If you are afraid of travelling because you don’t know when you’ll need to go to the bathroom or you are afraid of trying different meals at restaurants as you often experience diarrhea, you certainly have a digestive issue and some form of gastrointestinal (GI) disorder. IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome is the most common of such disorders, and it can be caused by a variety of things.
However, a lot of people who suffer from IBS have been shown to have SIBO or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. You are not alone, as many people have this problem. Let’s see how you can determine if SIBO is causing your IBS.
What are SIBO and IBS?
Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth or SIBO is a disorder where excessive bacterial growth appears in the small intestine. In a great percentage of cases it is the main cause of irritable bowel syndrome or IBS.
The most common symptoms of both SIBO and IBS are:
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Gas and bloating
These are, in most cases, easily treated by simply regulating your diet, reducing stress and having a healthy lifestyle. If a patient is experiencing severe symptoms, then you need to take appropriate medication.
What causes IBS?
Before you start searching for the symptoms of SIBO, let’s see what can cause IBS, so you can know what to take into consideration if you don’t have SIBO.
In most cases IBS was caused by SIBO. As we previously mentioned, the symptoms are almost the same, so SIBO is first to be tested, as it is the most common.
- Leaky gut
When the cells in the intestinal wall break apart due to damage, they let undigested particles, and toxins “leak” into your body and “invade” your immune system. When your immune system tries to protect you, and defend the body from these toxins, inflammation can occur. Many studies have shown that the leaky gut can be a root cause of IBS.
Parasites such as Blastocystis hominis, Giardia lamblia and Dientamoeba fragilis can be a cause of IBS, and are usually the ones to blame. These are easily identified with a stool test, but can sometimes be left undiagnosed for a long time, so ask your doctor for a routine stool test just to be sure.
- Food allergens
You might become allergic to some types of food at a certain age, even though you never had problems with them before, and your digestive system can be easily irritated by them. The most common foods that can irritate the digestive system are eggs, soy, gluten, dairy and corn.
- Yeast overgrowth
Candida or yeast overgrowth is similar to SIBO, but it is not a bacteria – it is yeast or fungi. The symptoms are bloating, gas, constipation and diarrhea, which are very similar to SIBO, and there are effective tests that will show you what the problem is. Candida is easily treated, but this takes a lot of time.
When you have IBS or are prone to having it, stress can definitely be the main root of your problem. If you already have IBS, and you are under a lot of stress, you’ll notice that your symptoms only become worse. As some studies have shown, there is definitely a link between stress levels and IBS.
How do you know SIBO is causing IBS?
It is the most common cause, but it’s not the only one. Let’s go through the 5 ways to determine if SIBO is the root of your IBS.
- You are constipated, but fiber worsens your constipation
It’s a well known fact that foods high in fiber can help with constipation. However, if you start consuming more fiber, and it only makes the problem worse, then it is serious and you need to see your doctor. This is often a sign that the root of your IBS is SIBO.
Foods that are high in fiber are fruits such as raspberries, pear, apple, orange, figs, strawberries, raisins and bananas; vegetables such as boiled artichokes, green peas, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts, and baked potato.
Also, spaghetti are rich in fiber, so if it was the last meal you had before getting constipated, SIBO is probably the cause.
- You have a bloating feeling when taking probiotics
Probiotics are actually live bacteria that are good for the health of your digestive system. These bacteria and yeasts normally help you get rid of any issues such as constipation, bloating and diarrhea.
However, if you feel bloated after taking probiotics, you might have SIBO, as they will help the bacteria grow even more, making the problem worse. Consult with your doctor and do some tests to find out if SIBO is the real cause of your IBS.
- You are constantly low on iron or ferritin
By doing a simple blood test, you can determine the amount of ferritin, a protein that is bound to iron, in your body. The normal amount of ferritin in the blood is 18-270 mcg/L for men, 18-160 mcg/L for women and 7-140 mcg/L for children. These amounts are just a guide, and the amount necessary for someone is completely individual, based on many factors.
When you are low on ferritin, it usually means that you are low on iron. If your tests show that you have ferritin and iron deficiency, but you eat foods rich in iron and take iron supplements, then it is usually a sign of SIBO.
- You have gas, bloating, constipation or diarrhea after taking pain medications
Many pain medications might have gas, bloating and diarrhea as a side-effect, but these symptoms are usually indicative of digestive tract issues.
So, consult with your doctor about the pain medication you are using if you are feeling bloated, or you have constipation or diarrhea. In most cases, the root of this problem is SIBO, but further tests are needed to be completely sure.
- You are gluten intolerant, but your diet doesn’t help you
When you are gluten intolerant, foods that contain gluten will cause diarrhea, gas, bloating, constipation, and headaches. If you have a regulated diet, specially created to suit your body, and you still experience bloating, gas, diarrhea or constipation, it might be a sign of SIBO.
These guidelines should help you determine why you have problems with your digestive system, and determine if SIBO is the root of your IBS. Don’t think that your problem will just go away. It is incredibly stressful to be afraid to go somewhere because you might need to use the bathroom suddenly.
Consult with your doctor, do some tests and find out how to treat it. It’s better to treat and prevent serious health issues than to let them negatively affect your life. Do not wait to deal with them once they have already gotten out of hand.