What is SIBO?

WestGlen GIConditions/Diseases

Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth is a syndrome that occurs in the small intestine. The small intestine is the organ that joins the stomach and the colon. The small intestine aids in absorbing nutrients from food being digested. Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) can also be called Small Bowel Bacterial Overgrowth Syndrome (SBBOS).


Small intestine bacterial overgrowth happens when extra bacteria is found in the small intestine. It is normal to have a small amount of bacteria in the small intestines; normal levels actually promote healthy digestion by building the walls of the intestines. But with SIBO, the amount of bacteria found in the small intestine is multiplied by thousands.

Extra bacteria accumulate in the small intestine when intestinal muscles are weak or not functioning correctly. During the process of digestion the intestinal muscles contract to push food through your body. When these muscles are not contracting, bacteria as well as food is not getting pushed through the body. The bacteria then sits in the small intestine and cause SIBO. An overgrowth of bacteria works against the body by stealing nutrients from food being digested.

People who suffer from other gastrointestinal disorders which cause intestinal blockage might have a greater chance of experiencing SIBO. There are multiple variables as to why a person may have an overgrowth of bacteria forming in the small intestine. Other causes include a lactose intolerance or fructose intolerance. If you think you might be at risk for SIBO because of an lactose or fructose intolerance our doctors recommended to stay away from milk products and meals high in sugar.


The most common symptom of small intestine bacterial overgrowth is bloating associated with gas. When the small intestine has excess bacteria, it is prevented from absorbing nutrients.  As a result, more sugars are pushed through to the colon, where most gas is created. This can lead to weight-loss or anemia. Other symptoms include abdominal cramps and diarrhea.


The overgrowth of bacteria can be treated with antibiotics. Some people have ongoing SIBO which comes and goes at any given time. In these cases, being aware of symptoms is key to treating SIBO before the problems arise.


Small intestine bacterial overgrowth most often effects people who are older. The elderly are more at risk for SIBO because their intestinal walls are weaker and are more susceptible to diverticula, small sacks that form in the wall of the intestines that can cause blockage. Others who suffer from diseases that may cause intestinal blockage such as, Crohn’s Disease are also at a higher risk.

People who have had stomach surgery or diabetes may be at increased risk as well because abnormalities in muscle contractions can cause intestinal blockage.