Natural SIBO Treatment
If you are having digestive pain or discomfort, then getting SIBO treatment could be the best thing for you. It’s is often the missing piece of the puzzle when it comes to unresolved digestive troubles whether you have a more advanced condition such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease or whether your symptoms are more mild like the start or irritable bowel syndrome. It is one of the biggest contributors to leaky gut.
While the gut and digestive system are largely misunderstood because of its complexities, the diagnosis of SIBO is one of the most illuminating conditions that has come to light in the last century in gastrointestinal medicine. Yes, in the last 100 years, I would argue that for non-life-threatening conditions, where you just feel awful all the time digestively and yet your colonoscopy and endoscopy do not reveal damage to the actual tissue, the diagnosis of SIBO gives us a “sneak-peak” at the future of treating GI conditions from a more holistic perspective.
That being said, while we are making great strides to improve gut treatments and SIBO is tested for at major hospitals thoughout the world, most GI doctors still do not test for it and it often goes overlooked by functional medicine doctors and natural practitioners every day.
Even worse than missing SIBO may be that when it is not properly diagnosed, treatment for SIBO is often the opposite of what is needed to address the problem. Please keep reading the article so that you can understand why SIBO treatment is so mistreated and why digestive issues often go unresolved.
What is SIBO?
SIBO is a term loosely thrown around by functional medicine practitioners and natural practitioners now. But to truly understand SIBO, you have to go back to its original definition. The original definition of SIBO was “Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (that) occurs when there is an abnormal increase in the overall bacterial population in the small intestine — particularly types of bacteria not commonly found in that part of the digestive tract.” 1
There are two parts to that definition that make SIBO a unique diagnosis. The first part is pretty simple. It indicates that SIBO simply is an excess of bacteria in the small intestine. The second part of the definition indicates that bacteria may be “out of place” so to say or that bacteria that should be found in the large intestine are now in the small intestine. This is one of the pieces that many people miss. Originally when SIBO diagnosis was first being discussed we discussed how it was likely that the bacteria had actually travelled from the colon into the small intestine, but recently, it does not seem to be studied or reported that way. So, it is interesting to note that the original overgrowth may have originally developed in the large intestine. (This is one of the reasons you should always treat the large intestine and the small intestine at the same time.) In fact some of the more troublesome organisms are “coliforms” which usually reside in the large intestine.
30-80% of individuals with digestion problems have SIBO. So SIBO treatment is going to be critical in most gut cases. As you can see if you include large intestine bacterial overgrowth that grew into the small intestine, it would only make sense that this problem is more common than previously imagined.
So, if SIBO is not an infection, but rather TOO MUCH good or normal bacteria in the small intestine…does it make any sense to add MORE BACTERIA like probiotics into the small intestine? No way!
I make an entire living and pay for my family vacations off the fact that most people use probiotics for SIBO! Kind of a joke, but seriously many people, doctors included are taking the wrong approach.
What Causes SIBO?
This is the most common question I get in the office, How did I get SIBO? Here are some of the most common ways.
- Eating too many calories. If you overfeed your own body, then you overfeed the normal bacteria found in the small intestine.
- Previous history of infection
- Antibiotic use (rebound overgrowth)
- Brain injury, auto accidents, concussions
- Any and all medications
- Excessive stress or exercise
- Thyroid disorders leading to slow motility
- Constipation (overgrowth due to slow motility)
- Anatomical uniqueness in any individual
- Poor diet habits
- Genetically modified organisms
So, as you can see most of us have had at least one of the above events that could lead to SIBO. It is also the reasons why SIBO is often recurrent in those that suffer from stomach and digestive problems. The odds of us living a perfectly stress-free life are pretty rare, so it would not be uncommon to have to seek SIBO treatment multiple times in your lifetime. If any of your causes are something that you can’t control, then you may be treating SIBO 2-3 times a year every year.
