What Is SIBO?

What Is SIBO?

What Is SIBO?

SIBO stands for ‘small intestinal bacterial overgrowth’ and is when we have an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine. We should have far fewer bacteria in this area compared to the large intestine.

What Causes SIBO?

Dr. Jacobi, aka The SIBO Doctor, has done a great job of categorising causes of SIBO in to four categories:

  1. Poor motility: This can be caused by stress, poor thyroid health and can also be a result of a bout of food poisoning.
  2. Gastric deficits: This refers to things such as sub-optimal production of digestive enzymes, compromised bile health, and low stomach acid.
  3. Compromised flow: This can be caused by abdominal surgery.
  4. Medications: A common example being proton pump inhibitors.

What Are Symptoms of SIBO?

Symptoms can range widely, but some of the most common include:

  • Bloating
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Belching
  • Flatulence
  • Fatigue
  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Skin conditions

How Do you Test For SIBO?

Testing for SIBO is done via the hydrogen breath test. There are now home test kits available in the UK from Healthpath.

How Do You Treat SIBO?

The goals of treatment are threefold:

  1. Correct the underlying cause
  2. Provide nutritional support, if necessary
  3. Treat the overgrowth

(Dukowitcz, 2007)

So SIBO treatment needs to be personalised to achieve step 1, treating the underlying cause – this is going to be different person to person.

Nutrients that are frequently low include vitamin A and vitamin D – both these nutrients are important for a healthy mucosal immune system, the part of the immune system that lines the digestive tract. Other common deficiencies include zinc, magnesium, vitamin B12, and  iron.

The main things that can be considered in regards to step 3, treating the actual overgrowth include:

  • Probiotics
  • Herbal antimicrobials such as oregano oil
  • Prebiotics such as partially hydrolysed guar gum
  • Antibiotics

The most important, and sometimes challenging part is understanding what the underlying cause might be. The health of the small intestine and gut has to be placed within the context of the whole body (and mind and spirit). This is why it has been stated

Therapy for SIBO must be complex (addressing all causes, symptoms and complications) and fully individualised (Kopacova, 2010).

I have seen chronic stress be the underlying cause, food poisoning, mycotoxins, high viral loads, head injuries, liver dysfunction, and hormonal imbalances all contribute.

For a more comprehensive blog on how to treat SIBO read my blog ‘SIBO: Natural Treatment Considerations‘.


Click here for my article on hydrogen sulfide.

Click here for my article on methane.


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Alex is a certified Functional Medicine Practitioner (IFMCP) and has a MSc in Personalised Nutrition. He is also a breathwork facilitator with a background in personal training and massage therapy. He also runs The Resiliency Program - a 24 week program aimed at building physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual resilience.

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