Abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, gas, and indigestion. These are the most common symptoms reported by two-thirds of individuals who suffer from SIBO. If you’ve experienced these symptoms, you might be wondering what SIBO is.
Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) results from an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine. But SIBO is treatable! Learn how to reduce symptoms with natural medicine and diet.
What Is SIBO?
Your digestive tract usually contains a healthy amount of natural bacteria. Your gut flora is regulated by a complex system of mechanics and chemicals. SIBO can occur when one of these elements isn’t working.
SIBO can also result from too much, or the wrong kind, of bacteria taking over your small intestine. This imbalance can lead to issues like abdominal pain, gas, and bloating. In the long term, SIBO can even lead to malnutrition, chronic inflammation, and autoimmune disorders.
Symptoms of SIBO
Many SIBO symptoms resemble other gastrointestinal conditions. Symptoms can also range from mild to severe, so it’s vital to get help from a medical professional if you suspect you might have it. These symptoms include:
- Constipation or Diarrhea
- Stomach pain
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Uncomfortable feeling after eating
Malnutrition is also possible because SIBO can also affect how your body absorbs nutrients. It can lead to calcium and vitamin deficiency and poor digestion of fats. These nutrient deficiencies can also lead to severe nervous system and immune system damage.
Causes and Risk Factors of SIBO
Abdominal surgery, like gastric bypass or ulcer treatment, is a common cause of SIBO. Other reasons why your gut bacteria might become imbalanced include:
- Low stomach acid
- Medical conditions like diabetes or lupus
- Small intestine dysmotility
- Injuries to the small intestine – such as surgery
- Inflammatory bowel conditions like Crohn’s
- Weak immune system
- Medications (antibiotics or gastric acid suppressants)
Small intestine structural problems are another common cause of SIBO. They can prevent food from traveling through the digestive tract, creating blockages. Structural problems can also lead to crevices in the intestine where bacteria breeds.
Advancing age is a common risk factor for SIBO. As we age, our level of stomach acid declines. Motility levels (the ability of food to travel through the digestive tract) also slow down.
These two issues are key components of SIBO. Older adults also tend to consume more medications for unrelated issues, which can trigger an overgrowth of bacteria in the gut.
Antibiotics are often the first course of treatment for SIBO offered by doctors. But there are natural alternatives for managing symptoms if you don’t want to complicate things with antibiotics. Natural medicine and diet changes are an excellent place to begin!
Herbal remedies have been the gold standard for treating a long list of health conditions for centuries! The reason why they’re so popular? Because they work!
Studies that compared the use of anti-microbial herbs and traditional medicine found both are equally effective. The most common anti-microbial herbs are:
- Allicin (from garlic)
- Oil of oregano
- Olive leaf
These herbs act as natural antibiotics, killing destructive bacteria and balancing gut flora. They’re often available in capsule or powder form from drug stores or health shops. But the highest quality options come from a natural medicine practitioner.
Probiotics and Prokinetics
Speicial SIBO friendly probiotics are another natural way to balance gut bacteria. These healthy bacteria can decrease symptoms like gas and bloat due to SIBO. One study found a stunning 71% decrease in symptoms after 30 days of probiotic use in patients with IBS and SIBO!
Prokinetics are another supplement that promotes movement in the digestive tract. They’re often prescribed for constipation and gastroparesis in traditional medicine. Prokinetics are also found in nature, in the form of:
- Dandelion root
- Burdock root
Prokinetics do come in a natural supplement called Iberogast. It’s a combination of:
- Milk thistle
- Lemon balm
- Licorice leaf
- Chelidonium leaf
- Angelica root
This powerful combination of herbs can help speed up the digestion process. And with faster digestion, your small intestine has less time to foster the growth of bacteria!
Many people diagnosed with SIBO also opt for diet changes. Common choices include low-carb, elimination, and low-FODMAP diets.
Elimination diets can help identify trigger foods. They involve removing possible symptom-causing foods for a period of time and then re-introducing them. This method can help you see how your body reacts to certain foods.
There are a few common trigger foods for SIBO that you might consider eliminating. These include:
- Natural and artificial sweeteners
- Dried fruits
- Fruit juice
- Wheat and rye
Some vegetables can also cause gastrointestinal distress, including onions, garlic, cabbage, and cauliflower. Fruits are usually a great choice, but steer clear of apples, pears, and peaches. They can cause bloating and gas!
FODMAP describes a specific group of carbohydrates known as fermentable short-chain carbohydrates. These types of carbohydrates are more difficult to digest and can cause a lot of issues for people with SIBO. The low-FODMAP diet reduces or eliminates these carbohydrates to decrease symptoms.
All of the above-mentioned trigger foods are high-FODMAP options. Consider reducing your consumption of these foods and replacing them with low-FODMAP options, like:
- Most vegetables (cucumbers, lettuce, peppers, etc.)
- Most fruits (melons, grapes, berries, citrus)
- Lactose-free, fermented, or alternative dairy products
- Healthy protein (eggs, tofu, lean meats)
- Corn, quinoa, or rice-based carbs
- Sourdough or wheat and rye-free bread
- Nuts and seeds
You can also indulge in some high-quality dark chocolate every now and then. And consider switching to maple syrup as a sweetener for drinks and desserts!
Restore Your Gut Health With Natural Medicine
Living with SIBO can be confusing and complicated. Seeking treatment means combining lifestyle changes, supplements, and natural medicine. The good news is that these treatments can greatly reduce symptoms and lead to a SIBO-free life!
If you need help creating a treatment plan, we can help! Fairbanks Family Wellness is dedicated to helping our patients accomplish their goals in a natural way. Contact us to schedule an appointment and begin your journey towards a healthy gut!