If you have “tried everything” and are still having regular IBS symptoms, seriously consider SIBO and Candida as being potential contributing factors. Dysbiosis can be going on for years in the background without you knowing it.
There were a lot of terms I had heard without really understanding them. I hope this will help you understand the main concepts better:
What is SIBO (and dysbiosis)?
SIBO sounds like a new washing powder, but it’s short for Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth. It is possible to have bacterial overgrowth in the stomach, but it is more common in the small intestines. It is a type of dysbiosis (imbalance in gut bacteria).
I will spare you the medical blurb on this and keep it simple.
Think of SIBO as pond weed – but in your gut…
In the gut we have many different strains of good bacteria that help us with the digestive process. And there are a few bad guys hanging around too, but there are just a few of them. The body is very good at autoregulating.
SIBO is generally thought to be caused by eating lots of refined sugars and industrially processed foods, or you have been on regular antibiotics against viral infections (not to be confused with herbal antibiotics that can be used as treatment for dysbiosis).
However if you experienced a difficult childhood and/or regularly experience high levels of stress and regular IBS flare-ups, this can also encourage gut dysbiosis.
Then the bad guys multiply and take over – a bit like pond weed. The trouble with the bad guys is that you can’t see them.
But if you are regularly bloated, the chances are that they are there and causing a disturbance. And they can stay there for years and years and clog up your digestion without you realizing it, causing you to bloat whatever you eat.
How do I know if I have got SIBO?
You don’t have to have a test done. But you won’t know for sure unless you get tested for it. Ask your doctor can arrange for you to have a simple breath test, but be sure to ask for both hydrogen and methane breath tests This covers SIBO but also other types of bacterial overgrowth.
Symptoms of SIBO tend to include bloating, diarrhea and constipation, nausea, itchy skin, and brain fog.
What about H. Pylori?
H. Pylori is a strain of bacteria that causes inflammation and ulcers in the gut. To check for H. Pylori you will need a specific urea test.
Tests are not always 100% reliable, but they give a good indication. If your tests come back negative, and you are having long-term IBS problems, you may want to try a SIBO treatment anyway and see if it makes any difference.
Is Candida the same as SIBO?
Yes and no. We are still talking about a type of dysbiosis (an imbalance in gut bacteria) but of a specific fungus called Candida Albicans. This is often referred to as a yeast infection.
Candida is a fungus naturally present in our digestive system that helps the body break down food and absorb nutrients. If overgrowth occurs (generally for the same reasons as for SIBO) And this overgrowth occurs principally in the mouth and intestines, but can also affect the skin and other parts of the body. A hydrogen and methane breath test will indicate if you have it, but there are other urine and stool tests too.
Symptoms of Candida include bloating, specific symptoms like sugar craving, bad breath and a coated tongue, hormone imbalance (thought to be caused by a byproduct of Candida that mimics estrogen), and fatigue.
Sinus and throat problems can also be linked to Candida.
And Leaky gut?
This one is more like star Wars!
As your digestion gets clogged up and the good guys are fewer in numbers, they get bad at digesting your food. And tiny parts of the gut wall, one of our major immune system barriers, get inflamed and worn down, letting through undigested food particles into the bloodstream.
Your immune system recognises these food particles as invaders and attacks them. The next time you eat that food, the chances are that your immune system will react to it again – and this is the start of food intolerance, and why you can continue to develop new food sensitivity.
If you are unlucky ou can, of course, have SIBO, Candida, and leaky gut!
So how do you kill off the bad guys?
There are several ways, but too long for one post.
A Special Note: If you have had a difficult childhood or regular high levels of stress in your life, there is little chance that any of the solutions below will be succesful without working with the root causes and removing long-term trigger loops. This is the work I specialise in.
There are prescribed drugs available and which you can talk to your doctor about. And there are herbal antibiotics. They may treat the problem, but be aware that if your digestion is poor because of food intolerance, or because you consume a lot of processed or sugar-rich foods, then it will come back if you don’t improve your diet.
There are PREBIOTICS. These are a special form of dietary fiber that actively feeds the good bacteria in your gut. These are used more for people with chronic digestive disorders or inflammatory bowel disease.
Better suited to IBS, there are PROBIOTICS with live bacteria you can take to help restore the balance of bacteria in your gut. If you do try a probiotic from your pharmacist, you may get good results, or like me you may find the probiotics actually make things worse and have to stop.5