nav-left cat-right

What is SIBO and how does it cause IBS?

What is SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) and is it making you feel unwell?

The food you eat, the way you eat it, and infections like H pylori, parasites and Candida can all cause digestive symptoms such as irritable bowel syndrome.

But there’s another common, yet frequently overlooked problem that isn’t very well known.

SIBO – or ‘small intestinal bacterial’ overgrowth – is a relatively common condition among people with digestive symptoms.

But what is SIBO, exactly?

Well, it’s a condition in which large numbers of bacteria from your large intestine, or colon, end up in your small intestine where they shouldn’t really be.

This short video explains what SIBO is so you’re armed with the tools you need to get a quick diagnosis and begin the relevant treatment.

It’s important to treat SIBO as it’s been associated with conditions such as fatigue, mood problems, arthritis and fibromyalgia.

If you have any of these symptoms it’s crucial to consider your digestive system as a possible root cause.

You’re more likely to develop SIBO if:
  • You eat a lot of sugar and carbohydrates
  • You have low stomach acid (possibly due to H pylori infection or acid blocking medications)
  • Your pancreas and gallbladder are not producing enough enzymes or bile
  • Your friendly bacteria have been knocked down by antibiotics
  • You have liver problems
  • You have coeliac disease
  • You have an under active thyroid gland (much more common than people realise)
  • You’ve previously had bowel surgery

What are the main SIBO symptoms?

Like H pylori, parasites, Candida and some foods, SIBO can cause a whole gamut of digestive symptoms, including:

  • Heartburn and GERD
  • Abdominal pain and discomfort
  • Bloating and excess gas
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation (will tend to result if certain kinds of bacteria that produce methane overgrow)

In some cases, SIBO may also lead to:

  • Weight loss
  • Symptoms related to vitamin deficiencies

Is SIBO linked to any other conditions?

Because gut bacteria are intimately connected to your neurotransmitters and hormone production, and because they can stimulate digestive inflammation, it’s possible that SIBO might lead to a wide variety of symptoms outside your digestive tract.

Such symptoms may include daytime fatigue, depression, anxiety, forgetfullness and headaches.

SIBO and fibromyalgia are already reasonably well connected in the literature, particularly through the work of Prof. Mark Pimentel, who found that a very high proportion of fibromyalgia patients also had SIBO.

In one study, Pimentel and his colleagues actually found that SIBO was found more frequently in fibromyalgia patients than in people with irritable bowel syndrome! (1)

What is SIBO testing?

The first thing I’ll say is that it’s very difficult to find SIBO using a stool test.

In fact, really can’t tell whether SIBO is causing a problem from a stool test alone.

The stool test is great for detecting other bad bugs such as Candida, H pylori and parasites but SIBO requires a different testing strategy.

The standard medical test for SIBO is a hydrogen breath test.

This test is ok as long as your gastro doc inteprets the test correctly, but it doesn’t consider methane, which is another gas that is often produced in cases of SIBO.

Ideally, your doc should look at both hydrogen and methane to get the full picture.

You can also use a simple home urine test called “Organic Acids” to gauge SIBO status.

This is a test I use a lot with clients, particularly if the doctor is unable to help with a diagnosis.

The organic acids test uses a single urine sample taken first thing in the morning to check for specific compounds made by bacteria and Candida.

If some or all of these chemicals are elevated in the urine, it provides an excellent indication that SIBO and other digestive problems are occurring.

How do you treat SIBO?

SIBO is quite tough to treat, and it often comes back following treatment.

You can alter your diet to reduce SIBO symptoms, but doing so may actually make it harder to eradicate.

Rather than discuss SIBO treatment here, I’ll be writing a separate article to cover this important topic.

Of course, I’ll let you know when it’s ready.

How can we help you?

Are you struggling with mysterious digestive symptoms?

Would you like someone to lend an ear and suggest some alternative options for:

  • cutting through all the confusing info out there?
  • figuring out exactly what’s going on with your body?
  • how you can fell better sooner rather than later?

If so, why not drop us an email at, or learn about our case review and consulting service here.

It’s my hope that we can assist you soon.



This is the end of the what is SIBO article.

Related Posts