Symptoms of SIBO
SIBO symptoms overlap with many other gastrointestinal problems, but some of the more common presentations are:
– GERD (any kind of reflux)
– Irritable Bowel Syndrome
– Acne (especially cystic)
– Autoimmune disease
– Diarrhea or loose stools
– Feel like you can’t eat meat because it sits there
– Joint pain
While these are not all of the symptoms of SIBO, they are ones that seem to be more specific to SIBO. (Also, visit my article on SIFO here, in order to decide which one makes more sense with your symptoms.)
At the end of the day, all you need to know is that if you have stomach pain or discomfort on a regular basis, you may have SIBO and you should seriously consider seeing a good functional medicine or natural medicine doctor to get their opinion on your SIBO treament.
I am not going to go over SIBO testing in this article as it is still at its infancy and misses many people that have SIBO. Just as a note, if you have been tested for SIBO and it came back negative, it is my opinion that you still may have SIBO even if your SIBO test came back negative.
SIBO Treatment With Holistic Medicine
As of the writing of this article one of the funny things with SIBO is that I often see medical offices diagnosing SIBO, but I don’t see them choosing to treat it or even more common, after testing for SIBO many people are actually giving more bacteria in the form of probiotics.
When it comes to prescription medications for SIBO, rifaximin is the most common antibiotic used for this condition. It is said to be “non-absorbable” so that it stays in your gut and treats SIBO in your small intestine.
I am not personally a big fan of any antibiotic regardless of if it is absorbed. That being said, this study here says that herbal therapy is as effective as both rifaximin and triple antibiotic therapy for the treatment of SIBO, so there is no need to take the additional risk associated with antibiotics.
If you have tried rifaximin and you felt good and then your symptoms returned and you tried it again and it didn’t work, it is often because of “post-antibiotic fungal overgrowth”. I made that term up myself, but essentially it means that any time you take an antibiotic you run a high risk of developing a fungal infection like candida. This is why all my patients are advised that if they absolutely have to take an antibiotic that they should take Chinese coptis with it so that the fungus is controlled. We do not recommend probiotics with antibiotics or after antibiotic therapy. Remember that in my opinion, probiotics and digestive enzymes are for symptom free guts though I still think there are better choices for most individuals.
If you are new to the fact that medications may not solve your problem, rest assured that we aren’t picking on traditional medicine as the only possibility of treatment that can fall short.
I’ve already dwelled enough on probiotics, but things like stomach acid (aka hydrochloric acid) and digestive enzymes are often prescribed from natural practitioners and likewise, those can be the wrong prescription if used as a band aid for a symptom. Meaning, why isn’t your digestive tract creating its own digestive enzymes and why don’t you have enough stomach acid in the first place?
You see adequate stomach acid is required for digestion and motility and to keep SIBO from re-occurring, but figuring out why your stomach was low in the first place will let you take a round of stomach acid one time and then be done with it. On the contrary, if you never find out why your stomach had low acid in the first place, then you may need to take stomach acid and digestive enzymes for the rest of your life.
SIBO treatment is then contingent upon finding how you got here in the first place.
If you look at the list above that discusses many of the causes of SIBO, you may be able to find one that is clearly your individual cause. Maybe you recall and accident or surgery from which you never recovered. Or may you know that the death of a loved one or a difficult relationship was what kicked this all off. If you know your own cause, then SIBO treatment can be much easier. If we don’t’ know the exact cause, then we often treat SIBO and hope for the best.
Constipation is one of the most common causes of SIBO that most people never address. Having two bowel movements per day is almost a thing of the past in America, but it should be the norm.
SIBO Treatment Conclusion
SIBO and other stealth infections (undiagnosed but present) are by far the common reason I see that people are suffering from IBS or any other digestive complaint. SIBO treatment isn’t very common right now in main stream medicine though research suggests and historical and traditional medicine indicate that medicinal herbs for SIBO are your best starting point.
If you want more on our favorite herbal treatments for SIBO, download Dr. Anderson’s free eBook here