Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, commonly known as SIBO, is one of the most common, yet not often detected, gut-related issues among our patients. Many of them don’t even know that they have SIBO. All they know is that they suffer from symptoms like watery diarrhea, flatulence, abdominal pain, distension, and bloating and this severely lowers their quality of life. What makes the situation even worse is that they are often misdiagnosed, so prescribed meds don’t work and people lose all hope of ever finding a cure for their constant gut issues.
SIBO is not an easy condition that can disappear on its own. It is a serious health concern that can lead to a host of long-term problems including nutrient deficiency, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic inflammation, and damage to your stomach lining. In addition, SIBO can mask other conditions and postpone the necessary treatment. So timely detection and taking proper care of your gut are crucial for living a healthy life.
We, at the Dempster Clinic, see patients with SIBO on a daily basis and have a well-established protocol for diagnosing and treating SIBO. But in addition to that, I also love increasing awareness about SIBO and other gut-related issues through various articles.
So far, I have written about the signs, causes, and symptoms of SIBO. In addition, I also offer 7 strategies anyone can use to reduce SIBO symptoms. These strategies can be easily implemented into your daily routine. They promote your overall health and help you get symptoms under control. Another topic is the link between SIBO and IBS and common risk factors. I also teach you about digestive superfoods that can help you with SIBO and other gut-related issues.
Today, I will be going over how you can get tested for SIBO!
TESTS FOR DIAGNOSING SIBO
An alternative to the small bowel culture test is a breath test, which is a safe, non-invasive way of testing SIBO. Breath tests have gained a lot of approval and are commonly used to diagnose SIBO. The idea behind the breathing test is to drink a special liquid (like lactulose mannitol solution) and observe and analyze breath samples. If you have SIBO, hydrogen and methane will be produced in the GI tract, some of which will be absorbed into the bloodstream and exhaled through the lungs. Abnormal results indicate a bacterial imbalance in the small intestine.
SIBO breath test is appropriate for patients who demonstrate IBS, unexplained abdominal symptoms (especially, gas and bloating), inability to tolerate sweet or starchy foods or fiber. However, there are some guidelines that you should follow before administering the breath test. These include:
- Avoiding probiotics 2-3 weeks before the test
- No antibiotics or anti-microbial supplements 2-3 weeks before the test
- Avoiding motility agents 2 days before the test
- No alcohol consumption 1 day before the test
- Drinking plain water starting from 12 hours before the test
- Fasting for 12 hours before the test
- No smoking on the day of test
There is also an option of Organic Acids Dysbiosis test, which traces byproducts of urine or yeast in the small intestine using a urine sample. Single urine sample is needed for lab testing, making the process easy, however, this method isn’t always foolproof and has more false positives/negatives.
SUPPORTING TESTS AND ALTERNATIVE METHODS
All of these methods can result in false positives and false negatives. If these test results are inconclusive, supporting tests can be performed to confirm SIBO:
- SIBO is associated with nutritional deficiencies and low levels of vitamin B12, because gut bacteria act as consumers and ‘eat’ them up.
- Folate levels might be elevated due to bacterial deficiency
- Patients might display a deficiency of fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, K, which can lead to decreased bone density, osteoporosis and neuropathy.
- Fat malabsorption might be observed using stool evaluation.
- Imaging tests like CT, X-rays, and MRI might be ordered to observe the health of intestines.
New techniques for diagnosing SIBO are constantly being developed. Also, empiric therapies can be used if there are many signs of SIBO, which means that some antibiotics are prescribed and if the symptoms start improving, diagnosis is confirmed.
My recommendations for controlling SIBO symptoms include:
- Following SIBO diet, which means cutting as much sugar and processed foods as possible and eating smaller portions more frequently;
- Taking antibiotics in certain cases (consult a physician before starting antibiotics treatment);
- Herbal remedies and essential oils like oregano oil, wormwood oil, lemon balm oil, peppermint oil, and Indian barberry root extract can be as effective as antibiotics;
- Probiotics and probiotic-rich food, which strengthen natural defense against bacteria; dietary supplements to fight vitamin deficiencies caused by SIBO
GET TESTED for SIBO AT THE DEMPSTER CLINIC
At the Dempster Clinic – Center for Functional Medicine, we offer a simple, non-invasive gastrointestinal test that detects bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine. SIBO testing is conducted through a take-home breath test kit. This test is performed over the course of two to three hours and involves drinking a lactulose mannitol solution. If you decide to order a take-home breath test kit, you will receive detailed instructions on how to conduct the procedure properly. It is an easy way to find out if you have SIBO without having to leave the comfort of your home.
Patients without clear symptoms of gastrointestinal distress may benefit from testing, especially those with a history of chronic constipation, hypochlorhydria (including use of acid-blocking drugs), or maldigestion.
Once bacterial overgrowth has been detected, intervention strategies involving diet, digestive support, probiotics and antimicrobials can be used to treat the condition.
Successful eradication of SIBO has been shown to reduce bloating, gas, diarrhea, and abdominal pain in patients more effectively than many other treatments for IBS.
Don’t let the symptoms of SIBO get out of control. At The Dempster Clinic- Center for Functional Medicine, I will work with you to determine the cause of your digestive issues and help you devise a wellness plan to restore yourself to full functionality.