What is SIBO? Common Signs to Watch for

Woman sitting on a couch holding her stomach in pain.

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is a condition that causes a number of digestive issues, including bloating, painful cramps, and constipation. SIBO occurs when there is an imbalance of bacteria present in the small intestine. This can happen if the pH level in the small intestine changes, the small intestine has anatomic abnormalities, muscular activity in the small intestine fails to remove bacteria, or the immune system is not functioning normally. 1 2 

The following conditions may increase your risk factor for SIBO:

  • Diabetes
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • HIV
  • Taking certain medications, such as antibiotics and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) 3 


Common Symptoms of SIBO

SIBO can produce a number of varied symptoms. The most common symptoms of SIBO include bloating, indigestion, gas, reflux, stomach pain after eating, diarrhea, and constipation. People with SIBO may experience just one, all, or a combination of a few of these symptoms. 4  If you experience one or more of these symptoms regularly and do not know the reason why, consider seeing a naturopathic doctor to identify the cause. They can determine whether your symptoms are the result of SIBO and come up with a plan to help you feel better.


Foods to Eat & Avoid for SIBO

Changing your diet may reduce SIBO symptoms. Choosing a diet rich in healthy, whole foods may help to reduce the bacterial overgrowth in your small intestine. Some people find success with a diet low in fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols (FODMAP). 5 Here is a quick guide to foods you should eat and avoid when you have SIBO.

Eat More of These Low-FODMAP Foods:

  • Leafy greens
  • Broccoli
  • Pumpkin
  • Zucchini 
  • Oatmeal
  • Lean meat
  • Fish
  • Quinoa
  • Seeds
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Oranges
  • Potatoes
  • Eggs

Avoid These:

  • Processed meats
  • Sugary soft drinks
  • Beans
  • Butternut squash
  • Grains
  • Apples
  • Cauliflower
  • Asparagus
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Agave nectar
  • Onions
  • Garlic

Try an Elimination Diet

Some people find implementing an elimination diet helpful to pinpoint certain foods that are causing their SIBO. In an elimination diet, you remove potentially problematic foods from your diet and slowly add them back in over a specified period of time, taking notes on your symptoms as you go. This allows you to observe certain foods’ affect on your body and helps uncover what may be worsening your symptoms. 6  Before starting an elimination diet, speak to a naturopathic doctor. They will collaborate with you to create a list of foods to exclude, taking into account your existing diet, symptoms, and various nutrition and lifestyle considerations. Note that individuals with a history of disordered eating should check in with their care team prior to making any changes to their diet.

The information presented on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


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