SIBO 101


SIBO stands for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth and is a disease of the gastrointestinal system where bacteria overpopulate in your small intestine and causes a host of health issues, both digestive and beyond.  SIBO can best be thought of as a subset of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and in fact is a key factor behind the majority of IBS cases, as up to 75% of people with IBS have SIBO.  Despite affecting up to 12% of Americans, for many years “SIBO” (pronounced “see-bo”) has been relatively unknown to the average person.  In recent years however, awareness of the vital role your gut and microbiome play in your health has begun to seep into the public consciousness, SIBO has become more well known, which is good news because it can be treated.

Doctors have spent decades studying and researching SIBO and in recent years have made many significant breakthroughs in the diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

Symptoms of SIBO

SIBO has many debilitating symptoms which can be broken down into two categories: Digestive Symptoms and Non-Digestive Symptoms.


Digestive Symptoms:

  • Abdominal bloating and distension
  • Abdominal discomfort and/or cramps
  • Excessive gas leading to belching and/or flatulence
  • Change in bowel movements: constipation, diarrhea, or both
  • Heartburn and/or acid reflux
  • Nausea

Non-Digestive Symptoms:

  • Brain fog
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Weight loss/gain
  • Joint pain
  • Mood symptoms
  • Nutritional deficiencies, including iron and B12
  • Skin problems, such as eczema and rashes

The Science of SIBO

SIBO’s name tells you what it is and where it starts: Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth. In a healthy small intestine, you will find a minimal amount of bacteria but in the small intestine of a SIBO sufferer bacteria have proliferated and are out of balance becoming trapped in the intestine.   In IBS/SIBO patients, the disease has often been triggered by food poisoning, however in many standalone SIBO cases the cause is often unknown.  Regardless of the cause, patients suffering from IBS and/or SIBO suffer from gut motility issues, which means their gut's "cleaning waves” are impaired.  In a well-functioning gut, your body will clean the gut with these waves every 2-6 hours, thus sweeping out any food and bacteria.  In a SIBO/IBS gut, these cleaning waves have been impaired or halted completely, allowing bacteria to build up and “dirty” up the gut environment.  This bacteria build up creates gas that becomes trapped in the small intestine, as the small intestine is not designed to move gas forward, and creates discomfort and a stomach “ballooning” or bloating/distension.  Additionally, these bacterial overgrowth wreak havoc on your microbiome and throws everything out of balance which causes a host of issues discussed in the symptoms above.

Diagnosing SIBO

So how do you find out if you have SIBO? It is actually shockingly easy. There is a simple breath test that will tell your doctor if you have SIBO.  If your test comes back positive your doctor or GP will refer you to a gastroenterologist for treatment.

What Next?

Following your specific diagnosis, SIBO or SIBO/IBS, you will want to first “reset” your gut through some combination of antibiotics or a 2-3 week elemental diet.

Once your bacteria overgrowth has been flushed out, the next phase is Low Fermentation Eating (LFE).  A LFE diet will make your small intestine inhospitable to bacteria overgrowths and allow your gut’s cleansing waves to function optimally. Learn about Low Fermentation Eating.

More SIBO Resources

low fermentation eating foods for gut health diet for SIBO IBS and GI issues

Low Fermentation Eating

Developed from decades of scientific research, Low Fermentation Eating (LFE) is designed to aid in the treatment of SIBO, IBS and other microbiome imbalances.

LFE low fermentation eating cookbook and mircobiome connection book for gut wellness and health

LFE Books

Learn about SIBO, IBS and your microbiome in The Microbiome Connection and then treat your GI system with delicious food from our cookbook.

sibo safe foods for gut health recipes

SIBO Friendly Recipes

Pulled from our cookbook and Krystyna's kitchen, these delicious and SIBO friendly recipes use Low Fermentation Eating to balance your microbiome.