As the real food movement continues to grow, more and more people are beginning to focus on the health of their gut by eating fermented foods and taking probiotics.
According to a Global Market Insights report, probiotic supplement sales have and will continue to raise about 8.7% between 2021–2027. (1)
But what if your probiotic is actually hurting you?
Because… if you have Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), taking certain types of probiotics could be aggravating your gut symptoms.
And SIBO is much more common than you might think. In fact, a study from The American Journal of Gastroenterology published in 2003 showed that 84% of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) sufferers have SIBO. (2)
What is SIBO?
We have over 100 trillion bacterial organisms in our gut. The range and species vary depending on the area of the gastrointestinal tract. While the large intestine has around 10-100 billion bacteria organisms per teaspoon of fluid, the small intestine only has around 100 thousand organisms. It’s when there’s an overgrowth of bacteria that is prevalent in the small intestine (where there isn’t supposed to be much bacteria) when problems arise.
So, it’s more a case of bacteria growing in the wrong place… and it could be good bacteria or it could be bad bacteria.
How does this happen?
The majority of SIBO is most likely due to chronic stress. (3,4,5)
There’s also research pointing to acute gastroenteritis from things like H. pylori, food poisoning, or plain gut irritation causing changes in gut nerves, altering motility (how things move), and triggering bacterial overgrowth. (6,7).
Signs You Have SIBO
In Chris Kresser’s new book, “Your Personal Paleo Code,” he cites a study that suggests, “Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) affects between 10 and 15% of the population and is the second leading cause of missed work days, behind only the common cold.”
That’s a popular call-in excuse!
The primary symptoms of SIBO are similar to IBS symptoms, including:
- Abdominal bloating
- Abdominal pain
- and Diarrhea
Leaky gut symptoms are also a big sign of SIBO. These can range from food sensitivities to headaches, fatigue, skin issues, mood issues, asthma, and joint pain.
In addition, fructose malabsorption, anemia, weight loss, and steatorrhea (fatty stools) can also be red flags for SIBO.
Watch this video for more in-depth info on the signs and symptoms of SIBO:
Testing for SIBO
Unfortunately, there isn’t a perfect test for SIBO, because the small intestine is so difficult to reach with modern equipment.
But right now the gold standard for most practitioners is a 3-hour lactulose breath test.
These type of tests involve drinking a prepared glucose or lactulose solution and measuring the presence of methane and hydrogen gases within 2-3 hours after. This type of test relies on the fact that hydrogen and methane gases found in the body are produced by bacteria, not humans. So if we measure the amount of gases produced after consuming the solution, higher levels of gas indicate the solution was consumed by bacteria in the small intestine. (8)
There’s another test from Genova we’ve used with our private clients that measures specific Organic Acids present at high levels in the urine if bacteria are overgrown in the small intestine.
Knowing whether or not you have SIBO is only the beginning. The treatment is the next step… and the one that can be the most difficult.
Treating Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth
Step 1: Starve the Bugs
The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD Diet) is the foundational diet to begin fighting SIBO. The SCD Diet is a group of foods which are grain-free, sugar-free, starch-free, and unprocessed. Not only does it remove many foods that are toxic and harmful to the gut, but it also removes many of the complex sugars that the bacteria can feed on.
The SCD diet is often recommended to those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome by leading experts in the field. In our experience, though, it isn’t enough to beat SIBO on its own… but it’s the first place to start.
Step 2: Kill the Bugs
There are two primary ways to kill SIBO: drugs and herbs. Or in some cases, an interesting combination of the two…
Clearly we’re not doctors, but our good friend (and siboinfo.com expert) Allison Siebecker is.
Watch this interview with Dr. Siebecker to learn more about how she treats SIBO:
– Antibiotic SIBO treatment
The most common antibiotic used to kill SIBO is Rifaximin. It’s easy to use; however, using powerful antibiotics can also have a negative impact on the good bacteria in the gut. With that in mind, many people choose to try an herbal first. Dr. Siebecker has more specific protocols and dosages published here:
– Herbal SIBO treatment
There are many different herbal treatments that can work, and some even prove to be as effective as rifaximin. The most critical component of any herbal protocol is to include a biofilm buster. Biofilm is the plaque bacteria create to protect themselves in our bodies. Klaire Labs Interfase is a good one to start with.
Many practitioners use specific formulations of some or all of the following: cat’s claw, olive leaf extract, goldenseal, garlic, cinnamon, barberry, wormwood, and oregano oil. Although, it’s important to know that oregano oil should be used alongside a skilled practitioner, as it’s extremely powerful and can cause harm if used too long.
Learning Everything You Need to Know About Handling SIBO
Treating SIBO is a unique process that requires fine-tuning.
Luckily, our friend Sylvie from Hollywood Homestead (who personally battled a severe case of SIBO and kicked it to the curb) has put together an incredible resource.
It’s called The SIBO Solution and it’s a comprehensive guide for those treating SIBO.
If you’re seeking to understand the complexities, eliminate SIBO, and most importantly, make sure it never comes back, this is an amazing resource for you.
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