A high percentage of people with fibromyalgia suffer from small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). Correcting the intestinal problem can offer pain relief. Improving gut health may be the solution for overcoming fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia is a common problem that causes pain and tenderness in the muscles, ligaments and connective tissue. Tenderness in the muscles and tendons which are painful to touch are known as ‘trigger points’. Pain may be chronic or intermittent and to qualify for the diagnosis of fibromyalgia it must have been present for at least three months. Fibromyalgia affects between 3 and 10% of the world’s population, both men and women. However, women are more commonly affected as fibromyalgia often begins during the peri-menopausal years. Fibromyalgia is also often associated with chronic fatigue, depression, brain fog and disturbed sleep.

Fibromyalgia is also especially prevalent in women with autoimmune disease or chronic fatigue syndrome. Conventional medical treatment doesn’t have a lot to offer; pain relievers, antidepressants and drugs used for epilepsy (e.g. Lyrica) are most commonly prescribed; all with a range of potential undesirable side effects. For many years I’ve seen that a lot of my fibromyalgia patients experience gut symptoms such as irritable bowel syndrome, reflux or abdominal bloating. Even if they don’t have those symptoms, when sent off for tests, they are often found to have an imbalance between good and bad bowel bacteria, or an overgrowth of bacteria.

Recently, a study conducted at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles found that one hundred percent of the fibromyalgia patients studied were found to have small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). This is a huge deal because so much can be done to restore the balance of gut bacteria and relieve fibromyalgia. SIBO simply means there is too much bacteria present in the wrong location. We all have approximately three pounds of bacteria in our intestines; most of them are supposed to be in the large intestine. If too much bacteria travels up into the small intestine it creates a problem because the bacteria inflames the gut wall and creates a leaky gut. This causes the absorption of bowel toxins first to the liver and then into systemic circulation. The toxins can travel to any part of the body and create inflammation there. Fibromyalgia is a common consequence.

Remedies to help Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)

Fixing SIBO may involve the use of herbal antimicrobials, prescription antibiotics and diet changes, such as a low FODMAP diet. The most commonly used prescription antibiotic is rifaximin. It can be very effective for some people but is generally very expensive, and several repeated courses may be required. Another common problem is patients may feel significantly better while on it, but symptoms quickly return once the course is completed. The herbs oregano, cloves, thyme and berberine are particularly beneficial for helping to eradicate SIBO. These herbs are found in BactoClear capsules.

A lot of people with SIBO don’t produce enough stomach acid or bile. These have a natural disinfectant action in the gut, thus deficiency makes you more prone to developing SIBO. Supplementing with ox bile and betaine hydrochloride significantly reduces the risk of relapse in patients treated for SIBO. Changing your diet is also 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. Examples of high FODMAP foods include garlic, onion, broccoli, lentils and stone fruit. The types of fiber or sugar in those foods can significantly increase levels of bacteria in the small intestine, thus aggravating SIBO.

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 Detox capsules can be very helpful. It is also important to drink sufficient water and eat enough natural, good quality salt. Salt reduces water reabsorption in the colon and can act as a laxative.

See our book Healing Autoimmune Disease for more information.


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