10 Signs that May Indicate You Have Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth

In this article, discover all about the possible signs and causes of this condition, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
10 Signs that May Indicate You Have Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth
Maricela Jiménez López

Reviewed and approved by the doctor Maricela Jiménez López.

Last update: 30 May, 2022

Diseases like diabetes mellitus can affect the muscles of the intestine and cause the temperatures in the intestines to become more elevated than normal.

Do you feel bloated a few hours after eating, to the point that your pants no longer want to stay buttoned? This seems to be more and more common nowadays, with people who wake up with a flat stomach but by the end of the day have a rather distended belly.

Any abdominal swelling may indicate intestinal inflammation. If your swelling is accompanied by symptoms like gas and/or bloating, this could indicate that you’re suffering from a sensitivity to certain foods or have an infection that makes the temperature of your intestines rise. This is known as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).

What is SIBO?

Bacterial overgrowth in the intestines occurs when the normal balance is upset, and gut bacteria begin to multiply uncontrollably. Why does this happen? Lots of times it occurs in people who eat a diet that’s high in carbohydrates, refined foods, alcohol, processed foods, and more.

These kinds of foods also serve to feed the bacteria and break down fatty acids, causing gas and bloating.

Another type of bacteria can also break down bile before the body has a chance to use it and cause poor absorption of fats and diarrhea as the condition becomes more advanced.

Finally, a third type of bacteria can produce toxins that damage the lining of the small intestine, preventing the body from absorbing the nutrients it needs.

What are the 10 possible signs of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth?

A woman with indigestion.
The symptoms of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth are quite common and can easily be mistaken for other conditions. If you have one or more of the following symptoms, it’s best to consult your doctor:
  • Gas.
  • Abdominal distension.
  • Malabsorption of fats.
  • Food intolerances to lactose, gluten, caffeine, fructose, and others.
  • Abdominal pain or cramping.
  • Digestion problems like constipation.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Chronic problems such as fatigue, diabetes, fibromyalgia, autoimmune disorders, neuromuscular disorders, etc.
  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies, especially vitamin B12.
  • Diarrhea.

What causes bacteria overgrowth?

Overgrowth of intestinal bacteria occurs when something interferes with the digestive process, which is tasked with carrying the bacteria in food to its final destination in the colon.

Damage to the nerves or muscles in the intestines can cause bacteria to remain in the small intestine, which can lead to SIBO. And diseases like diabetes can affect the muscles in the bowel, another risk factor for SIBO.

Other possible causes of abnormal accumulation of bacteria in the gut are physical obstructions in the intestine, such as surgery scars or Crohn’s disease.

Medications that alter the intestinal flora such as antibiotics, acid-blocking drugs, and steroids can also cause SIBO. Finally, as we have already mentioned, one of the main causes of this condition is the consumption of refined foods, alcohol, carbohydrates, sugar, etc.

Can you test for SIBO?

You can do a breath test at home by following your doctor’s instructions. The test usually includes fasting for 12 hours and then eating a specified amount of sugar. After that, you have to breathe into a balloon every 15 minutes for 3 hours in order to produce breath samples. This test can be used to reveal SIBO or other disorders.

In hospitals and clinics, doctors identify this condition by testing urine and stool. You’ll need to first talk to your physician and discuss all your symptoms.

How can small intestinal bacterial overgrowth be treated?

One of the first recommendations for treating SIBO is to reduce carbohydrate consumption and avoid refined foods like sugar and flour. Also, you should limit your alcohol intake and consult your doctor for any medical treatment. It’s important not to attempt to self-medicate.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.