SIBO: How Do You Know if You Have It?

SIBO: How Do You Know if You Have It?

Few maladies are more miserable than an upset stomach. We've all experienced it at one time or another. An occasional upset is usually nothing we need to worry about. If it becomes chronic, that's an indication there may be a problem. One such problem is SIBO or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. 

What Is SIBO?

Nature is all about balance. Each of us has bacteria living in our intestines. These guys keep our guts working properly. That is, as long as they're in balance. SIBO is defined as an overgrowth (increase) in the number and/or the type of bacteria in the upper gastrointestinal tract or small intestine.  

Any imbalance in the complex environment inside our intestines can have consequences, sometimes serious, to our health. Unfortunately, SIBO is frequently misdiagnosed or generally underdiagnosed. So, how do you know if you may have it?

Possible Causes of SIBO

There is no one simple cause for SIBO. In most cases, it results from a combination of two or more predisposing conditions. The two most common conditions are low gastric acid secretions and abnormal muscle movements that speed up or slow down the passage of food through the small intestine.  Abnormal immune system function and abnormalities in the structure of the GI tract may also increase the likelihood of SIBO. 

Specifically, the following conditions may result in small intestine bacterial overgrowth:

Symptoms of SIBO

The most prevalent symptoms of SIBO are similar to those associated with other digestive disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS.) In fact, up to 60% of patients with IBS also have bacterial overgrowth as a contributing factor in their disease. The common symptoms of SIBO (and frequently IBS also) include:

  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Constipation
  • Indigestion
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Nausea
  • Belching
  • Feeling of fullness
  • Fatigue
  • Pain
  • Malnutrition and malabsorption
  • Weight loss

When Should You See a Doctor?

Nausea, diarrhea, and bloating are symptoms of many different intestinal problems. If you're having trouble, see your doctor for a full evaluation. If you've had abdominal surgery or have the following symptoms, make an appointment with your primary healthcare provider.

  • Persistent diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain lasting for more than a few days
  • Rapid, unintentional weight loss

If you're experiencing severe abdominal pain, seek out medical care immediately.

Can You Fix SIBO?

The answer to this question depends on what you mean by "fix." If you're asking if there is a cure for SIBO, the answer is "no." You can't take a single pill or a simple injection and be free of SIBO. This condition tends to reoccur, so prevention and management are as close to a "cure" as there is. 

SIBO is usually treated initially with a round of antibiotic therapy. If it returns, another round of antibiotics is usually given. Antibiotic therapy's purpose is to lower the number of bacteria in the small intestine. The key to preventing another recurrence afterward is diet and lifestyle changes to help maintain balance in the gastrointestinal tract.

Diet Recommendations for SIBO

Dietary adjustments recommended for the management and prevention of SIBO symptoms are designed to reduce bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine and decrease the incidence of inflammation. 

The SIBO diet is a gradual elimination diet. This type of diet is useful as a diagnostic tool as well as a treatment method to help identify trigger foods that bring on SIBO symptoms. In some cases, eliminating only a few types of food, such as sugars, can relieve symptoms. Other recommendations frequently include a diet low in FODMAPs, which are carbs that don't digest easily. Because of this, they linger in the gut, are exposed to the bacteria in the intestines, and actually ferment by the time they reach the colon. Excessive bacteria in the small intestine begin fermenting these carbs early, bringing on SIBO symptoms.

SIBO-Friendly Foods

The best place to start on an elimination diet is with concentrated sugars and sweets. If you begin feeling better after a few days, try adding back a small amount of one food at a time. Wait at least three days before adding back a second food. If your symptoms return, the most recently added-back food should probably be avoided.

Let's take a look at some common foods that are low-risk triggers for SIBO symptoms:

  • Proteins such as beef, pork, chicken, eggs, fish, lamb, shellfish, and milk (unless you have known lactose intolerance)
  • Plant proteins such as tofu, nuts, seeds, tempeh, unsweetened peanut butter, and almond butter
  • Grains such as bread, pita, tortillas, naan, bagels, and cornbread
  • Starches such as pasta, rice, and noodles
  • Starchy vegetables such as butternut squash and white potatoes, but limit servings to 1/2 cup
  • Non-starchy vegetables such as green beans, carrots, tomato, spinach, and kale, but limit to 1/2 cup serving

If you are unsure of any food item, confer with your healthcare provider or a registered dietician.

How to Treat SIBO: Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Supplements

Beneficial live bacteria and yeast, especially those friendly to your digestive system, are called probiotics. There are different strains of probiotics, and they all have different benefits. Taking them as a supplement can help maintain the balance of "good" and "bad" bacteria in your digestive system.

Probiotics work best when prebiotics are used in conjunction with them. Prebiotics are dietary fibers that serve as fuel for the bacterial in your gastrointestinal tract. Prebiotic fibers are not digested by your stomach but are instead passed into the intestines, where they are the ideal food for bacteria. 

Prebiotics nourish the probiotics you're taking. Prebiotic foods are best served raw since cooking can alter the fiber content. The best prebiotic foods include:

  • Oats
  • Onions
  • Bananas
  • Cabbage
  • Asparagus
  • Cocoa
  • Legumes
  • Seaweed

Perhaps the most important supplement you can take for supporting overall health, including intestinal well-being, is digestive enzymes. These enzymes help break down the food we eat into molecules that our bodies can absorb and use. Some common benefits of taking enzyme supplements include:

  • Reduction in symptoms
  • Can help expand your diet
  • Help improve nutrient absorption

Get What You Need to Treat SIBO

Give your gut what it needs and help keep things balanced with the top-quality supplements available at Tiger Fitness.

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