Dealing with small intestine bacterial overgrowth the right way

Dealing with small intestine bacterial overgrowth the right way

by Eunice Chua 14 Jan 2019

Despite not being as commonly discussed as irritable bowel syndrome or coeliac disease, small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) causes as much discomfort as any other gut-related problem. However, if your recovery phase goes right, the painful symptoms won’t live to see the light of day! Here’s an essential checklist to help you defeat SIBO once and for all.


1. Eat right, and at the right time

Watching your diet is an integral step in restoring your gut health. Certain types of food that you consume are highly conducive for bacteria growth, such as certain carbohydrates and sugars, so it’s necessary that you limit your intake of these foods so that the medication you’re taking can do their job. While there isn’t a single best diet to adopt due to the individual variances in everyone’s body, one general diet guideline that applies to everyone is to keep mealtimes regular – that also means not eating too slowly. This is because the digestive system passes undigested food and bacteria to the large intestine in waves and any disruption in eating schedule will upset this cycle, which can inhibit recovery.


2. Say “yes” to motility agents

One of the factors that affects bacterial growth is the rate at which food passes through the small intestine. Motility agents can help to speed up this process, shortening the time interval that bacteria has to act on the undigested food. While not everyone with SIBO suffers from constipation, food that contain motility agents make a great complement to any SIBO-recovery diet – unless you’re prone to diarrhoea. Some foods that make for good motility include ginger, artichoke leaf extract and foods containing vitamin B6.


3. Make sure your solutions target the root cause

While SIBO is all about the build-up of unhealthy bacteria in the small intestine, there are often underlying reasons why it happens. It’s important to tackle the root cause of your SIBO problem during the recovery phase to make sure that the problem doesn’t recur in the future. Slow motility is one reason, but there are other possible contributing factors such as low gastric acid or reduced pressure at the ileocecal junction (between the small and large intestine). So, although getting rid of the bacteria is your biggest concern, long-term recovery is only possible if you also take steps to manage your gut motility, stomach acid levels and digestive system.


4. Don’t stop testing at the diagnosis stage

Your doctor may have ruled the problem as SIBO, but there could still be other co-existing problems that are contributing to the symptoms. Parasites and yeast in the small intestine are common issues that can occur alongside SIBO, so don’t rule these out right away. It’s also important to retest regularly and assess if your recovery is going as planned. SIBO can be tricky to heal from and you may need to switch to another diet or try a different medication, so don’t stop at just one visit to the doctor's.


Most gut-related problems are difficult to manage from because the recovery process can be somewhat long. This is because medication alone can’t do the job – proper lifestyle adjustments like watching your diet and monitoring your condition regularly are needed to take your recovery to completion. Make the most of your treatment process and you'll be able to get rid of SIBO for good!