SIBO: Definition, Symptoms, Testing, Foods to Avoid

Do you have relentless bloating, so much so that it's ruining your life? What if you suffer from SIBO, also know as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth?

SIBO: Definition, Symptoms, Testing, Foods to Avoid
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SIBO: Definition, Symptoms, Testing, Foods to Avoid

What is SIBO?

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SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) is an intestinal disorder, linked to a microbiota imbalance. Under the influence of multiple factors, bacteria from the colon migrate abnormally to the small intestine, where they become present in too large quantities. The overwhelmed organ is then no longer able to digest food or absorb nutrients from the digestive tract.

This leads to the fermentation of food and the production of gas in places where it should not be present, resulting in digestive problems. Although bacterial proliferation when it comes to the intestinal flora is not well understood at present, its presence considerably affects the quality of life of those who suffer from it. The abnormal production of flatulence, in particular, can be particularly debilitating when it comes to one's social life.

What are the symptoms of SIBO?

SIBO is a distinct disorder, but it has similar symptoms to other diseases, so it is often confused with celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and lactose intolerance :

  • Intolerance to FODMAPs (fermented foods)
  • A belly that swells after meals
  • Painful bloating
  • Flatulence
  • Belching
  • Nausea
  • Episodes of diarrhea and constipation, which may alternate
  • Dyspepsia (gastritis, gastroesophageal reflux)
  • Nutritional deficiencies, including vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Fat absorption problems
  • Involuntary weight loss
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Psychological disorders (anxiety, depression, eating disorders)

Detecting SIBO can be complicated because its symptoms are not specific to this disease. Eating less is often advised, with probiotics being prescribed. If improvement is seen, and the person no longer suffers from bloating, they suffer from irritable bowel syndrome. If the symptoms persist, SIBO should be considered. If this disease is suspected, there are breath tests that can measure glucose, hydrogen, and methane in order to detect if it is SIBO. However, these tests are still rarely used.

If you experience chronic abdominal pain that bothers you, you should see your doctor for tests. Your doctor may also recommend a gastroenterologist.

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