Digestive issues? You might have SIBO

Digestive issues? You might have SIBO

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By Lisa Larkin, MD, FACP, NCMP, IF

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) was once thought of as a very rare condition. But as researchers and physicians learn more about the gut microbiome, SIBO appears to be more prevalent, and physicians know more about how to treat it.

A person with SIBO has too many bacteria in their small intestines. This overgrowth can happen for a number of reasons, including patients who had recent surgery, patients who have been on a course of antibiotics or those who take Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIS) – a class of drugs that decrease the production of acid in the stomach. People who have a weakened immune system or who have other diagnosis, such as Crohn’s Disease, cirrhosis, hypothyroidism and diabetes, for example, are also more susceptible to developing SIBO. Older adults and women are also more likely to develop SIBO.

SIBO directly affects the gut, causing a number of disruptive digestive symptoms, such as nausea, diarrhea, bloating, constipation, abdominal pain, and weight loss. It’s important to note that these symptoms mirror other disorders as well, so if your doctor suspects SIBO, she might prescribe a breath test – a test that measures the concentration of hydrogen and methane in a person’s breath. Your doctor may also take blood or run other tests to determine if SIBO is indeed present.

Treatment for SIBO varies. It may include a course of antibiotics to control the overgrowth of bacteria. Most providers agree that dietary modifications, such as adopting a plant-based diet  and avoiding overly processed and sugary foods, can help allow the good bacteria to flourish and avoid bacterial overgrowth. Your doctor might refer you to a dietician to help you map out a plan for eliminating certain foods that could trigger SIBO. Regular exercise, stress reduction, and decreased alcohol consumption may also help keep the digestive system healthy.

If you experience chronic digestive discomfort, such as nausea, diarrhea, bloating and abdominal pain, check with your doctor about possible causes and treatments.