What is SIBO and Can Naturopathic Functional Medicine Help?

Do you have a gut problem that just won’t go away? Do digestive issues interfere with your daily life? If “yes” to either question, then you should be aware of SIBO and how naturopathic functional medicine in Toronto could help relieve this condition.

Here, we’ll provide an overview of what SIBO is and how naturopathy and functional medicine can diagnose and treat it. We’ll also identify the symptoms to look for and the causes of SIBO. Additionally, we’ll discuss how functional medicine testing for SIBO works at an integrative medicine clinical practice such as ours.

What exactly is SIBO? 

SIBO stands for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. It is a functional disorder of the gut in which bacteria excessively multiply. This may typically occur from an imbalance between good and bad bacteria or decreased intestinal motility.

The main causes of SIBO are dysbiosis and bacterial overgrowth. Dysbiosis is an imbalance in the bacteria living in our gut, usually as a result of the chronic use of antibiotics or other medications that disrupt natural flora balance (i.e. birth control pills).

SIBO can cause symptoms such as gas, bloating, diarrhea or constipation; abdominal pain; nausea and vomiting; fatigue, weakness, brain fog, depression, and anxiety. SIBO sufferers often have had previous gastrointestinal surgeries, like Celiac Disease-related small bowel resections or stomach bypass surgery for weight loss.

The common causes of SIBO include insufficient gastric secretion (known as hypochlorhydria) and small intestine dysmotility. These conditions may also trigger SIBO:

  • Functional disorders 
  • Alcoholism
  • H. pylori infection
  • Endocrine issues (i.e. thyroid dysfunction, PCOS)
  • Amyloidosis 
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • IBS, Crohn’s
  • Diabetes

Another cause of SIBO is age, which is why the elderly population is at an increased risk of poor gut health. Other factors that have been shown to increase a person’s sensitivity to SIBO include: anatomic alterations/GI tract abnormalities (i.e. fistulas, surgical loupes); particular medications prescribed from traditional medicine (i.e. antibiotics, proton pump inhibitors); dysfunction of certain organs (i.e. pancreatitis, renal failure, cirrhosis); immunity impairment; vagus nerve surgical alteration/partial removal.

Bacterial overgrowth in the gut is a concern because it can impede the benefits of  a healthy diet, leading to malnutrition, weight loss and vitamin deficiencies.It’s critical to visit a naturopathic functional medicine doctor about gut concerns, especially since SIBO can cause chronic constipation or colitis if left untreated. A naturopathic functional doctor can diagnose SIBO, advise on alternative therapies that promote optimal health, and collaborate with patients on health goals through the functional medicine model.

Diagnosing and Treating SIBO in Toronto

Naturopathic functional medicine practitioners have clinical training in detecting dysbiosis in the gut and digestive system. Their approach to health may involve functional medicine testing.

Firstly, a breath test can be conducted, in which excess bacteria in the small intestine can be identified if excess bacteria release hydrogen and methane gases.

Dietary alterations may also be recommended. It has been theorized that abdominal pain, bloating, and flatulence are experienced with SIBO; however, restricting carbohydrate intake may improve SIBO symptoms. Various therapeutic diets that limit carbohydrate intake and help treat SIBO include:

  • Low-FODMAP diet: avoiding fermentable carbohydrates that cause gas, diarrhea, bloating.
  • Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD): a grain-free diet also eliminates starches and processed foods.
  • Gut and Psychological Syndrome (GAPS): a type of diet that consists of removing refined carbohydrates, grains, certain vegetables, and pasteurized dairy.
  • Elemental Diet (ED): water and an elemental formulation are ingested with this diet. This formulation includes the necessities that fulfill nutritional and caloric intakes and amino acids, fats such as medium-chain triglycerides, vitamins, minerals, simple carbs and sugars. Although ED meets energy and nutrient requirements, compliance with this diet tend to be low due to lack of taste, blood sugar imbalance and constipation/digestive issues.

Herbal medicine, which is a type of alternative medicine, may also be advised by a functional naturopath to help with SIBO. Additionally, integrative naturopathic and functional medicine SIBO treatments may include a mixture of antibiotics and/or herbal antimicrobials. In fact, a number of herbs have demonstrated antimicrobial activity, including oil of oregano, wormwood, thyme, red thyme, olive leaf, and berberine extracts.

Connecting with a Toronto functional medicine practitioner about SIBO

SIBO can cause low quality of life and discomfort in everyday lives. But you don’t have to let poor gut health impact your lifestyle. With the proper diagnosis and treatment, you can shift towards a healthy way of life – know that integrative medicine is available to help your health journey!

At our center for functional medicine, we offer consultations to diagnose and treat various health issues, including SIBO. Based in Toronto, Ontario, our naturopathic functional medicine doctor and nurse practitioner are passionate about evidence-based functional medicine practices. Our approach to health consists of personalized medicine with a systems-oriented approach, catering to each individual patient’s needs.

Treatments at our private practice include complementary & alternative medicine care for patients, including clinical nutrition, homeopathic medicine, Western medicine, traditional Chinese medicine/Eastern medicine, medically-supervised IV therapy, among others.

Our integrative approach and alternative therapies are designed to encourage the body to naturally alleviate conditions, while preventing disease in the human body. Medical conditions that our clinic helps treat include: chronic conditions (i.e. chronic disease, chronic pain, chronic disease management), mental health, cognitive decline, symptom management, hormonal imbalances, peri/postmenopausal health, acute health issues, neuropathic pain, pain management, and other health concerns.

Let’s revive your gut with integrative care and alternative treatments. Call us at (416) 968-6961 to connect with a naturopathic functional medicine doctor in Toronto.

Disclaimer: The information in this article is designed for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. This information should not be used to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting a doctor. Consult with a health care practitioner before relying on any information in this article or on this website.

References:

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Bures J, Cyrany J, Kohoutova D, et al. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth syndrome. World J Gastroenterol. 2010;16(24):2978-2990. doi:10.3748/wjg.v16.i24.2978

Dukowicz AC, Lacy BE, Levine GM. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth: a comprehensive review. Gastroenterol Hepatol (N Y). 2007;3(2):112-122.

Ghoshal UC, Shukla R, Ghoshal U. Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth and Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Bridge between Functional Organic Dichotomy. Gut Liver. 2017;11(2):196-208. doi:10.5009/gnl16126Ring, M., & Namboodiri, S. (2018). Clinical Roundup: Selected Treatment Options for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. Alternative and Complementary Therapies, 24(3), 140-141. https://doi.org/10.1089/act.2018.29169.cru