This is an extremely common condition that can be the root of many complex health problems. Our intestines are meant to house a large number of bacteria and other organisms. They help us to digest food, produce some nutrients for us and assist our immune function. Unfortunately, alterations in bowel bacteria are common and this can produce health problems.

SIBO is defined as an increased number and/or abnormal types of bacteria in the small intestine. The condition encompasses yeast overgrowth such as Candida too, but excess bacteria is more common and a bigger problem.

There is not supposed to be a lot of bacteria in your small intestine. This part of your intestine is designed for nutrient digestion and absorption. Most of the bugs in your gut are supposed to live in your colon (large intestine).

How does the bacteria end up in your small intestine? It can either travel upwards from your colon, or downwards from your mouth. The far more common scenario is where the bugs travel up from your large intestine.

The bacteria present in SIBO are not necessarily bad bacteria, like the ones that cause gastroenteritis or food poisoning. The problem is, the bacteria are just in the wrong place. Having too much bacteria here can make you feel bloated and it can cause symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome such as abdominal cramps, gas, diarrhea or constipation. New research has shown that many cases of irritable bowel syndrome are actually caused by SIBO.

The lining of your small intestine is very thin; it’s only one cell thick. The excess bacteria in the small intestine of someone living with SIBO cause inflammatory damage to the lining of the small intestine. The damaged, leaky gut now absorbs those toxins, plus other wastes. They get into your bloodstream and travel straight to your liver. It’s not surprising then to learn that SIBO is a strong contributing factor to liver inflammation and fatty liver.

Symptoms of Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)

The symptoms of SIBO can vary enormously from person to person. Some people get terrible IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) symptoms such as bloating, flatulence, burping, abdominal pains, constipation or diarrhea. Other people get no digestive symptoms at all; they just experience some of the harmful consequences of SIBO, listed below.

  • Nutrient deficiencies, particularly iron deficiency, B 12 and vitamin D deficiency.
  • Muscle cramps, spasms or restless legs syndrome. Muscle cramps and spasms are usually caused by magnesium deficiency due to malabsorption. Iron deficiency and vitamin E deficiency are strongly correlated with restless legs syndrome as well.
  • Joint pain
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Fatigue
  • Multiple food sensitivities
  • Inflammation of the liver (raised liver enzymes)
  • Skin problems, including eczema, acne rosacea, rashes or itchy skin.
  • Refractory celiac disease (celiac disease that doesn’t resolve on a gluten free diet)
  • Strong sugar or carbohydrate cravings. The excess bacteria and yeast in the small intestine want to be fed. They need carbohydrate in order to survive, so you’re likely to have big cravings for these foods.

How to overcome SIBO

The conventional treatment of SIBO involves the use of antibiotics. The most commonly used antibiotics include rifaximin (brand name Xifaxan), vancomycin (brand name Vancocin), metronidazole (brand name Flagyl) and neomycin (brand name Neosulf). Neomycin is usually only added to the mix in people who suffer with constipation, because it’s good for stimulating intestinal contractions. Antibiotics can be problematic though, as they can wipe out too much good bacteria in the gut. Their benefits are usually short lived, and SIBO returns soon afterwards. BactoClear provides effective microbiome correction, can be taken for a longer time and bacteria can't develop resistance to the bioactive ingredients.

An interesting article was published in the medical journal Global Advances in Health and Medicine called Herbal Therapy is Equivalent to Rifaximin for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. The conclusion to the study read:

“Herbal therapies are at least as effective as rifaximin for resolution of SIBO by lactulose breath testing. Herbals also appear to be as effective as triple antibiotic therapy for SIBO rescue therapy for rifaximin non-responders. Further, prospective studies are needed to validate these findings and explore additional alternative therapies in patients with refractory SIBO.” Victor Chedid, et al. Glob Adv Health Med 2014 May;3(3):16-24

The herbs wormwood, cloves and garlic are particularly beneficial for helping to eradicate SIBO. These herbs are found in Intestinal Parasite Cleanse capsules. Changing your diet is essential. It is important to stop consuming sugar and highly refined carbohydrates like white flour. Some people need to restrict fermentable carbohydrates for a period of time by going on a low FODMAP diet.

It is vital to improve digestive function, as people with SIBO usually don’t produce enough hydrochloric acid in their stomach and they do not produce enough digestive enzymes. Taking betaine hydrochloride in supplement form, as well as digestive enzymes can offer great relief from digestive problems, and it can help to prevent the SIBO from returning after it has been successfully treated.

Some people with SIBO experience significant constipation. This is sometimes due to excess levels of methane-producing bacteria in the gut, which interferes with normal intestinal peristalsis. A natural laxative such as Colon Cleanse capsules can be very helpful. Once the overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine has been treated, it is important to use a good quality probiotic to help prevent a relapse. It is also important to keep sugary foods in the diet to a minimum. Some people find they need to restrict high FODMAP foods like onion, garlic and cabbage long term.

SIBO can be difficult to overcome, but the above strategies should help to give you some symptom relief.

The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.