Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (or SIBO) is a significant health issue with many patients going through life not realising that their gut bacteria is severely out of balance. Although we have bacteria throughout the body the highest concentration should be in the colon, however, in the case of SIBO we tend to find there’s too much bacteria in the small intestine and an overgrowth has occurred.
SIBO can present with constipation (SIBO-C), a combination of constipation and diarrhea (SIBO-M) or with diarrhea only (SIBO-D), which is the most common. It can also be the cause of histamine intolerance, bloating, gas, abdominal pain, belching, flatulence and nausea just to name a few.
Some indicators that a patient may have SIBO include symptoms getting worse with Prebiotics or Probiotics, the symptoms start after a bout of gastro or food poisoning, fibre can make the constipation worse, a Celiac may continue with symptoms even when on a strict gluten free diet and often a patient may feel better for a time when taking antibiotics even for an unrelated issue.
Some of the underlying causes of SIBO include impaired motility, impaired digestion which can be caused by things such as stress, poor bile flow and low stomach acid (this can be a result of long term PPI use) plus the use of medications eg: anti-inflammatories, pain medication and the oral contraceptive pill to name a few.
The other complication which can also add another layer of difficulty is if there is also Small Intestinal Fungal Overgrowth present (SIFO). This is often seen with SIBO and causes the same symptoms but there tends to be more brain fog involved. This is often an issue if there has been a lot of antibiotic use in the past, high carbohydrate / sugar / processed food diet and doesn’t improve whilst the patient is on the SIBO treatment plan. The fungal overgrowth is normally Candida so herbal treatments in this case can be more effective as herbs are often both antibacterial and antifungal.
I generally consider SIFO as part of the issue if my patients are experiencing lots of yeast infections (thrush), rashes, histamine intolerance and they have more symptoms when consuming sugar / fruit / white processed carbohydrates.
Our lifestyle is also a contributing factor to these issues given we tend to cook less, use Uber eats more, drink more, take medications more and many of my patients are taking medications such as PPI’s and antacids which reduce the quality of their stomach acid.
Left untreated SIBO can cause more serious health issues long term as a healthy balance of gut bacteria is essential to our overall health and wellbeing. If imbalances occur it can lead to deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals, malabsorption of proteins, carbohydrates and fats which can then ultimately lead to other seemingly unrelated health conditions which is why I take gut health and gut healing so seriously in my practice.
Medically SIBO is quite often treated with antibiotics if using conventional methods and it isn’t always successful as it is a difficult condition to treat. When treating SIBO using Naturopathic methods there are a few things to consider. There’s firstly the herbs we choose, they are anti-bacterial and anti-microbial and are part of a treatment plan which may also require prokinetics to support motility and the RIGHT probiotics to help with leaky gut and inflammation.
Diet and gut healing is also imperative as part of the treatment plan for SIBO and depending on how severe the symptoms will depend on which dietary approach is best. Whilst diet alone probably won’t get rid of SIBO it will assist you in managing the symptoms and reducing fermentation and inflammation whilst you go through the treatment protocol (be it antibiotic or herbal).
The important thing to remember when treating SIBO is that it requires a multi faceted approach and a lot of patience. You also need to ensure you’re looking at managing your stress, exercising regularly and giving your body the time to recharge and heal. Accept that things take time and don’t happen overnight, even though we’re becoming more and more conditioned to expect them to and don’t beat yourself up if things don’t quite go to plan.
Thank you for joining me here at Mumma’s Own.
I look forward to being a part of your personal healing journey.
From the team at Mumma’s Own