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Could your IBS actually be SIBO?

Updated: Aug 2, 2023

IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome, is an extremely common condition but did you know that up to 80% of people with IBS actually have SIBO, or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth?


The symptoms of IBS are very similar to SIBO which is why it often goes undiagnosed. Whether it's IBS or SIBO, all too often people think it's just something that they have to live with. Not true!

As someone with first-hand experience of IBS following a Salmonella infection in my 20s, I know all too well how debilitating the symptoms can be. When all hope was lost with conventional therapies, I turned to the power of nutrition to help manage my condition and restore my quality of life. You can do the same, whether you have IBS or SIBO - don't suffer in silence!



What is SIBO?

SIBO is a serious functional condition affecting the small intestine which occurs when bacteria that normally grow in other parts of the gut start to stagnate and grow in the small intestine. They're not necessarily always unhealthy bacteria, it's just that they're overgrowing in the wrong place.


One of the main roles of our gut bacteria is to help us digest food. They ferment carbohydrates which produces by-products of methane and hydrogen gases. The build-up of these gases in the small intestine is what causes uncomfortable and sometimes distressing symptoms and can lead to more serious health issues.


How do I know if I have SIBO?

There are many symptoms that could indicate that you have SIBO.


You may have just one or two symptoms, or many. Symptom type and severity will vary from person to person. If you have SIBO, you may experience:

  • A feeling of fullness in the gut, especially straight after meals

  • Abdominal pain and/or cramps

  • Bloating, usually higher up in the abdomen and slightly under the ribs

  • Indigestion

  • Flatulence

  • Constipation and/or diarrhoea

  • Nausea

  • Food sensitivities

Many of these symptoms are similar to those experienced with IBS, but the pain and bloating higher up in the abdomen, nausea and feeling full are tell-tale signs that it could be SIBO.


What causes SIBO?

You won't always find out the exact cause of your SIBO, however it can be associated with certain factors.


Here are just a few factors which can contribute to SIBO:

  • Poor liver function and detoxification - issues with elimination of unwanted substances and waste from the body

  • Imbalance of gut bacteria - healthy bacteria are over-run by less friendly, pathogenic bacteria

  • Leaky gut - the lining of the gut is impaired and allows bacteria and toxins to travel elsewhere in the body

  • Vagal nerve damage - the nerve that runs from the gut to the brain - this controls gut motility and digestion and can cause stagnation of bacteria when it's too slow

  • Stress, anxiety or a mental health disorder - chronic activation of the 'fight or flight' response hampers gut motility, stomach acid production and digestion

  • Poor immune function - illness or infection can set the scene for SIBO

  • Antibiotics or long-term PPI use - disrupt the gut microbiome and stomach acidity

  • Food poisoning or gastroenteritis - can cause inflammation and alter the gut microbiome


Can SIBO be treated?

Yes! It's extremely important to eradicate SIBO and address any underlying factors that may be causing it, in an aim to prevent relapse or recurrence. Chronic SIBO can lead to more serious health issues if left untreated.


Firstly, you may wish to take a SIBO breath test to confirm the diagnosis and which type it is - methane, hydrogen, combined or hydrogen sulfide SIBO. A qualified practitioner will then be able to interpret your test results and determine the right course of therapy for your needs.



At Foreshore Nutrition, Melanie is qualified and experienced as a SIBO Practitioner and is able to support you fully through what can be otherwise be confusing and challenging therapy. Treatment is personalised and can include any of the following:

  • Dietary protocol using a low FODMAP or biphasic SIBO diet

  • Herbal antimicrobial therapy

  • Gut barrier repair and support

  • Vagus nerve stimulation and gut motility work

  • Stress reduction techniques

  • Repopulation of healthy gut bacteria


SIBO symptoms can be extremely debilitating and it can be a difficult condition to treat without expert support. Foreshore Nutrition offers an exclusive discount on SIBO breath testing carried out by Genova Diagnostics. Visit the testing page here to find out more, email Melanie at foreshorenutrition@outlook.com or book a free call to discuss your gut health needs here.

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