SIFO – Small Intestine Fungal Overgrowth Symptoms and Treatment
Are You Smarter Than a Lab Test?
For many years now, patients have been coming in to the office with digestive symptoms and yet all of their advanced lab tests come back “normal”. Even with modern SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth) testing, many breath tests come back negative. Even worse, you may have a positive breath test result multiple times (expensive) and still you haven’t seen any significant change in your symptoms or lab results. Either my patients (and myself) are crazy and there is nothing wrong with our digestion or there is something like SIFO (small intestine fungal overgrowth) that lab testing has been missing.
Studies done on patients with IBS have shown that over 60% of patients had some sort of infection in the small intestine, but when patients go to a traditional medicine doctor, rarely are these infections teased out.
In one recent study it showed that 40% of IBS patients had fungal overgrowth in their small intestine. As far as I know, traditional medicine is not giving anti-fungal prescriptions for the digestive tract yet. (I am not recommending a prescription anti-fungal.)
While I have many patients entering the office wanting me to determine if they have SIBO, I have yet had one ask if the have SIFO. Looking at those above percentages, which don’t include the large intestine, sinuses, lungs and/or urinary tract, it is more common than not that someone who experiences digestive disturbances has an underlying infection of some kind.
SIBO vs. SIFO
SIBO and SIFO can both cause digestive disturbances of almost any kind, but there is one distinguishing factor that makes me think its more of a fungal problem than bacterial and that is GAS!
Bloating, belching, gas and distention are clinical keys to knowing that you may have a fungal infection vs. a bacterial infection. If you have gone on a low carb diet and saw significant changes and then reintroduced carbohydrates only to have bloating or gas, you likely still have a fungal infection. Clinically I have noted that fungal infections also seem to elicit additional symptoms such as brain fog and fatigue more often than bacterial infections which seem to be more local in symptomatology.
Because lab testing is still at its infancy for almost all chronic diseases; symptoms, a thorough patient history and a well-educated doctor is truly the best way to diagnose and eliminate SIFO. (Yes there are lab tests for this, but they are either invasive or inconclusive.)
While it can be difficult to differentiate between SIBO and SIFO, sometimes you don’t have to. Many patients can be found to have both at the same time.
SIBO is a relatively newly popularized diagnosis and now SIFO is becoming more prevalent in the functional medicine and natural medicine world, but we are still forgetting a few major groups of microbes. Just like SIBO and SIFO existed before any lab test existed, so does SIVO (small intestine viral overgrowth) and SIPO (small intestine parasitic overgrowth).
Without using all the fancy acronyms, essentially all I am saying is that there can be an imbalance of any organism in the small intestine. If you get the “stomach flu” for example, you can rest assured that there is a viral imbalance in your digestive tract.
Natural Treatments for SIFO
If you have read my free eBook (get it here) then you know that one of the things that I feel makes my success rate in my practice so high is that I never compromise on using high quality products, specifically herbal anti-fungals. The most common supplement I use to treat difficult SIFO problems is Chinese Coptis by AMG Naturals. While Chinese Coptis is the most common supplement that I use, carry over 30 individual herbal antimicrobials that can effectively eliminate fungal overgrowth.
The second most important key to eliminating SIFO is to decrease your carbohydrate intake. This includes all refined sugars, breads and starches. Natural sweeteners like honey, stevia and maple syrup are best limited also, but can be tolerated in certain patients. Essentially the goal of going low-carb is to avoid feeding the fungus while you are trying to kill it.
You shouldn’t have to be low-carb forever, but combining low-carb eating with herbal antimicrobials is the fastest was to see improvements. In general, some patients can tolerate more carbohydrates than others.
Other Small Intestine Problems
While the small intestine in and of itself is important, maybe even more important is that it acts as a mixer of chemicals. These chemicals (aka enzymes) are released from the liver, gallbladder, pancreas and stomach. In order for the small intestine to be pain free and thrive, each of its cooperative organs must be assessed also.
Food sensitivities and intolerances are also common causes of small intestine bloating and pain. Histamine and inflammation of the small intestine are one of the reasons many people react to so many foods. Caffeine, alcohol and certain spices can also irritate the small intestine during digestion.
Supplements can also be an irritant to the small intestine. Are you one of those people that takes over 20 different supplements per day? Probiotics can often irritate the small intestine if its not the right probiotic strain that you need. Lectins can irritate a sensitive small intestine. (Look for my next article on going lectin free.)
If you are someone with recurrent or chronic fungal infections or candida, exercise can be a contributor to this pattern. For certain individuals that only train high intensity and don’t have an aerobic base (refer to Maffetone 180) you can perpetuate your own fungal dysbiosis by training your body to burn more sugar than fat. You aerobic or anaerobic training affects the microbes in your body and alter their expression.
SIFO is more common that most people think and while lab testing isn’t perfect a thorough symptom survey and evaluation from a clinical expert can often get you started in the right direction. Going low-carb and using the right herbal antimicrobial is the most common approach that give me my best results. If you have tried those before, there may be more to your small intestine symptoms than simply a fungal infection.