Could SIBO be driving your gut symptoms?

As a SIBO nutritionist I work with people who have an overgrowth of bacteria in their small intestine.

Anna mapson nutritional therapist Goodness me Nutrition

If you’re exhausted by researching SIBO, or trying to find a practitioner who actually understands it, I can help! 

For anyone new to SIBO, here’s a quick intro:

SIBO, or small intestine bacterial overgrowth, occurs when bacteria, which normally live in your large intestine, get into your small intestine. There they ferment food that we’ve eaten, and create gasses which affect our intestines. 

This can lead to symptoms such as bloating, diarrhoea and gas, but also all sorts of other symptoms like headaches, joint pain and skin conditions. 

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    How do you get SIBO?

    There are multiple causes of small intestine bacterial overgrowth but significant factors include:

    • slow gut transit caused by poor diet
    • Previous stomach bug which could damage the migrating motor complex
    • adhesions or strictures slowing down the passage of food through your gut
    • frequent antibiotic usage
    • low stomach acid which can allow more bugs in

    Other conditions associated with SIBO include

    • low functioning thyroid / hypothyroidism
    • Fibromyalgia
    • EDS / hypermobility
    • Mast activation syndrome (MCAS)
    • histamine sensitivity
    • diabetes
    • Parkinson’s disease
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    How to test for SIBO

    Testing for SIBO is possible through a breath test that checks for hydrogen and methane gases. These gasses are made by the overgrowth of bacteria in your small intestine, and wouldn’t otherwise be there. The gasses are absorbed through the gut walls into the blood stream and exhaled in your breath.

    A stool test may be helpful in some cases to show which bacteria are in the large intestine although it’s not diagnostic for SIBO, because that’s the small intestine.

    I can arrange for a SIBO breath test, or a stool test to be carried out for you as part of the Gut Reset. I often wait until after our initial consultation to consider testing, because sometimes tests aren’t necessary. If you can make improvements to diet and lifestyle that improves your symptoms I don’t want you to pay for tests you don’t need.

    The symptoms of SIBO are similar to those of other gastrointestinal disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Inflammatory Bowel Disease and coeliac disease. This means it’s important to get your doctor to rule out other conditions.

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    Treatment for SIBO

    There are many options for improving the symptoms of SIBO, but the main element is understanding how you got the overgrowth of bacteria in the first place.

    Treatments to consider:

    1. Antibiotics are used to kill off the bacteria that has grown in the small intestine. The most common antibiotic that is used for SIBO is called rifaximin. Your gastroenterologist or GP may be able to help you get the right medication (as a nutritional therapist I can’t prescribe antibiotics).
    2. Another treatment option is herbal supplements such as antimicrobial herbs, prebiotics or Saccharomyces boulardii. There are various supplements for SIBO which can help to improve gut health and decrease bacterial overgrowth.
    3. Improving gut motility – through meal timing, food choices and supplements you can help your body with the internal housekeeper for the small intestine, the migrating motor complex.

    SIBO is a complex condition, which often requires more than one round of treatment.

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    What are the symptoms of SIBO?

    The symptoms of SIBO can vary from person to person and depend on where the infection is located in your intestines, how many microbes are there, and which kind of microbes. So it’s a very individual kind of condition, but common symptoms include:

    • Bloating
    • Diarrhoea
    • Gas
    • Nausea
    • Abdominal pain

    When you read that you might think these sound a lot like IBS, and you’d be right! There is a large overlap with people who have been told they have IBS, but actually may have SIBO. This is why it’s good to work with a nutritionist who understands SIBO.

    I’ve written a more in depth blog post about SIBO you may find helpful.

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    Can you get rid of SIBO naturally?

    Herbal supplements can be used to treat SIBO, and in some cases they have shown promising results in comparison to antibiotics. Typical herbs to address the overgrowth of bacteria include oregano, neem, thyme, grapefruit seed extract, and berberine.

    When people ask about ‘natural treatments’ I like to clarify it depends what you mean by ‘naturally’! (Normally people mean without a doctor’s prescription.) Antibiotics such as Rifaximin definitely have their place in SIBO treatment and shouldn’t be automatically discounted.

    But I like to be very clear that the antimicrobial herbs you can use can also have a large impact on your gut microbes, and shouldn’t be taken long term or without supervision.

    Even with a combination of antibiotics and herbal treatments SIBO might require several rounds of treatment to reduce symptoms. SIBO can be very difficult to reduce.

    Depending on your levels of overgrowth, the type of bacteria you have, and your current diet and lifestyle, the alternative approach to ‘killing off’ bacteria is to encourage healthy beneficial bacteria to grow instead. This can be done through healthy lifestyle habits such as a good diet, changing your eating patterns, managing stress, improving sleep and focusing on encouraging diversity in your gut bacteria.

How I can help you as a SIBO Nutritionist

I work with people who have IBS, SIBO, or unexplained bloating, constipation, gas or loose stools. As part of the Gut Reset I will 

  • Assess your digestive symptoms, but also look at mood, skin health, sleep, weight, muscle / joint pain and other relevant symptoms
  • Support you to find a diet that relieves the bloating, pains and gas
  • Arrange for SIBO testing at home and help you understand the results
  • Define a supplement plan for the 3 month Gut Reset programme and afterwards.
  • Help you implement the dietary changes with recipe ideas and meal plans, as well as understanding nutrition better so you can create your own meal plans.
  • Support you to eat a wider diet variety, reintroducing your eliminated foods again
  • Support you with regular calls so you really understand what to focus on each week.

Work with me - IBS & SIBO Nutritionist

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