Generally when a patients comes to see me for digestive reasons, I consider the SIBO test. Specifically, many of those with stomach troubles like gas, bloating and abdominal pain have already tried taking probiotics to address symptoms.
9 times out of 10 a probiotic can help dramatically! However, there are situations where taking a probiotic doesn’t improve symptoms.
The problem: your gut bacteria are having way too much fun inside of you!
Small intestinal bacteria overgrowth (SIBO) is a common condition that affects roughly 50% of individuals diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Bacteria live throughout our body, from our mouths down to our colon. The further we travel down our gastrointestinal tract the more bacteria we see. Our colon is home to 100,000,000,000 bacteria. SIBO occurs when the bacteria that reside in our colon migrate upwards into our small intestine as a result of a malfunctioning migrating motor complex (MMC). Once in the small intestine these bacteria feed off carbohydrates from food and start to produce gas. This gas can be measured by a Hydrogen/Methane Breath Test.
Top Symptoms of SIBO
- Bloating: bloating generally occurs within 15 minutes to an hour after eating and gets worse as the day progresses
- Diarrhea, constipation, or both: there are 2 types of gas produced by the bacteria that make their way into your small intestine – hydrogen and methane. Generally, elevated hydrogen levels are associated with IBS-D (diarrhea). Alternatively, elevated methane levels are associated with IBS-C (constipation). The Hydrogen/Methane Breath Test is able to pick up hydrogen and methane-producing bacteria.
- Gas: generally reported as smell gas that occurs daily
- Abdominal pain & distention: often a result of constipation, however individuals with diarrhea may report that their stomach is so distended it “feels like I’m pregnant”
- Gastroesophageal reflux: many people will experience “heartburn” or belching throughout the day, often brought on after a meal
- Fatigue: one of the biggest symptoms reported by those experiencing SIBO is a lack of energy during the day
How To Test for SIBO
Currently, the test for SIBO is called a Hydrogen/Methane Breath Test. This test measures the amount of hydrogen and methane gas produced by the bacteria in your small intestine. There are 3 different tests available. Your naturopathic doctor can help choose which test is best suited for you.
- Lactulose: this test is best used to assess bacterial overgrowth in the distal portion of the small intestine.
- Glucose: this test is best used to assess bacterial overgrowth in the upper portion of the small intestine.
- Lactulose/Glucose Combination: comprehensive test that assesses bacterial overgrowth in both the upper and lower portion of the small intestine.
Keep in mind that we co-habit with billions of bacteria. In diagnosing SIBO our goal is not to kill off all of the bacteria that live within us. However, depending on the predominant symptoms and lab test results, a range of natural antimicrobials and prokinetic herbs can be used to re-balance the microbiome and restore your body back to health.