Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is nothing short of an epidemic, affecting nearly one in six people in Western Countries.
It’s one of the most common reasons for visits to the doctor, and yet, most doctors have no clue how to treat it and don’t know what’s causing it.
IBS is what’s called a functional disorder.This means that, in theory, before being diagnosed with IBS, other diseases should be excluded. This basically means that the usual lab tests (colonoscopy, gastroscopy and bloods) won’t show any physical problems, which excludes other recognised gut diseases like Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative colitis or Coeliac. Assuming that you meet certain criteria (called the Rome Criteria), you’ll then be told that…
It’s ‘just’ IBS... which is pretty much just another way to say that they don’t really know!
This can be really disheartening! I know from my personal experience (read my story here) that you’re symptoms are very real!
But here’s the kicker:
Studies show that up to 80% of people diagnosed with IBS actually have an underlying condition called SIBO, or Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth.
WHAT IS SIBO?
The majority of our gut bacteria should be in the colon (aka — the large intestine), where they have a very positive effect on our health.
However, various factors (we’ll get to that in a minute) can cause the bacteria to overgrow into the small intestine — where they should normally be present in fairly small amounts — causing IBS-like symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, gas, reflux, and or course, bloating!
In other words, SIBO is like a chronic infection in your gut. It’s not that the bacteria overgrowing are pathogenic (causing disease like E. coli, Salmonella) but too many bacteria in the wrong location — aka the small intestine — is a problem.
SYMPTOMS OF SIBO
- Bloating — the most common symptom!
- Gas, Excess Burping & Flatulence
- Alternating diarrhoea and constipation
- Abdominal cramping
- Acid reflux
- Food sensitivities
- Joint pain
- Skin rashes
- Iron and B12 deficiency
WHAT CAUSES THESE SYMPTOMS?
The bacteria are not supposed to be present in high number in the small intestine and when they are, they cause a number of problems.
- When you eat certain foods, especially foods high in FODMAPs and fibre, they’re fermented by your gut bacteria. If this happens in your large intestine, it’s a good thing! However, if it happens in your small intestine, the excess gas can cause abdominal bloating and pain, constipation (associated with methane gas), diarrhea or both (the symptoms of IBS). Excess gas in the small intestine can also cause acid reflux (from the excess pressure in the stomach), belching and flatulence.
- The bacteria also interfere with your normal digestion and absorption of food and are often associated with damage to the lining of the small intestine, leading to leaky gut. Learn more about leaky gut here.
- It can leads to deficiencies in nutrients.
- They can decrease proper fat absorption — by deconjugating bile — leading to deficiencies of fat soluble vitamins such as vitamins A & D, and potentially fatty stools.
- The bacteria produce endotoxins, like LPS, which can burden your liver, affect your immune system and eventually lead to a range of systemic symptoms such as joint pain, chronic fatigue, skin issues and even anxiety.
THINK YOUR MIGHT HAVE SIBO? TAKE THE QUIZ
- Have you been diagnosed with IBS?
- Did your symptoms develop after having gastro-enteritis/food poisoning (often called post-infectious IBS). This is the #1 cause of SIBO.
- Do you suffer from bloating about 30 minutes after eating?
- Do you have any other digestive symptoms?
- Do you feel like you have even more gas and bloating when eating common healthy foods like onions, garlic, apples and cauliflower (also known as high FODMAP foods)?
- Have you ever noticed that fibre worsens your constipation?
- Do you have fatty stools (stools that float in the toilet)?
- Have you ever noticed an improvement in IBS symptoms after a course of antibiotics (but the symptoms return shortly after)?
- Did your symptoms develop or became worse after taking pain medications, like opiates?
- Do you have low stomach acid or take proton pump inhibitors like losec or nexium? (also a very common cause of SIBO.)
- Do you have hypothyroidism (like Hashimoto’s) or another auto-immune condition?
- Have you had any abdominal surgeries, including a C-Section or appendicitis?
- Are you hyper-mobile or have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome?
Even if you only answer ‘YES’ to just 2 of the questions above, you might have SIBO and I would recommend getting tested for it (see more about getting tested below).
If you have IBS or think you might have SIBO, try our FREE SIBO QuickStart Guide and reduce your symptoms in just 3 days.
DIAGNOSIS… HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU HAVE IT?
SIBO is diagnosed with a 3-hour breath test, which you can do from the comfort of your home. Please note that SIBO can’t be diagnosed with a stool test or an OAT test. Although these could potentially indicate a bacterial imbalance, you need to confirm if it is SIBO with a breath test.
The breath test is done using a sugar solution of either lactulose (not to be confused with the lactose breath test, which is commonly ordered by GPs to rule out dairy intolerance) or glucose.
Recommended labs offering direct patient order:
If, like me, you’ve suffered from horrible bloating and pain for many years, investing some time and effort in healing SIBO/IBS is well worth the effort and could significantly change your life.
Please note that it’s okay to do the gentle (yet effective) treatments recommended below even without a confirmed SIBO diagnosis.
We’ve put together two kits to get you started:
SIBO KIT: designed for people with SIBO-hydrogen, it includes Neem Plus, Biotoxin Binder and Fodmate.
SIBO METHANE KIT: designed for people with SIBO-Methane, aka Intestinal Methane Overgrowth, which usually causes constipation. It includes Neem Plus, Biogaia Protectis, Atrantil and Fodmate.
WHAT ABOUT DIET?
Yes, diet is super important, and can make you feel better faster than any other treatments/supplements.
Changing diet can be a bit tricky at first, which is why we’ve put together the 4-Week SIBO Challenge, a 4 week Meal Plan specifically designed for people with SIBO. It’s a fantastic way to discover how to eat to feel your best when you have SIBO… and don’t worry, you won’t feel deprived!