Maintaining healthy gut bacteria is beneficial to your body and your mental health. Probiotics have been found to be significantly helpful in supporting gut health, and research suggests that consuming probiotic supplements regularly helps people suffering from gastrointestinal tract disorders such as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). Let us delve a little deeper into facts about SIBO and how probiotics can help.
What is SIBO?
SIBO refers to a condition in which there is an overgrowth of the different types of bacteria naturally found in your small intestine—the part of your body that includes the stomach, duodenum, jejunum, and ileum. Sometimes called dysbiosis, SIBO is a serious condition that can also occur when gut bacteria, which is generally located in the large intestine and colon, starts growing in the small intestine
These bacteria survive on undigested food in the small intestine. In the process, it ferments the carbohydrates from food and produces hydrogen, which in turn produces methane as a byproduct. This is why people suffering from SIBO have elevated levels of methane and hydrogen in the digestive system. (1)
The small intestine is where the food that you eat mixes with digestive juices and leads to nutrient absorption into the bloodstream. In people with SIBO, the presence of too much bacteria in the small intestine interferes with the food and hampers the process of digestion and absorption. (2) This causes poor nutrient absorption due to damage to the small intestinal lining. In addition to the typical gastrointestinal symptoms, other conditions that can arise from SIBO include vitamin deficiencies and anemia.
SIBO: Signs and Symptoms
Often, the symptoms and signs of SIBO are similar to those of other digestive health conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), making it easy to mistake SIBO for other problems.
SIBO is also not to be confused with leaky gut, a condition in which the intestinal lining becomes too thin (also known as intestinal hyperpermeability) and bacteria normally confined to the GI tract escape into the bloodstream. This can trigger an immune response, cause digestive symptoms, and can affect the brain.
Symptoms vary for different people due to the variation in microbial flora. Some of the most common signs and symptoms of SIBO include: (3)
- Excessive bloating and gas that results in flatulence or belching
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Abdominal pain or cramping
- Food intolerances and allergies
- Unintentional weight loss
SIBO Risk Factors
Disruption of intestinal bacteria causes SIBO, but there are also certain other risk factors that can result in a person developing the disorder. These include the frequent use of medications like antibiotics or steroids, having surgery that altered the structure of your small intestine, other gut motility problems, low stomach acid levels, a weak immune system, and advanced age. In addition, having a chronic medical condition also increases your risk of developing SIBO. Such health conditions include:
- IBS (4)
- Crohn’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Celiac disease
How is SIBO Diagnosed?
Your doctor can prescribe different tests, do a physical exam, and ask about your medical history if you experience one or more SIBO symptoms. The most common methods of testing and diagnosis are: (5)
- Breath test: Your breath is tested to determine the levels of hydrogen and methane in your body. Usually, the patient needs to follow a special diet for two days leading to the test, and then drink a solution containing xylose, glucose, or lactulose sugar.
- Stool test: This lab test is done to examine the flora of your large intestine so as to look for more than one gut infection. Your doctor may suspect SIBO if the test shows all good bacteria with elevated levels.
- Urine test: This helps to determine if there are byproducts of bacteria or yeast in your urine, which would indicate a bacterial overgrowth in your small intestine. Your doctor may prescribe further testing to find out whether your SIBO is methane- or hydrogen-dominant.
Usual Treatments for SIBO
Antimicrobial therapy is the most commonly-used SIBO treatment. A course of antibiotic medications like Rifaximin or Xifaxan is often prescribed to reduce the overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine and combat inflammation. (6) However, the continued use of antibiotics kills off most of the healthy bacteria in the gut. The efficiency of the medication depends significantly on the optimal type, dosage, and length of treatment for every SIBO patient. However, studies point to the recurrence of bacterial overgrowth even after antibiotic treatment. (7)
There is often an underlying cause when a person develops SIBO, and correctly identifying and targeting that cause can make a big difference to the healing process. Complement your treatment with probiotic supplements to maintain healthy levels of bacterial flora in the small intestine.
What are Probiotic Supplements?
The World Health Organization defines probiotics as “live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.” The friendly bacteria found in probiotic supplements, such as Here’s the Skinny, and certain foods work towards boosting the population of good bacteria in your body to create a flourishing gut microbiome.
A healthy gut can improve overall health and provide relief from digestive disorders. This is why taking regular probiotics is a good decision for people suffering from gut-related conditions like SIBO.
Can Taking Probiotics Daily Help with SIBO?
