Do You have IBS? or SIBO? or Both?

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome? And Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) are two conditions I commonly see in my naturopathic functional medicine practice.

Most people think that they are doomed to live with chronic abdominal discomfort, gas, bloating and ever-changing bowel habits. However, both conditions respond very well to nutritional supplements, herbal remedies and diet & lifestyle adjustments and in rare cases, specialized prescription medications can also be helpful. In my experience, Naturopathic Functional Medicine can make these conditions manageable and often eradicate the pesky symptoms altogether!

The first step to managing IBS & SIBO adequately is determining whether your digestive symptoms are due to IBS, SIBO, or both (or perhaps something else altogether). Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth is quite common among those with irritable bowel syndrome, and addressing SIBO could drastically reduce your IBS symptoms as well. This is why I offer in-depth and specialized testing so we can get to the root cause of your symptoms and create an individualized treatment plan that meets your body’s unique needs!

To learn more about whether your symptoms could be due to IBS, SIBO, or both, read on.

SIBO & IBS: Is There a Link Between the Two?

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth and irritable bowel syndrome are lower gastrointestinal disorders sharing many of the same digestive symptoms, from bloating and flatulence to abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhea, constipation, and changes in appetite. Both conditions can also affect one’s cognition, energy levels, mental health, and overall quality of life — causing or exacerbating symptoms like brain fog, concentration issues, joint pain, fatigue, anxiety, and depression. 

But irritable bowel syndrome and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth are linked in more ways than symptoms alone. SIBO — an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine — is one common cause of IBS. Globally, IBS affects between five and 10 percent of the population and often overlaps with other “functional” conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome, dyspepsia, celiac disease, fibromyalgia, and chronic pelvic pain.

SIBO is Common Among Those with IBS

A study published in Gut and Liver took a closer look at the link between irritable bowel syndrome and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, finding that SIBO was prevalent in up to 78 percent of the study’s IBS patients. Among those with IBS, female gender, low hemoglobin levels, older age, symptoms of diarrhea-predominant IBS (IBS-D), narcotic and proton pump inhibitor (PPI) usage, and symptoms such as bloating and flatulence were all associated with SIBO. 

In contrast, SIBO was much less common among the study’s control group — affecting between one and 40 percent of people. This doesn’t mean SIBO is a rare condition, however; it’s frequently underdiagnosed and requires a comprehensive intake and specialized testing.

So, Does SIBO Cause IBS?

This raises a few important questions: is SIBO a cause of IBS, a consequence of the condition, or perhaps a combination of the two? Though it’s one of those chicken-or-the-egg situations (for now), the aim of naturopathic functional medicine is to help us uncover the root causes of your GI symptoms. Whether it’s IBS, SIBO, or both (or maybe something else entirely!)

How IBS & SIBO Differ

Now that we’ve discussed the link between small intestinal bacterial overgrowth and irritable bowel syndrome, let’s look at how these two conditions differ.

What to Know About Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Firstly, IBS is considered to be a “functional” gastrointestinal disorder that affects the large intestine. Unlike GI disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), celiac disease, and diverticulitis, there are no structural abnormalities with functional conditions such as IBS. Rather, irritable bowel syndrome disturbs bowel function and causes recurring symptoms like constipation, diarrhea, bloating, pain, and other bowel changes.

What Causes IBS?

As I mentioned earlier, SIBO is one potential cause of IBS. However, not everyone with IBS has an overgrowth of bacteria in their small intestine (SIBO). Others may have imbalances in gut bacteria (dysbiosis), but these gut microbial imbalances may not necessarily live in the small intestine. 

Some other potential causes of irritable bowel syndrome include:

  • Abnormalities in gut motility.
  • Abnormalities in sensory perception.
  • An over functioning or under functioning immune system.
  • Gut-Brain Axis (GBA) disturbances. 

What to Know About SIBO

In comparison to irritable bowel syndrome, SIBO is a type of dysbiosis that occurs when there’s an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine (remember, IBS only affects the large intestine). The small intestine (unlike the large intestine) isn’t normally home to a lot of bacteria, and excess amounts can lead to malnourishment and IBS symptoms such as diarrhea, bloating, abdominal pain, and flatulence. Intestinal inflammation and weight loss can also occur.

What Causes SIBO?

If SIBO is one potential cause of IBS, what causes small intestinal bacterial overgrowth? A few potential causes include:

  • In some cases, IBS (especially diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome or IBS-D).
  • Other GI conditions like IBD, celiac disease, and pancreatitis.
  • Low stomach acid and PPI usage. 
  • Surgeries that remove or change the structure of the small intestine.
  • Small intestinal diverticulosis (diverticula in the small bowel).
  • Medical conditions such as AIDS, immunoglobulin deficiency, diabetes, and scleroderma.

Are SIBO & IBS Your Root Causes? Naturopathic Functional Medicine Can Help Us Find Out!

If you’re experiencing gastrointestinal distress, it can be challenging to tell whether your bloating, pain, diarrhea, constipation, and other GI symptoms are due to irritable bowel syndrome, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, or both. This is where naturopathic functional medicine comes in. We’ll explore the potential root causes that could be contributing to your symptoms and use a variety of natural therapies to heal your body and restore your health. Contact me to learn more!

Are you ready to seek the root cause of your digestive symptoms, hormonal imbalances, autoimmune diseases, or other conditions?

Contact me to learn how naturopathic functional medicine can help to restore balance within your body and relieve your symptoms both naturally and effectively. 

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