SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) has become a hot topic over the past few years. With there being a link between IBS symptoms of many people and the presence of SIBO, practitioners across the globe have begun an all-out assault on SIBO.
The type of treatment you get if diagnosed with SIBO will typically depend on the type of healthcare provider you go to. Most conventional gastroenterologists will simply prescribe Rifaximin (if it’s covered by insurance) or neomycin for a few weeks and then wait and see if your symptoms will return.
If you go to a functional or integrative medicine provider, you will probably get a more comprehensive approach that will include a change in diet (typically low FODMAP, gluten/dairy free, or something along those lines), treatment with an antimicrobial, whether that be Rifaximin or an herbal combination, maybe Atrantil and a pro-motility agent.
I’ve seen many patients get a better results with the functional/integrative approach for certain, but most of the time the symptoms either don’t go away completely or they do go away for a short time then come back. But why is that? Why, if you had been “treated” for SIBO, would it come back?
Well here is the secret no one is telling you: You can’t beat SIBO by treating SIBO. Yup, you heard that right.
What you need to do is treat the reason you have SIBO.
So the question you should be asking yourself is, why do I have SIBO in the first place? So let’s dig more into that.
It’s important to understand that SIBO is not an infection, it is an overgrowth of bacteria where it should not be (in the small intestine). Some people do develop SIBO after getting a stomach infection, but that is typically a result of impaired intestinal motility and integrity caused by the infection. Others develop SIBO without any signs of previous infection.
The important thing to keep in mind is that it is almost always a combination of different factors contributing to your SIBO, though for each person it is a different combination. This is why the cookie-cutter treatment plans that include antimicrobials and a low-FODMAP diet do not work very often. They are not taking into account your individual biochemistry and lifestyle.
In order to resolve SIBO, you need to address the following things:
- Environmental inputs – These include the following:
a. Air quality and the way you breathe
b. Water quality and how much you drink
c. Light exposure and sleep (these two are intimately tied)
d. Sound (especially if it is affecting your sleep)
e. Electromagnetic fields (EMF)
f. Food (especially any nutritional deficiencies and imbalances)
- Food sensitivities – I’m not talking about food allergies, but foods your body is mounting a negative immune response to. Food sensitivities can affect your ability to digest and assimilate the food you are eating, as well as your intestinal integrity.
- Intestinal motility – If your bowels are moving too quickly or too slowly, its going to be an issue. For those with SIBO, you need to be having 2 solid bowel movements A DAY.
- Stress – Stress is a big trigger for many people with stomach issues and if left unaddressed, can keep you from healing.
- Coinfections – It is possible to have dysbiosis in your large intestine that can create an environment for SIBO to flourish. In order to assess this, you would need an advanced stool test.
- Impaired digestive secretions – If you are unable to properly digest the food you are eating, it is going to lead to nutritional deficiencies over time. Again, this needs to be assessed via an advanced stool test.
- Environmental toxins – These often come from water, food, or air, which is why these areas must be addressed in all cases.
So, as you can see, there are a lot of things that can be contributing to the development and persistence of SIBO and until these areas are adequately tested and addressed, it is more than likely you will not be able to clear it. That being said, by addressing these areas, you can reverse SIBO without ever having to treat it directly.
Once you fix the reasons why SIBO developed in the first place, the body will take care of it on it’s own. No need for expensive antimicrobial regimens or severely restrictive diets.
As always, the best results come from addressing the cause of your condition, not the condition itself.