The Need-to-Know about SIBO

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What is SIBO?

SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) is an imbalance of the microorganisms in your gut that maintain healthy digestion. It’s normal and healthy to have bacteria living in your small intestine, but too many (or the wrong kind) can cause problems with your digestion.

When food gets digested, it is moved from the small intestine into the large intestine, but if this movement is slowed or impaired, the bacteria in the small intestine have more time to multiply. Also, the bacteria in the large intestine may begin to move into the small intestine.

How does SIBO affect my body?

More bacteria in your small intestine can mean more gas. Depending on whether the SIBO is hydrogen or methane dominant, it can cause diarrhea or constipation. It can also inhibit your ability to digest and absorb nutrients from food. Some studies indicate that up to 80% of people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) have SIBO.

How is SIBO diagnosed?

SIBO often goes undiagnosed. If your symptoms and medical history suggest SIBO, your healthcare provider may suggest a breath test to verify it. This simple test measures hydrogen and/or methane levels in your breath to determine the presence of gas-producing bacteria in your gut. If your levels are above a certain number, it may indicate an overgrowth.

How is it treated?

A course of antibiotics is the standard medical treatment for bacterial overgrowth. For some people, a change in diet can be enough to manage and prevent symptoms of SIBO. A low FODMAP eating plan is often helpful. If you do need antibiotics, rebuilding a healthy gut in the weeks that follow will help to prevent SIBO from recurring.

Nutrition counseling for SIBO can help you navigate the low FODMAP eating plan. Working with a Registered Dietitian can help you to understand which foods are causing symptoms and how to adjust your meal plan to give you relief. A dietitian can also help to ensure you have the adequate nutrients to prevent deficiencies. If you have IBS or GI symptoms that are causing discomfort and would like help to find relief, a Vita Dietitian can work with  you to find the right eating plan. 

Stay tuned for a future blog post about GI mapping and how it can help you determine your gut bacteria levels (good and bad) and get on the right treatment plan with probiotics, vitamins, and diet.


Post by Stephanie Long, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator

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