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FoodMarble Health For use by physicians
  • 13 December 2022
  • Est. reading time: 3 minutes
  • What is SIBO?

  • SIBO can be a difficult condition to navigate. In this blog we wanted to highlight some snippets of information on what exactly SIBO is, what causes it, what are the symptoms, and what tests are done to diagnose it.

  • Est. reading time: 3 minutes
  • What is SIBO?

  • SIBO can be a difficult condition to navigate. In this blog we wanted to highlight some snippets of information on what exactly SIBO is, what causes it, what are the symptoms, and what tests are done to diagnose it.

What is SIBO? 

SIBO is a condition known as Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. It happens when too many bacteria take up residence in the small intestine. The small intestine is the longest part of our digestive tract, where we absorb nutrients from the food we eat. 

 

What causes SIBO?

There are a couple of different factors that can cause SIBO, including structural issues or intestinal dysmotility. Structural issues in the gut mean that a physical feature of the small intestine is damaged or problematic. This damage can happen as a result of scar tissue build-up after abdominal surgery. It can also be due to a mass, such as a hernia, causing a blockage in the gut. Structural issues in the small bowel can lead to intestinal dysmotility. Dysmotility means that our digestion slows down or becomes inefficient. In other words, things are not moving along as they should. 

SIBO can also occur alongside other conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). As well as this, SIBO occurrence has been linked to the use of certain medications, including antibiotics and narcotics like opioids. From the literature, there is no clear cause of SIBO, but instead a variety of possible causative factors. This is part of the reason as to why it can be a tricky condition to treat. 

 

What does SIBO feel like? 

Many of the symptoms experienced by SIBO patients overlap with the symptoms of other conditions. This is why it can be hard to distinguish SIBO from other gastrointestinal disorders. Some of the most common SIBO symptoms include bloating, pain, gas, nausea, loss of appetite, feeling full, diarrhea, and constipation. However, SIBO can feel different for everyone, so it is important to do a SIBO test to figure out if you have an overgrowth of bacteria. 

 

What is a SIBO test? 

Healthcare professionals carry out SIBO tests with their patients, in order to diagnose SIBO. The most commonly used test for diagnosing SIBO is a lactulose breath test. During the test, the patient consumes a test substrate (lactulose), and their breath hydrogen and methane levels are monitored throughout the test, using breath testing apparatus. We produce a certain amount of hydrogen and/or methane in our gut after we eat. The bacteria in our small intestine feed off this food, producing these gasses in a process known as fermentation. When this fermentation happens too quickly or in excess, we produce more gas, and this can be an indicator of food intolerance or SIBO.  

In the past, some would attempt to diagnose SIBO using an intestinal aspirate (a sample of fluid from your gut). However, this is very invasive and costly for the patient, and near impossible to get an accurate sample. For these reasons, breath testing is more often considered the gold standard. 

 

Next Up…

So now that you know what SIBO is, what causes SIBO, what the symptoms are, and what a SIBO test consists of, we would like to delve a little deeper. Stay tuned for our next blog post which will include more SIBO snippets on why SIBO can cause uncomfortable and painful symptoms, and why it can often recur after treatment. 

Hannah Hilliard

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