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SIBO: What It Is and How It Affects Your Body: The Truth About Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth

SIBO - Condition in which that there are excess bacteria in the small intestine.


Do you suffer from bloating, constipation, diarrhea, or abdominal pain that just won't go away? If so, you may have a condition known as Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth or SIBO. SIBO is a relatively common disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. In this blog post, we will discuss what SIBO is, how it affects your body, and the management options available.

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), also known as small bowel bacterial overgrowth, is a condition in which bacteria that are normally present in the large intestine start to grow in the small intestine. This can happen when the mixture of good and bad bacteria in the gut becomes imbalanced, allowing bad bacteria to take over. SIBO is a common cause of digestive problems like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and can also lead to malnutrition, as the bacteria can prevent the absorption of nutrients from food. While SIBO can be difficult to manage, there are a number of effective medical and nonmedical options available, including diet changes, probiotics, antibiotics, and supplements.

What causes SIBO?

The main factors contributing to SIBO include poor digestive motility (how quickly the food you eat moves through your digestive tract), chronic inflammation, or an underlying immune dysfunction. Poor digestive motility causes an abnormal increase in bacteria, typically found in the large intestine to creep into the small intestine. This excess bacteria can often cause diarrhea and

bacteria in your gut

may lead to weight loss and malnutrition. Chronic inflammation relating to a recent surgery or more commonly irritable bowel syndrome (up to 80% of IBS sufferers also suffer from SIBO) is one of the main contributors to digestive motility and immune dysfunctions can happen based on the foods you ingest, stress, and environmental factors (think gluten intolerance, high-stress jobs, or using antibiotics).

SIBO and Bloating

Individuals with SIBO may experience painful bloating. Bloating is the result of gas production by bacteria in the small intestine feeding on the available carbohydrates. The production of gas, short-chained fatty acids, and microbial metabolites in the small intestine can, in turn, trigger diarrhea.

SIBO and Brain Fog

What does your gut health have to do with your brain/cognition? Interestingly, your overall gut health along with any underlying conditions like SIBO has been associated with negative neurologic outcomes like "Brain Fog". The gut and brain talk to each other through nerve signals, the release of gut or stress hormones, and other pathways comprising what is known as the gut-brain axis (more on that in a later post). In addition, your gut actually has an effect on your brain. And because it’s easier (and generally safer) to manipulate the gut than the brain, you can begin to see how important it is to take care of your gut health.

As mentioned, SIBO can be difficult to manage and there are a number of effective medical and nonmedical options available, including diet changes, probiotics, antibiotics, and dietary supplements. The addition of a dietary supplement has the potential to foster an environment for your gut to flourish (while avoiding many of the side effects often accompanying probiotics and antibiotics). For example, a dietary supplement with proanthocyanidins (PACs) can help increase the beneficial mucosal layer that coats your gut lining and serves as a lubricant to aid the movement of digested food through your digestive tract, thus increasing motility. PACs are also known to slow the rate of fermentation proteolysis of food. Reducing the rate of fermentation by bacteria in the small intestine may result in a decrease in gas production and improved motility of food. Better food motility = less gas = less bloating = less intestinal pain and discomfort.

In our next blog post, we will be discussing "Brain Fog" and the neurologic link between the gut and the brain.