Could your painful bloating be SIBO?
Updated: Sep 11
The pain and discomfort from digestive bloating and gas can really spoil your day. If you have been diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, you might be interested to hear that research is showing us that at least 60% of IBS is actually caused by SIBO.
So what is SIBO?
SIBO is an acronym for Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth. This is a condition where normal bacteria that usually live in the large intestine can become trapped and cause havoc in the small intestine.
Our food spends roughly 2 hours in the small intestine after leaving the stomach. This is where the nutrients we have eaten are absorbed into the blood stream, sending nourishment to our cells.
Bacteria living in the small intestine snack on our food, producing fermentation and gases that causes bloating. The gas isn't just uncomfortable, it's damaging to the microvilli of the small intestines.
Left untreated, SIBO can lead to a host of other symptoms due to malabsorption and inflammation. Complications of SIBO may include histamine intolerance, leaky gut, food intolerances and allergies.
How do I know if I have SIBO?
There are a number of symptoms that can provide clues that you are experiencing SIBO. Bloating approximately 2 hours after eating is the most common symptom, other symptoms may include constipation or diarrhoea (or alternating between), belching or burping after meals, abdominal cramping, flatulence, brain fog, and/or fatigue.
SIBO is diagnosed by a lactulose breath test performed over a 3 hour period. The test measures the gases produced over this time line to determine which parts of the intestines the bacteria are present.
How do naturopaths treat SIBO?
The first step in treatment involves temporary diet restrictions and herbal medicine to reduce symptoms and kill off the bacteria in the small intestines. This usually takes 6 to 8 weeks. Herbal medicines are changed and rotated throughout this time to maximise their effectiveness against the bacteria.
It is important to remember that anything that kills bacteria in the small intestine will also affect the balance of bacteria in the large bowel. It is advisable to work with a qualified herbalist to ensure that the treatment is of short duration and not harmful to the many beneficial bacteria that inhabit the rest of the gut.
It is common for people to experience recurring SIBO. Therefore the next step in the treatment process must be to uncover the reason why the SIBO occurred, addressing this issue so that the SIBO won't relapse. SIBO can be caused by a number of things including chronic constipation, low levels of stomach acid, antibiotics, medications, or bouts of food poisoning.
Some people can have a sluggish migrating motor complex, which is a system of contractions that keep food moving through the bowel. Lifestyle factors such as stress can play a major role in SIBO, or regular snacking, which switches the migrating motor complex off. Naturopaths will look at all these factors, and many more, to decide on a layered approach to treatment.
When will I feel well?
You may feel well after just one round of treatment, which takes 6 to 8 weeks. After the treatment we want to get you back to eating regular foods as quickly as possible, so you can enjoy pain free eating and benefit from a wide range of nutrients.
For many people it can take another one or two rounds of treatment to feel back to their healthy and energetic best. Some will remain on herbal medicine to assist with digestion and bowel movement until they feel 100%. Please get in touch if you are interested in learning more about SIBO and how a naturopath can help you.
I am a naturopath, herbalist, nutritionist, and certified wellness coach.
I welcome people to consult with me in my clinic at Surry Hills, Sydney. If you're not in Sydney then I am able to provide online and after hours consultations Australia wide.
This blog contains information from my B. Health Science degree, continuing research, and experience gained from working with men and women in clinic.
This blog is not intended as individual health advice. You should seek assistance for any medical condition. Herbal medicine does not replace medications prescribed by your doctor.