Do I have SIBO or IBS?


Information shared is for informative purposes only. It is not intended for assessment, diagnosis or treatment purposes. If you feel you require medical assistance, please seek out a qualified health care professional for a proper assessment.

What is SIBO?

Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, well known as SIBO, occurs when there is an increase of bacteria and/or a change in the type of bacteria present in the small intestine. Most often, SIBO is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria that actually belong in the colon (the large intestine).

In other words, SIBO is like a bad tenant. He invites all his rowdy friends in for a party and they damage the walls of the apartment (in this case the cell lining of the small bowel). This can lead to a leaky gut, allowing large protein molecules to move through the intestinal barrier and escape into the bloodstream. As you can imagine, this causes a number of problems, including general inflammation, immune reactions that cause food allergies and intolerances, as well as autoimmune diseases. These little reckless bacterias are also responsible for poor digestion and diarrhea. In most severe cases, they can also be the cause of unintended weight loss, osteoporosis as well as nutritional deficiencies, particularly in iron, vitamin B12, and fat-soluble vitamins.

What is IBS? 

IBS is irritable bowel syndrome.  It means your bowel is irritated which can present as bloating, gas, diarrhea pain and constipation.  But this does not tell us anything about why your bowels are irritated.  Many patients who have been told they have IBS when actually have SIBO. 

Similarities between SIBO and IBS

SIBO and IBS present very similarly.  As a result, SIBO is often an undiagnosed condition as many people do not seek medical care for their symptoms.  Here is what they have in common:  

  • Bloating and abdominal swelling
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Gas and belching
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Vitamin deficiency-related symptoms.
SIBO vs. IBS Checklist

Here are 5 simple ways to differentiate SIBO from IBS:

Sibo Vs IBS Checklist

Are you at risk for SIBO?

While the elderly may be the most vulnerable to developing SIBO as its prevalence rises with age, there are multiple other risk factors that can increase your chances, no matter how old you are. These include:

  • A history of gastrointestinal illness or the flu
  • Medication, especially antibiotics
  • Gastric acid suppression or Low Stomach Acid
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Celiac disease
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Prior bowel surgery
  • Diabetes Types I & II
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Organ system dysfunction

Studies also indicate that moderate alcohol consumption — that’s one drink a day for the ladies and two for men — not only promotes the overgrowth of certain types of bacteria, but it can also impair vital functions resulting in small bowel injury and decreased muscle contractions.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above or think you might be at risk, then we encourage you to make an appointment to assess your symptoms and get tested. Specialized testing can be accomplished through a breath test that measures your hydrogen and methane gas levels produced by the bacterial metabolism and can be a very helpful indicator to determine if you are suffering from SIBO.


How can you treat SIBO?

Despite multiple courses of antibiotics being a risk factor, antibiotics are still most often used to treat SIBO. However, studies show that SIBO returns in nearly half of all patients within only a year!

Successful treatment of SIBO must be handled just like any other health condition – not with a temporary Band-aid solution, but by addressing the underlying cause! Intestinal bacteria can be influenced by numerous factors beyond what we eat and how much.

Environmental effects, drugs, alcohol, and lifestyle factors such as stress can all be contributing factors to poor gut health. Therefore, the treatment must be unique to the individual.

Once you have identified the cause, SIBO symptoms should be treated through a healthy diet, nutritional supplements and positive lifestyle changes that help return the body to balance.

Tips for dealing with SIBO
  1. Eat three meals a day 4-5 hour apart and avoid snacking. We need to give our body time in between meals to improve our intestinal motility. More often than not, motility becomes an issue with people suffering from SIBO.
  1. With guidance from your naturopathic doctor, try a low FODMAP diet for two weeks to get your body back on track by reducing inflammation and bacteria overgrowth.
  1. Enjoy foods that help with motility of your small intestine, such as ginger tea.

Do any of the above symptoms or risk factors sound familiar? Do you think you might be suffering from SIBO? We can help! Please contact our clinic, and we’ll get to the bottom of what’s going on and create a plan of action to bring your body back to good health.


All in good health,

Your team at Somerset Health and Wellness Centre