Do you have SIBO?

Do you have SIBO?

by Jenni Terry
& Elena Klimenko, MD


Bacterial overgrowth of the small intestine, otherwise known as small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), is a digestive disorder that causes chronic bowel problems and intolerance to carbohydrates. Its main symptoms include excess gas, abdominal bloating, diarrhea and/or constipation, and abdominal pain shortly after a meal. You may also experience Non-GI symptoms like brain fog, headaches, fatigue, skin conditions, and joint pain.

Both the small intestines and colon naturally house bacteria, creating a balance within your digestive system. The types and amounts of bacteria that reside in the small intestine and colon are very different. The colon contains roughly 100,000 times more bacteria than the small intestines. SIBO occurs when the bacteria from the colon migrate to the small intestine and because there is a lot of not fully digested food in the small intestine, the bacteria multiply and overgrow uncontrollably.

Since the main purpose of the small intestine is to digest and absorb food, any disruption in its role affects the absorption and utilization of nutrients in the body. Thus, if SIBO is left untreated for too long – various nutritional deficiencies may occur. It can manifest as anemia, various vitamin deficiencies (vitamin D and B), calcium malabsorption causing weakening of the bones, etc.


SIBO is often overlooked as a cause of these digestive symptoms because it so closely resembles other disorders.

In fact, SIBO is theorized to be the underlying cause of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), since up to 84% of IBS patients have tested positive for SIBO. SIBO is associated with many other disorders as well, either as an underlying cause or as an aftereffect of the pre-existing condition. This includes parasites, pancreatic problems such as pancreatic insufficiency, Crohn’s, celiac diagnosis, and diabetes.



The two major factors contributing to the development of SIBO include insufficient gastric acid secretion and lack of intestinal motility (movement of intestinal content through the lumen).

Since both of these mechanisms naturally decline with age, those over 70 years old are especially susceptible. Anything that slows down motility can contribute to the overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine because there is no outlet for the waste.




Gastric acids (a hydrochloric acid of the stomach) are another important factor.

It helps to break down food and activate digestive enzymes. Without the production of hydrochloric acid or pancreatic enzymes, we can’t digest and sterilize food sufficiently. To help with gastric acid secretion, supplementation with betaine hydrochloride during meals is recommended. People who chronically take gastric acid-suppressing medications are at higher risk to develop SIBO.


Along with Gi motility, hypochlorhydria, and digestive enzyme production, one of the most important interventions to focus on is the treatment of gut dysbiosis. Gut dysbiosis is a reduction in microbial diversity and the combination of the loss of beneficial bacteria and a rise in unhelpful opportunistic proinflammatory microbes.  

Dysbiosis can be caused by many different factors including genetic background, health status (infections and inflammation), lifestyle habits, and environmental factors such as diet (SAD American diet that is high in sugar and low in fiber), antibiotic use, drugs, food additives, and hygiene.


The promotion of a healthy microbiome can be achieved with a diversified clean diet (avoidance of prolonged restricted diets), limited use of processed foods, and adequate consumption of dietary fiber.

A known cause of gut dysbiosis is consuming food contaminated with Glyphosate, the most commonly used broad-spectrum herbicide, which has a strong impact on bacterial species in the human microbiome. Furthermore, glyphosate has a way of interrupting the body’s natural process of converting sulfur into sulfate which then requires bacteria to do the job which can lead to an overgrowth of bacteria. Glyphosate can be found in GMO crops such as corn, soybean, and canola. As well as wheat and oats. Choosing organic options can reduce exposure to glyphosate. 


If you think you may be suffering from SIBO, please call our office for evaluation. Together we can determine if your condition warrants further assessment. Depending on your particular condition there are several options for treatment: specific diet, probiotics, and natural or pharmaceutical antimicrobials. The longer SIBO is left untreated, the more damage can be done to your body. Although a serious condition, it is treatable once properly diagnosed. If you would like to learn more about SIBO and treatments from functional medicine, schedule an integrative medicine consultation at our office, call 212-696-4325.


About the co-author

Jenni is a National Board Certified Functional Medicine Health Coach and HeartMath Certified Practitioner.

Jenni is passionate about feeling her best and living her best life and helping others do the same. After years of putting everyone else first, Jenni realized that her physical and mental health was struggling and something had to change. Tired of feeling run down, battling chronic illness, and dealing with depression Jenni turned to Functional Medicine and worked with a provider and health coach to support and balance her body. It took a lot of work and lifestyle change but the transformation was life-changing. It was then that Jenni decided to dedicate her work to helping others improve their health and became a health coach.

Her education in functional medicine, functional nutrition, the psychology of eating, mind-body medicine, positive psychology, and HeartMath as well as her personal experience helps others make lasting lifestyle changes and reach their optimal health. As someone who has gone through the work, she knows how much easier it can be with support.

Jenni lives with her husband and 4 daughters in Boise, Idaho where they can be found in their happy place enjoying nature whether it’s having a picnic in a park, hiking, mountain biking, backpacking, or skiing. They are over halfway to visiting all 63 National Parks in the USA.



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