As humans, we rely on bacteria to live a healthy life. These microbes make up our gut microbiome and help us digest food, stave off illness, and even keep our moods balanced.
But, when a bacterial overgrowth like SIBO occurs, it puts our digestive health – and overall health – in jeopardy.
Read on to learn more about this sneaky digestive condition and how you can use natural therapies to slow, reverse, and overcome bacterial overgrowth.
What is SIBO?
While we need bacteria in the gut to stay healthy, you can have too much of a good thing.
SIBO stands for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. This condition occurs when the normal bacterial population in our gut increases abnormally, or an unusual type of bacteria overtakes the small intestine.
SIBO typically occurs after some circumstance (like surgery or severe illness) slows down the normal digestive process. This causes food and waste to linger in the digestive tract longer than they should and the gut turns into a breeding ground for bacteria.
Excess bacteria throws our gut off balance. They release toxins which can lead to nausea and diarrhea. They prevent the absorption of nutrients from food which leads to malnutrition, fatigue, and weight loss. They release gas which causes bloating and slows our digestion down, perpetuating the overgrowth cycle.
Symptoms of SIBO
SIBO causes a range of symptoms. Here are some of the most common signs you may be dealing with an overgrowth:
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- An uncomfortable feeling of fullness after eating
- Unintentional weight loss
How Do You Know If You Have SIBO?
If you experience consistent diarrhea, rapid and unintentional weight loss, or abdominal pain that lasts more than a few days, you could have an intestinal condition like SIBO. Monitor your symptoms and reach out to your health care provider.
To determine if you have SIBO, your doctor may perform a breath test or fluid culture. The breath test measures the amount of hydrogen or methane you are producing – the more gas, the more bacteria are present in your system. It is non-invasive, but doesn’t always give clear results.
A small intestine aspirate and fluid culture test is more specific and considered the gold standard when testing for bacterial overgrowth. However, it is a more invasive procedure. Your doctor will pass an endoscope down the throat and into the small intestine to take a small sample of intestinal fluid. This sample is then tested in a lab to determine if there is an overgrowth of bacteria in your digestive tract.
SIBO Medications and Side Effects
If structural problems like blind loops, fistulas, or bowel obstructions are causing the overgrowth, surgery may be recommended to overcome SIBO.
But in most cases, antibiotics are the most common conventional treatment method.
Antibiotic medications help to significantly reduce the number of gut bacteria and slow the overgrowth. Nutritional therapy (special diets, vitamins, minerals, and supplements) are also recommended to help reverse malnutrition and improve overall digestive health. Long term, antibiotics can contribute to SIBO and other dysbiosis in the GI tract as well.
Unfortunately, SIBO can return shortly after if the root of the issue is not also addressed. That’s why taking a natural and holistic approach to treating SIBO is preferred whenever possible!
How to Treat SIBO Naturally: 4 Natural Remedies and Treatments
#1 - Low-FODMAP diet
To stop the overgrowth of bacteria, you need to stop feeding the “bad” bacteria the foods they thrive on: carbohydrates. Most holistic practitioners recommend you limit carbohydrates and sugar in your diet and follow a low-FODMAP diet.
FODMAP stands for “fermentable oligo-, di-, and monosaccharides and polyols.” These are nondigestible, short-chain carbs that gut bacteria love to eat and ferment. Unfortunately, that leads to more gas, bloating, and bacterial reproduction.
What will you cut out in a low-FODMAP diet?
- Oligosaccharides: wheat, rye, nuts, legumes, artichokes, garlic, onion.
- Disaccharides: milk, yogurt, soft cheese, ice cream, buttermilk, condensed milk, cream.
- Monosaccharides: fruits such as apples, pears, watermelon, and mango and sweeteners such as honey, agave nectar, high fructose corn syrup.
- Polyols: mannitol and sorbitol in apples, pears, cauliflower, stone fruits, mushrooms, and snow peas, as well as xylitol and isomalt (found in low calorie sweetener, sugar-free gum, and mints)
#2 - Herbal supplements and enzymes
Herbal antibiotics for SIBO and digestive enzymes can be used to help restore balance to the gut. In fact, studies show that herbal therapy can be as effective as the leading SIBO antibiotic, Rifaximin.
Enteric-coated peppermint oil for SIBO is the most popular herbal remedy, along with other antimicrobial herbs like grapefruit seed extract, oregano oil capsules, Oregon grape root, goldenseal, coptis, berberine, olive leaf extract, and Pau d’arco.
Traditional medical systems, like ayurveda and Chinese medicine, also have unique herbal treatments for SIBO. Getting the proper mix of herbs and dosage is essential to managing SIBO successfully. Work with a Naturopathic Physician to find the right formula for you.
#3 - Vitamins and minerals
Those with SIBO are often malnourished and vitamin deficient. The overgrowth of bacteria prevents healthy nutrient absorption, so we need to replenish the system with what is missing.
The most common vitamins and minerals that people with SIBO are deficient in are vitamins A, D, E, K, B vitamins, zinc, copper, calcium, iron, and magnesium. You can get these and other essential vitamins in a daily glass of Dr. Danielle’s Electrolyte mix.
#4 - Soil-based probiotics for SIBO
Probiotics enhance the bacteria in your gut. Why would we want to use them for treating bacterial overgrowth?
While we do want to initially reduce the growth of bacteria in the gut, we don’t want to wipe out our microbiome entirely. We need healthy bacteria to keep us balanced!
Whether you’re taking antibiotic medications or herbal antibiotics, you’ll want to reinoculate your gut with helpful bacteria through a probiotic to reset the microbiome for long-term gut health.
So, which probiotics are best for managing SIBO? Studies show that soil-based probiotics like the Bacillus species is one of the most helpful for recolonizing the entire gut with “good” bacteria. This variety also helps reduce common SIBO symptoms like bloating and diarrhea.
That’s why we include Bacillus in our Soil/Spore-Based Broad-Spectrum Probiotic supplements for a healthy gut and immune system.
For total SIBO relief, add our Gut Assist: Leaky Gut Support herbal blend. This includes herbs and compounds that work to reduce gut inflammation and support overall gut health.
Restore Your Gut Balance Naturally
If you struggle with bloating, diarrhea, or other gut troubles, SIBO could be at the root of your digestive distress. Don’t fret! These natural remedies and treatments can help you ease your symptoms and restore the balance to your digestive tract.