How To Know If You Have SIBO: Symptoms and Risk Factors

Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, commonly known as SIBO, is a digestive disorder that can cause a variety of uncomfortable symptoms. Understanding the symptoms and risk factors associated with SIBO is crucial for early diagnosis and effective treatment.

In this article, we will explore what SIBO is, how it develops, its symptoms, risk factors, complications, dietary considerations, diagnosis, and treatment options.

What is Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth or SIBO?


SIBO stands for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, a condition in which there is an excessive growth of bacteria in the small intestine. Typically, the small intestine contains fewer bacteria than the large intestine. When the balance is disrupted, it can lead to a range of digestive problems.

How Does Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth Develop?

SIBO can develop for several reasons. The most common causes and contributing factors include:

Low Motility

Reduced intestinal motility, or the movement of food and waste through the digestive tract, can lead to the stagnation of food in the small intestine, creating an environment in which bacteria thrive.

Structural Problems

Structural abnormalities in the digestive tract, such as strictures or adhesions, can impede the normal flow of food, allowing bacteria to accumulate.

Crohn’s Disease

Individuals with Crohn’s disease are at an increased risk of developing SIBO due to inflammation and structural changes in the small intestine.

Gastrointestinal Tract Surgery

People who have undergone surgery on the gastrointestinal tract may experience changes in motility or other factors that contribute to SIBO development.


Hypochlorhydria, or low stomach acid production, can impair the body’s natural defense against ingested bacteria, increasing the likelihood of SIBO.


An imbalance in the gut microbiome can create an environment where harmful bacteria flourish, potentially leading to SIBO.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth?

Recognizing the symptoms of SIBO is crucial for early detection. The common signs and symptoms of SIBO include:

Abdominal Pain

Individuals with SIBO often experience abdominal discomfort, which can range from mild to severe cramping.


Bloating is a common symptom characterized by a feeling of fullness and tightness in the abdomen.

Excessive Belching

SIBO can lead to excessive belching, causing discomfort and embarrassment.


Heartburn and acid reflux may occur due to the disruption of the digestive process.


Increased gas production in the small intestine can result in excessive flatulence.


Some individuals with SIBO may experience constipation, as the excessive bacteria can disrupt normal bowel movements.

Weight Loss

Unintended weight loss can occur due to malabsorption of nutrients.


SIBO can interfere with nutrient absorption, leading to malnutrition over time.

What Are the Risk Factors for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth?

Several factors increase the risk of developing SIBO, including:

  • Age: SIBO is more common in older adults.
  • Certain medical conditions: Conditions like diabetes and scleroderma can contribute to SIBO.
  • Medications: Prolonged use of certain medications, such as proton pump inhibitors, can increase the risk.
  • Previous gastrointestinal surgery: Surgical procedures may alter the digestive tract and lead to SIBO.
  • Altered gut motility: Conditions that slow down or disrupt the normal movement of food through the digestive system can predispose individuals to SIBO.

What Are the Complications of Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth?

Untreated or severe SIBO can lead to complications, including malnutrition, anemia, and even damage to the intestinal lining. These complications can have far-reaching effects on one’s overall health.

SIBO Diet: Foods to Eat and Avoid

Managing SIBO often involves dietary modifications. Here are some guidelines for a SIBO-friendly diet:

Foods That Are Good for SIBO

  • Low-fiber foods: Opt for easily digestible foods, such as white rice, lean meats, and well-cooked vegetables.
  • Probiotics: Some probiotics can help restore the balance of gut bacteria.
  • Homemade bone broths: These can provide nourishment and support gut healing.

Foods That Trigger SIBO

  • High-fiber foods: Avoid foods high in fiber, as they can exacerbate symptoms.
  • Sugars and refined carbohydrates: Limit sugar and refined carbohydrate intake, as they can promote bacterial growth.
  • Dairy products: Lactose intolerance can worsen SIBO symptoms, so consider dairy alternatives.

How Is Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth Diagnosed?

To diagnose SIBO, a healthcare provider may use various methods, including breath tests, blood tests, and endoscopy. These tests can help confirm the presence of SIBO and determine its severity.

What Are the Consequences of Untreated Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth?

If left untreated, SIBO can lead to serious health complications, such as chronic malnutrition, anemia, and a weakened immune system. It is essential to seek medical attention if you suspect you have SIBO.

How to Treat Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth?

The treatment of SIBO typically involves a combination of dietary changes and antibiotics. Your healthcare provider will develop a personalized treatment plan based on the severity of your condition.

When To See A Doctor


If you experience persistent gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, excessive belching, or unexplained weight loss, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional. Early diagnosis and treatment can help manage SIBO effectively and improve your quality of life.

In conclusion, SIBO is a digestive disorder characterized by an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine. Understanding the symptoms, risk factors, and complications associated with SIBO is essential for timely diagnosis and treatment.

By making dietary adjustments, seeking medical advice, and following a prescribed treatment plan, individuals with SIBO can improve their digestive health and overall well-being.

Author Bio

Devon Andre has been involved in the health and dietary supplement industry for a number of years. Devon has written extensively for Bel Marra Health. He has a Bachelor of Forensic Science from the University of Windsor, and went on to complete a Juris Doctor from the University of Pittsburgh. Devon is keenly aware of trends and new developments in the area of health and wellness. He embraces an active lifestyle combining diet, exercise and healthy choices. By working to inform readers of the options available to them, he hopes to improve their health and quality of life.


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