In the past, probiotics were not included as part of SIBO support. This was based on the view that only antibiotics or similar therapies can help limit the overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine. However, apart from the usual methods used to treat SIBO, research studies now indicate that probiotic supplements can also play a valuable role in reducing the occurrence of SIBO. (8)
In a study done to observe the effects of probiotic therapy in 126 patients with gastrointestinal disease, patients who were given probiotics in the form of Bifidobacterium triple-viable capsules had lower SIBO prevalence compared to the patients who were not given probiotic therapy. (9) This research indicates that regular consumption of probiotic supplements can be helpful with SIBO, even in patients with serious gastrointestinal diseases.
Large doses of probiotic supplements are not necessary to alleviate symptoms of SIBO. Just the right supplement taken daily can be enough to help replenish good bacteria in the gut and fight dysfunction caused by SIBO. However, it is also important to know that cases of SIBO vary from person to person, which is why choosing the right probiotic strains to manage your particular symptoms is vital.
Apart from taking a daily probiotic supplement to fight the symptoms of SIBO, there are a few other simple steps that can help you deal with the condition. This includes choosing the right diet to heal your digestive system. There are many options out there including paleo, keto, and vegan diets, but regardless of whatever diet you may align with, there are a few main things you’ll want to focus on to get to the root cause of your symptoms.
- Limit your intake of sugar, carbohydrates, dairy, and foods with gluten.
- Prescribe to a low FODMAP diet. (10)
- Chew your food well to aid better digestion.
- Engage in simple but regular exercise.
- Get sufficient sun exposure.
Get the LoveBug Advantage
Designed to support your overall digestive health and immune system, LoveBug Probiotics’ supplements are formulated with proprietary blends of specific strains that support metabolism, nutrient absorption, and energy levels. These strains are combined with Bio-Tract® technology to ensure that they get past the stomach acid barrier and into the target area so you get maximum benefits from the tablets.
SIBO is often a complicated issue since there is a high chance of the condition recurring. Along with following the advice of your doctor, taking steps to balance your gut flora and minimize bad bacteria may help you find relief.
- Triantafyllou, Konstantinos, Christopher Chang, and Mark Pimentel. “Methanogens, Methane and Gastrointestinal Motility.” J Neurogastroenterol Motil 20, no. 1 (2014): 31-40 doi: 10.5056/jnm.2014.20.1.31.
- Quera P R, Quigley EM, Madrid S AM. “[Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. An update].” Rev Med Chil 133, no. 11 (2005): 1361-70. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16446861.
- “Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO).” Johns Hopkins Medicine. Accessed May 2019. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/gastroenterology_hepatology/diseases_conditions/small_large_intestine/small-intestinal-bacterial-overgrowth.html
- Posserud, I, PO Stotzer, ES Björnsson ES, H Abrahamsson, and M Simrén. “Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth in patients with irritable bowel syndrome.” Gut 56, no. 6 (2007): 802-8. doi: 10.1136/gut.2006.108712.
- Dukowicz, Andrew C., Brian E. Lacy, and Gary M. Levine (2007). “Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth: a comprehensive review.” Gastroenterology Hepatology NY 3, no. 2 (2007): 112–122. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3099351/.
- Boltin, Doron, Tsachi Tsadok Perets, Einav Shporn, Shoshana Aizic, Sigal Levy, Yaron Niv, and Ram Dickman. “Rifaximin for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth in patients without irritable bowel syndrome.” Ann Clin Microbiol Antimicrob 13, no. 49 (2014). doi: 10.1186/s12941-014-0049-x.
- Lauritano, EC, M Gabrielli, E Scarpellini, A Lupascu, M Novi, S Sottili, G Vitale, et al. “Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth recurrence after antibiotic therapy.” Am J Gastroenterol 103, no. 8 (2008): 2031-5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18802998.
- Chung Chen, Wei and Eamonn M.M. Quigley. “Probiotics, prebiotics & synbiotics in small intestinal bacterial overgrowth: Opening up a new therapeutic horizon!” Indian J Med Res 140, no. 5 (2014): 582–584. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4311309/.
- Liang, Sufang, Lin Xu, Dongsheng Zhang, and Zhenjun Wu. “Effect of probiotics on small intestinal bacterial overgrowth in patients with gastric and colorectal cancer.” Turk J Gastroenterol 27, (2016): 227-32. http://www.turkjgastroenterol.org/sayilar/292/buyuk/227-232y.pdf.
- “Low FODMAP Diet.” Stanford Health Care. Accessed May 2019. https://stanfordhealthcare.org/medical-treatments/l/low-fodmap-diet.html.