SIBO is the overgrowth of commensal organisms in the small intestine. SIBO stands for Small Intestine Bacterial  Overgrowth. Recently, researchers are making the connection between SIBO and IBS, stating that as much as 85% of IBS cases are due to SIBO. SIBO is known to cause gastrointestinal inflammation, bloating, gas, headaches, and overall discomfort. 

The overgrowth of bacteria leads to intestinal permeability, opening up an entirely new list of complications propagated by systemic inflammation.  The overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine is not pathogenic. The main issue surrounding SIBO is location. The overgrowth of bacteria is beneficial bacteria that took an opportunistic approach to grow. Indicating that the bacteria needs to be in the small intestine but not in the quantity that it has emulsified to. 

Symptoms of SIBO 

  • Bloating 
  • Gas
  • Belching
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Cramps
  • Constipation 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Heartburn
  • Nausea
  • Leaky Gut 
  • Food Sensitivities
  • Joint Pain
  • Headaches
  • Brain Fog 
  • Depression 
  • Skin Rashes
  • Malabsorption
  • Anemia 

Diseases Associated With SIBO 

SIBO has been linked to multiple diseases, stemming from the fact that it is also linked to intestinal permeability leading to leaky gut. Diseases associated with SIBO include but are not limited to: 

  • GERD 
  • Celiac and Gluten sensitivities 
  • Autism 
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Restless Leg Syndrome
  • Acne
  • Rosacea 
  • Diabetes
  • Hypothyroidism 
  • And more

Indicators of SIBO 

It sounds contradictory, but individuals suffering from any of the symptoms above tend to reach for a probiotic to relieve their symptoms. Often times these patients report that the probiotic did not work and made their GI symptoms worsen. This is not atypical. The reason is due to without proper laboratory testing, the bacterias that are overgrown are unknown. Probiotics are full of healthy bacterias, but if your SIBO is caused by an overgrowth of lactobacillus and the probiotic you started taking is full of lactobacillus, you are encouraging the problem.  

Another indicator you may be suffering from SIBO is if you have low iron or ferritin with no known cause. Individuals with low iron generally take an iron supplement but yet they see no improvement in iron or ferritin levels. H. Pylori, a bacteria that can overgrow causing SIBO uses iron for its own metabolism. Thus, taking an iron supplement is fueling the H. Pylori as they absorb the supplement and use it for their own gain before the patient is able to. 

Autoimmunity and SIBO 

The cells inside the GI tract are known as Cajal cells. These interstitial cells are responsible for the migrating motor content and stimulation of smooth muscle cells. The bacteria that can create SIBO can also create a toxin called Cytolethal Distending Toxin (CDT). By molecular mimicry, the immune system is told to produce an antibody referred to as anti-vinculin. These antibodies destroy the interstitial cells of Cajal, leading to SIBO and post-infection IBS. Flora overgrowth affects digestion and causes malabsorption due to hyperpermeability. 


SIBO causes many uncomfortable symptoms and is common. Taking control of SIBO early and not letting SIBO progress to the point of severe intestinal permeability is the key. Testing can be done to determine the specific bacteria overgrowing in your gut and personalized plans can be created to regain a healthy gut balance. -Kenna Vaughn, Senior Health Coach 



University, Functional Medicine and Steven Sandberg-Lewis, directors. Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) (Part 1) . Functional Medicine University – The Leader in Online Training in Functional Diagnostic Medicine, 2010,


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