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SIBO: What is It and Why I am now being Treated for It?

In this blog post, I am breaking down my most recent appointment with my naturopath where we talked about my test results for Small Intestinal Bacteria Overgrowth, or SIBO. We are reviewing what SIBO is, the symptoms I have because of it, and the new protocol I will be starting!

So much has happened since we last left off! I was in the process of doing the initial protocol my naturopath set me up. I was completing the elimination diet to help relieve my IBS symptoms. I also did an at-home test for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). After our first consultation, my naturopath suspected that SIBO could be a key issue, and reason why I have digestive issues.

The Basics: What the heck is SIBO?

SIBO affects up to 80% of people who are clinically diagnosed with IBS. That is insane!! So many people are misdiagnosed because the symptoms of SIBO mirror many other digestive issues.

SIBO is the result of bacteria growing in the small intestine. The small intestine doesn’t normally have bacteria hanging out around it. Its purpose is to absorb the nutrients broken down by your stomach into your bloodstream, nourishing your body. With SIBO, bad bacteria and pathogens make themselves at home in your small intestine, making it difficult to absorb proper nutrients, because they are eating it for themselves! This annoying bacterium is basically eating what we eat. That’s why SIBO can be characterized by a lot of gas and bloat, because the fermentation of food is occurring in the wrong place.

SIBO can arise if you have dysbiosis in the gut, which basically means your gut microbiome is completely out of whack like me. It can also arise if you have issues with motility, are chronically stressed, or have a poor immune system. The slow passage of food and waste within your digestive tract is a breeding ground for bacteria, according to the Mayo Clinic. This can wreck serious havoc on your gut, leading to SIBO and other potential health issues, like Leaky Gut Syndrome.

Characteristics of SIBO

SIBO is extremely hard to diagnose because it often has the same symptoms of IBS and other digestive system problems. Symptoms of SIBO can include:

  • Constipation

  • Diarrhea

  • Gas (like, immediately after a meal)

  • Stomach cramping

  • Distention of stomach/extreme bloating after eating

  • Nausea, like immediately after a meal

  • Acid Reflux in the upper part of your digestive tract

  • Sensitivity to fiber

Most people are misdiagnosed because of these symptoms align with soooo many other gastro issues. Additionally, the test for SIBO can be very sensitive. One wrong thing can throw it all off.


If you suspect you have SIBO, it’s time to advocate for yourself! Most gastrologists won’t test properly for SIBO. I know, because I was tested for it in 2020! Be sure you have standard blood work done to rule out other issues, like Celiac Disease and Irritable Bowel Disease (like Chron’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis). Check your vitamin levels, like Vitamin D, A, and B12, because SIBO can consequently lead to malabsorption of vitamins and minerals - so you may be low on this. If you do complete a SIBO breath test, opt for a 2–3-hour test so you can get the full picture. A 20-minute test won't cut it. Message me if you have any questions on what you should ask your doctor🤍


My Experience Testing for SIBO

Despite this, I took a SIBO breath test as recommended by my naturopath. The SIBO test works by drinking a sugar solution, with glucose or lactulose, that is supposed to react negatively with your gut bacteria if you have SIBO. If bacteria is present in your small intestine, it will feed off the sugar and release hydrogen or methane gas. Then, you basically use a special glass tube over the course of 2-3 hours to measure how quickly your gut is producing that gas.

Before you take the breath test, you have to fast. Most people do a 12 hour fast before, but I ended up doing a 20-hour water fast. 2 hours into the SIBO test, I became so bloated and crampy. That was without any food! After 3 hours, there was a spike in my methane levels. I also reacted horribly to the lactulose substance, resulting in a 3-week flare-up for my IBS. So, safe to say I have SIBO. But I was righttt at the threshold. So, it was only borderline high. I needed to a score of 10 or higher and I got a 10 (go me!).

Why I am being treated for SIBO

Regardless, my naturopath decided to treat me for methane induced SIBO. Methane SIBO is characterized by gas and chronic constipation, which I definitely lean towards. Additionally, we know I do not have a deeper, underlying issue because I recently saw a gastrologist and got blood work done. After some basic bloodwork, I tested negative for Celiac Disease and there no indication that I have inflammatory markers in my colon, which would indicate further testing for Chron's Disease or Ulcerative Colitis; often performed by a colonoscopy or endoscopy.

Ruling out these diseases and looking at my past medical history of high stress, alcohol, birth control, and poor diet, SIBO was starting to make sense. Even though I was borderline high, and scoring at that threshold may not indicate direct cause for SIBO in most people, I am still symptomatic and show signs of it.

I have extreme nausea after most meals; get constipated for 3-4 days in a row then will have diarrhea; have excessive gas after my meals, and chronic bloating. This is from eating meals like oatmeal, chicken and rice, and veggie-rich bowls. It's not like I'm eating McDonald's cheeseburgers every day and I feel this way like I am eating a normal, whole-foods, minimally processed diet. It's not what I am eating that's causing these issues, but the bad bacteria in my gut.

So, based off these indications, we understand that SIBO is a contributing factor to my digestive issues. But it is not the complete picture. Since I tested low from the breath test, there could be other pathogens in my gut contributing to this. I think I still have Candida overgrowth, and my naturopath believe dysbiosis - the imbalance of bad bacteria v. good bacteria in my gut - is also coming into play.

Basically, I could just have more bad bacteria sitting in my gut, causing digestive disturbances. Whether that’s SIBO, Candida, other pathogens, etc.

In my next post, I am going to break down exactly what protocol my naturopath has me on to treat my SIBO and gut dysbiosis. I hope this helped give you a better understanding of what SIBO is and how to test for it!



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Welcome! If you made it here, you are probably looking for answers on where to begin your wellness journey. I'm Jessica, and I started my gut health journey over 3 years ago. As an avid foodie and wellness enthusiast, I hope to inspire you on your realistic wellness journey.

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