and waste products in the digestive tract. This in effect creates a ‘buffet line’ for the bacterial overgrowth present in the small intestine. By now, you must have an inkling of what happens when the excess bacteria feed on undigested food: yes, gas. Lots and lots of it. That’s because the anaerobic fermentation of sugars and carbohydrates in the gut produces a cocktail of gases including hydrogen. This in turn, feeds single-celled organisms (known as archaea) which then produce methane. Thus, bloating, one of the key symptoms of SIBO. [Ref]
And of course, all that gas has to go somewhere. A tiny part of it is absorbed into your bloodstream but most of it needs to be passed out of your body. So, if you feel like you’re desperately holding back your gas more than you should be, SIBO is a real possibility.
To be sure, continue reading:
#2 – Oily, foul-smelling stools
SIBO is typically mistaken as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). And it isn’t difficult to see why – especially if you were to judge based on the previous symptoms (i.e. abdominal bloating and flatulence). That’s where looking out for, or, rather, smelling, the next of the symptoms of SIBO comes in handy when it comes to answering the question: ‘Do I have SIBO?’ And that is oily, foul-smelling stools.
As it turns out, the excess bacteria found in the small intestine don’t only ferment carbohydrates and sugars to produce gas. Instead, they also break down bile salts, which are normally needed to digest dietary fat. This results in poor fat absorption. Thus, leading to oily, smelly, and floating stools. Not pleasant. So, you know what to do the next time you visit the toilet, right?
#3 – Unintentional weight loss
Are you dropping pounds unexpectedly–even though you haven’t done anything different with your diet or exercise regime? While you might have welcomed this unexpected weight loss, bear in mind that it could also be one of the symptoms of SIBO. That’s because the bacterial products–from the digestion of food and waste material–can damage the mucous lining of the small intestine. This results in decreased absorption of carbohydrates and proteins. Now, add poor fat absorption to the mix, and what do you get? That’s right: malabsorption of all 3 primary macro-nutrients in your diet.
That said, weight fluctuations are normal. How do you know if the amount of weight you’re losing is cause for concern? Well, unexplained weight loss is defined as the unintended loss of at least 10 pounds or 5% body weight over 6 to 12 months. [Ref] If you’ve lost that amount or more than that, it could be because of SIBO.
Living with a finicky stomach often means living with unpredictability–one week your digestive system is gurgling along fine, the next you’re bloated, dealing with stabbing abdominal pain, uncontrollable diarrhoea, and excessive wind. It’s debilitating for sure. So debilitating that you may have–out of pure desperation–tried every diet and cure for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). But, of course, your digestive symptoms never truly went away. Why? You could be suffering from small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) instead.
So what’s SIBO?
SIBO is a digestive disorder that occurs when there is an abnormal increase in the overall bacterial population in the small intestine. At this point, you must be thinking, ‘Okay, how do I know if I’ve got SIBO?’ Great question. Keep a lookout for the 3 symptoms outlined to the left.