Could SIBO Treatment Have Cured my IBS?
Last updated: October 2023
I tell this story with a disclaimer because we are all so very different and what works for one person may not work for another, plus the cause and triggers for IBS can be so varied. It could be genetics, food or infection related. It could be due to inflammation in the gut, an altered intestinal environment, an abnormal gut-brain connection, or stress or anxiety.
For me it looks like my symptoms can be traced back to multiple bouts of food poisoning during a number of international trips, which altered the function of my gut which then caused a build-up of bacteria in my small intestine. In this way, I consider myself somewhat lucky as I have been able to be tested and treated for this and I have seen a 95% improvement in my symptoms. I know that this won’t apply to many of you but during my years of dealing with IBS, the occasional good news story gave me hope and hope was often what I needed to keep me going.
I was diagnosed with SIBO
Earlier this year I decided to test for SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). Why? Well I had a history of food poisoning/gastroenteritis from traveling in Asia, the low FODMAP diet helped but I couldn’t continue on it forever and I was still getting symptoms from some foods that were in the low FODMAP list. My worst symptom was bloating immediately after eating and managing stress and anxiety and doing exercise all helped to manage my symptoms but never completely. These things I learned were all possible signs that I had a bacterial overgrowth in my small intestine.
So I took the SIBO breath test and it came back positive, there was definitely an overgrowth of microbes in my small intestine. You can read more about my experience with the testing here. This made me soooo happy! A possible reason for my symptoms!
There are a few ways to treat SIBO and it will depend on what your doctor/gastroenterologist/naturopath/naturopath doctor/or another health professional recommends. It may be antibiotics like Rifaximan or an individualized herbal antimicrobial treatment plan. I decided to see a qualified and SIBO experienced naturopath for herbal antimicrobial treatment. The side effects were tough at times, especially when I went from having constipation predominant IBS to diarrhea predominant symptoms! After nearly five months’ treatment, I took another breath test and saw a huge improvement in the results! Hooray!
The healing process
Then I began, under supervision from my naturopath, a gut healing protocol to repair the lining of my intestines, reduce inflammation and repopulate my gut with a good balance of healthy bacteria. I’m now a few months into this treatment phase and the change has really been incredible!
The improvement in my symptoms
Throughout the process I followed a modified version of the SIBO Bi-Phasic Diet (that was right for my triggers and needs) and I’ve gradually been able to introduce new foods into my life.
The other day I tried raw onion in a burger for the first time in years! And guess what, no symptoms at all! I’ve also been enjoying legumes like lentils again, garlic, dairy milk chocolate, potato and the list goes on! I’ve also been through a couple of really stressful events recently and they didn’t trigger my symptoms at all. Neither has anxiety!
The next steps
I’m still taking it easy as I introduce new foods gradually and I think I’ve only had one flare up of bloating. Sometimes I need to remind myself that people without IBS still get bloated occasionally and still see a change in their bowel motions. I still experience some constipation but it’s manageable and with simple things like increasing my water intake, it resolves within a day. It actually feels like I am a normal person again. I feel very cautious about saying the treatment has cured me because it is very possible to relapse, particularly if the reason for the build-up of bacteria in the first place has not been fully resolved (such as a structural issue) but I’m feeling very positive.
Which of the following symptoms of IBS do you experience most frequently?