6 Signs of SIBO You Might Be Ignoring

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth—SIBO—symptoms can mimic other digestive issues. Getting the right care is important, so check your symptoms against the list below and find out how to get relief.

What is SIBO?

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Although your gut is loaded with bacteria, your small intestine has relatively low levels. That's why small intestinal bacterial overgrowth—SIBO—is an issue. Not only is the condition uncomfortable, it can also lead to nutritional deficiencies and harm the lining of your gut—so it's important to be properly diagnosed and treated.

What causes SIBO?

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SIBO symptoms usually point to a problem with movement in the small intestine. "Every two hours, your small bowel initiates something called a 'housekeeper wave,' which sweeps through the small bowel and dumps everything, including excessive amounts of bacteria, residual food, digestive enzymes, and bowel secretions," said gastroenterologist Ali Rezaie, MD, in Health magazine. If an underlying illness, infection, or medication interferes with the "wave," bacteria can build up.

People with diabetes, lupus, and digestive diseases are at higher risk of developing SIBO symptoms, as are those who've had gastrointestinal surgery or who take certain medications such as narcotics, proton pump inhibitors, and frequent antibiotics, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Worried you may have it? Check out the SIBO symptoms below.

Bloating and gas

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The excess bacteria in the small intestine feed off of the food you eat—especially sugars and other carbohydrates. They produce hydrogen and methane gases as part of their own digestion process, which can then lead to bloating and gas. "Many people with SIBO experience an almost immediate sense of fullness, a visibly swollen abdomen, and bloating after eating," says Kate Scarlata, RDN, a registered dietitian who specializes in digestive disorders. "The abdominal distention can be quite significant, appearing similar to that of a six-month-pregnant woman. Gas often feels trapped and is difficult to pass. This is because the gas is so high up in the small bowel that it has a long way to go before it can exit via the colon." Learn to spot the difference: Here are 8 normal—and 4 worrisome—types of bloating.

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