Irritable bowel syndrome and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth are similar in affecting the body's gut, and some of their symptoms are even similar. However, they are two very different medical diagnoses. Symptoms of both disorders can include abdominal pain, bloating, irregular bowel movements, and other symptoms. Learn what irritable bowel syndrome is, what small intestinal bacterial overgrowth is, how they can have similar symptoms, and what are some differences between them.

What is the Gastrointestinal Tract?

The gastrointestinal tract is a long, coiled tube that runs from the mouth to the anus. It includes the small intestine, the large intestine, and the rectum. The gastrointestinal tract is responsible for digesting food and absorbing nutrients. Keeping the intestines healthy is important since approximately 75% of our immune system comes from the gut. Pathogenic bacteria can overgrow when the gastrointestinal tract's beneficial gut flora is disrupted. Healthy digestion is important.

What is Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth?

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is a condition that occurs when too many bacteria live in the small intestine. The small intestine is the part of the digestive system that connects the stomach to the large intestine. Normally, only a small number of bacteria live in the small intestine. When there are too many bacteria, it can cause problems such as diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and pain.

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, or SIBO, is a condition that arises when too many bacteria accumulate in the small intestine. The cause of this overgrowth is not always clear, but it can be the result of a variety of factors, including:

- Damage to the small intestine's lining

- Impaired motility (movement) of the intestines

- Low stomach acidity

- Consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates

- Use of certain medications, such as proton pump inhibitors

If left untreated, SIBO can lead to several complications, including malabsorption of nutrients, and weight loss. An association between SIBO and some types of  intestinal cancers has been seen as well. Treatment for SIBO typically involves natural supplements, specific antibiotics and dietary modifications.

How is SIBO diagnosed?

The lactulose hydrogen breath test is a diagnostic tool used to evaluate for SIBO. The test is performed by having the patient drink a lactulose solution and then breathe into a balloon for measurement. If there is an increase in the production of hydrogen gas, it will be detected in the breath sample. This test can help diagnose conditions such as bacterial overgrowth, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), and low stomach acid.

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a disorder that primarily affects the large intestine. It is characterized by abdominal pain, bloating, constipation and/or diarrhea. There are three main types of IBS:  IBS-C, IBS-D, and IBS-M.

IBS-C is the most common type of IBS, and it causes constipation. IBS-D is the most severe type of IBS, and it causes diarrhea. IBS-M is the most common type of IBS in men, and it causes mixed symptoms of constipation and diarrhea.

IBS can cause great discomfort and interfere with a person's quality of life. The cause of IBS is unknown, but dietary factors, emotional stress, bacterial imbalance  and changes in the composition of gut bacteria can worsen symptoms. .

There is no cure for IBS, but treatments are available that can help lessen its symptoms.

IBS Symptoms.

IBS symptoms can vary widely from person to person and even day to day for the same person. IBS patients often have to contend with a great deal of discomfort and embarrassment, as the symptoms of IBS can be quite disruptive.

Abdominal Pain.

While the cause of IBS is still not entirely understood, it is thought to be related to problems in the gut-brain connection. IBS may be caused or exacerbated by stress, dietary factors, and infection. There is no one-size-fits-all cure for IBS, but many treatments can help lessen its symptoms. These include changes in diet and lifestyle, medications, probiotics, and stress management.

Symptom Differences Between IBS & SIBO.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) are two conditions that can cause similar symptoms, such as abdominal bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. However, there are some key symptom differences between IBS and SIBO.

IBS is a condition that affects the large intestine, while SIBO occurs when there are too many bacteria in the small intestine. IBS symptoms can vary from person to person and may include abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, constipation, and/or diarrhea. SIBO symptoms are often more specific and include bloating and abdominal distention after eating and excessive gas.

Another key difference between IBS and SIBO is that IBS is not always caused by bacteria overgrowth. Other potential causes of IBS include food intolerances or sensitivities, stress, hormonal changes, and genetics. SIBO is caused by bacteria overgrowth and cannot be attributed to other factors.

It is important to note that not everyone with IBS will also have SIBO, and vice versa. If you are experiencing similar symptoms to IBS but do not have a confirmed diagnosis, it is worth considering whether you might have SIBO. If you are diagnosed with SIBO, there are treatments available that can help improve your symptoms.

What is Crohn's Disease?

Crohn's disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that affects the small intestine and is characterized by abdominal bloating, diarrhea, and rectal bleeding. Crohn's disease can also affect other body parts, such as the skin, joints, and eyes. The cause of Crohn's disease is unknown, but it is believed to be autoimmune. Crohn’s disease is diagnosed by colonoscopy and biopsy.

Antibiotic Treatment for SIBO & IBS.

If you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), you know the pain and discomfort these conditions can cause. There may be holistic approaches, including special antibiotic treatment when needed that can help you find relief.

The holistic treatment for SIBO & IBS is a three-step process that includes dietary changes, herbal remedies, and probiotics. The goal is to eliminate the bacteria causing your symptoms and restore balance to your gut flora.

Dietary changes are designed to reduce the amount of sugar and starch in your diet, making it harder for the bad bacteria to survive. You will also need to increase your fiber intake, which will help keep your gut healthy and functioning properly. A low FODMAP diet has been shown to be helpful for managing IBS symptoms as well.

The herbal remedies help kill the bad bacteria while leaving the good bacteria intact. And finally, the probiotics help rebuild your gut flora so you can enjoy long-term relief from your symptoms.

Please note the approaches mentioned are not meant to diagnose, treat, or cure SIBO & IBS, and cannot be used as a substitute for, medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Index Health is the Better Choice.

Unlike traditional medicine, which views an individual as a set of symptoms, we see each patient as a whole person that deserves a personalized approach that addresses the why behind the symptoms.

Using advanced lab tests, data, and specialist physicians, we look past the surface-level symptoms and get to the root cause of your health issues.

We believe that no two patients are the same. From prevention to reversing disease, our care is completely tailored to you. Plans primarily include nutrition and lifestyle changes.

Our care continues between and after appointments with unlimited messaging, retesting, follow-up appointments, and more.

A Roadmap to Healing.

  1. Symptom Analysis

Your score helps us determine the severity and frequency of your symptoms to best match you to a plan and a practitioner.

  1. Meet your care manager

Your care manager will explain how the membership works and what you can expect in terms of ongoing support and proactive help.

  1. Meet your medical team

Your medical team comprises a functional medicine & board-certified physician and a highly skilled nutritionist.

  1. Get personalized testing

We dedicate time to understanding your genetics, history, lifestyle, & goals. This helps us choose which advanced tests you need.

  1. Get a personalized plan.

You may already be eating healthy, but you still need to see results. We help you figure out why and what is best for your body.

  1. Ongoing support and tracking

Your health plan will change as your body changes, and we provide continuous support as we work toward optimal health.

Key Takeaways of IBS & SIBO.

Irritable bowel syndrome and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth can have similar symptoms, like abdominal bloating, pain and diarrhea and/or constipation. Working with a functional medicine practitioner can help differentiate between the 2 diseases and get to the root cause of your symptoms. Holistic treatment for these diseases is often very successful at managing and/or curing these gut symptoms.