Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth

Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)

Managing SIBO

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is a term that refers to an overgrowth of bacteria within the small intestine. SIBO occurs when bacteria that are usually found in other parts of the digestive system begin to grow in the small intestine. The delicate balance that exists between good and bad bacteria are disturbed which in turn causes problems with digestion.

At the moment, scientists do not have a perfect understanding of SIBO, but its importance lies in the link it has with other serious health conditions, most notably Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Up to 78% of patients with IBS also have SIBO. Additionally, IBS sufferers are more likely to have SIBO if they’re female and older in age.

Symptoms of SIBO

SIBO is characterized by a number of digestive symptoms that include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Indigestion
  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Malnutrition (in the long term, SIBO hinders the absorption of vitamins and minerals that the body needs. This can lead to malnutrition)


The diagnostic test for SIBO is a breath test. At the Kaplan Center, when called for, the breath test is ordered for our patients and results are normally ready in 3 weeks. If you test positive, treatment includes supplements specific to SIBO, dietary modifications, probiotics, and in many cases a specific antibiotic for SIBO.

Managing SIBO

The SIBO diet

SIBO may be helped by considering diets that try to reduce inflammation in the gut. There are numerous dietary approaches that are used for SIBO management such as low-FODMAP diet, Specific Carbohydrate Diet, SIBO-Specific Food Guide, Bi-Phasic Diet, Cedars-Sinai Low-Fermentation Diet, GAPS Diet, Elemental Diet, Paleo, Ketogenic Diet, low Histamine Diet, and no diet. The diet that is chosen depends on the practitioner and the individuality of each patient. Any restrictive diet is not intended to be followed long-term and if done can actually do more harm than good. The goal is to limit the worst symptoms as you seek the root cause of your SIBO and then systematically work towards an inclusive and diverse diet that supports a healthy microbiome.

Stay physically active

Staying sedentary for long periods of time can affect your health negatively. It can also stop you from using another avenue to help gut motility. Studies show that exercise bouts of low to moderate intensity of short duration (i.e., < 60 minutes) appear to promote gastrointestinal motility. That’s good news for those with SIBO. It means light to moderate movement can promote the movement of food through the digestive system.

Fine tune your eating habits

Consider incorporating the following habits into your day-to-day routines:

  • Stop eating at least three hours before bedtime.
  • Try not to snack too much between meals.
  • Drink water in place of sugary or fizzy drinks.
  • Chew your food well to support digestion.

Manage your stress level

It goes without saying that chronic, long-term stress is unhealthy. While it might seem unrelated, stress can have a major impact on your gut health. Stress is linked to the digestive system via the gut-brain axis so stress that you’re experiencing right now, has a bad effect on your gut. Try to eliminate or curb major stressors in your life in addition to undertaking activities or hobbies that make you feel at ease and relaxed.


If you have reason to suspect that you have SIBO or believe that you have unexplained digestive problems, make an appointment to see your doctor. It’s important to try and find the root cause of any digestive issues.

We are here for you, and we want to help.

Our goal is to return you to optimal health as soon as possible. To schedule an appointment please call: 703-532-4892 x2


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