Most of us are familiar with having the occasional belly ache or bout of bloating and gas. But what happens when your daily bloating becomes so bad you can hardly button your pants? Or when your abdominal pain gets so bad that it’s hard to even leave the house?
This is the unfortunate reality for those struggling with a serious condition known as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.
Today we’re going to dive into exactly what small intestinal bacterial overgrowth is and take a look at a specific form of this condition. We’ll look at how to determine if the bacteria in your gut have gotten out of control, and more importantly, what you can do to treat it.
What Is Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)?
Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, also known as SIBO, occurs when you have an excessive amount of bacteria living in in your small intestine. You see, your digestive tract is designed to house a host of different microbes that make up what is collectively known as your gut microbiome.
The majority of these microbes are supposed to reside in your large intestine and colon – where they assist in breaking down nutrients, manufacture certain vitamins, and help your body eliminate waste. But in SIBO, those bacteria begin to make their way into your small intestine – where they colonize and begin reproducing in excessive amounts.
Because your microbiome is made up of trillions of microorganisms of all different kinds, SIBO overgrowth can happen with several types of microorganisms. One kind can be particularly tricky to identify and treat – a specific type of SIBO known as hydrogen sulfide SIBO.
What Exactly Is Hydrogen Sulfide Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)?
The excess bacteria living in your small intestine release gasses. The type of gas they release is specific to the type of bacteria growing in your small intestine. Typically SIBO gasses present as either:1
- Hydrogen-predominant SIBO
- Methane-predominant SIBO
But there’s a third form of gas that can be emitted by another type of SIBO bacteria – hydrogen sulfide gas. Let’s take a deeper look at exactly what hydrogen sulfide does in your body.
What Does Hydrogen Sulfide Do in the Body?
The presence of hydrogen sulfide gas and the bacteria that emit this gas aren’t necessarily a problem. In fact, hydrogen sulfide serves as an important gasotransmitter – a gaseous molecule that serves as a neurotransmitter.2 So, balanced healthy levels of hydrogen sulfide gas actually play a crucial role in the body including:3
- Protecting your cells against harmful agents
- Serving as a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent
- Modulating your immune response
- Regulating specific immune cells (like macrophages, T-cells, and neutrophils)
But if hydrogen sulfide producing bacteria levels are left unchecked, it can wreak havoc on your gut and overall health. An imbalance in your gut flora and subsequent overproduction of hydrogen sulfide gas can have the opposite effect, causing:3
- Cytotoxicity, or toxic damage to your cells
- Genotoxicity, potential damage to your genetic information within your cells
- Increased local and systemic inflammation
- Destabilization of the protective mucus layer in your digestive tract
- Upregulation of immune activity
So an increase in hydrogen sulfide generating bacteria can spell bad news for your health. Let’s take a look at some of the symptoms and detrimental health effects associated with this overgrowth of bacteria in your small intestine.
What Are the Symptoms of Hydrogen Sulfide SIBO?
Symptoms of SIBO are similar regardless of the exact type of bacteria colonizing your small intestine, and include:4
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Abdominal distention and bloating
- Excessive gas in the form of flatulence and/or belching
- Indigestion and heartburn
- Feelings of fullness or loss of appetite
If left unaddressed, SIBO can lead to more serious complications such as:4
- Weight loss
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
- Kidney stones
- Weakened bones
- Leaky gut syndrome
So what exactly causes SIBO, and how do you know if you’re at increased risk of developing SIBO?
What Causes SIBO?
While there’s not always one specific factor that directly leads to SIBO, there are several things that can increase your risk of developing an overgrowth of abnormal bacteria in your small intestine such as:5,6
- Physical abnormalities of your digestive tract: Diverticulosis, Crohn’s disease, scleroderma, adhesions from surgery, history of gastric bypass
- Conditions that can affect the motility of the gut: Diabetes, Lupus, connective tissue disorders
- Certain medications: Antibiotics, proton pump inhibitors, antacids, narcotics, anti-spasm medications
- A weakened immune system: HIV, Immunoglobulin A deficiency, underlying or hidden infections, mold toxicity
While there are a number of things that can make you more susceptible to developing SIBO, sometimes it can be difficult to pinpoint a specific or singular underlying cause. Now let’s look at how exactly SIBO is diagnosed.
How Is Hydrogen Sulfide SIBO Diagnosed?
The most common and widely used method of detecting and diagnosing SIBO is through a breath test. During a breath test, you’re given a drink containing either glucose or lactulose. Then, over a few hours, you’ll breathe into a balloon so it can be tested for the presence of hydrogen or methane gas.
The problem with the traditional breath test is that previously they’ve unable to detect hydrogen sulfide gas. And unfortunately,in the past that has left us without a 100% reliable way of detecting and diagnosing hydrogen sulfide SIBO.
But the good news is, there is finally an accurate breath test that allows us to get a complete fermented gas profile of your microbiome – including hydrogen sulfide. TrioSmart Breath Test offers a simple and effective way to assess for bacterial overgrowth. Consulting with an experienced Functional and Integrative Medicine Practitioner that can order the test and properly diagnose the results is hands-down the best way to ensure your SIBO is correctly identified and treated. They’ll work with you to determine the root cause of your issues and come up with a comprehensive plan to holistically and effectively address the underlying problem.
Hydrogen Sulfide SIBO Treatment
While occasionally severe cases of hydrogen dominant SIBO may require a course of antibiotics or antimicrobial herbal supplements, truly eliminating and healing SIBO requires a big-picture approach. Treating and healing SIBO means creating a lifestyle that supports a balanced gut and prioritizes whole-body health such as:
- Eliminating pro-inflammatory foods that promote bacterial overgrowth: Foods that are chock-full of sugar, simple carbs, preservatives, and artificial ingredients can drive up inflammation and are like super fuel to the bacteria that are out of control.
- Focusing on a well-rounded anti-inflammatory diet: Real, whole foods like fresh veggies and fruits, high-quality protein, and healthy fats are naturally anti-inflammatory and support the balanced growth of beneficial bacteria in your gut.
- Healing your gut: On top of a healthy diet, taking steps to heal your intestinal lining and balance your microbiome are essential. I recommend taking a daily probiotic and incorporating collagen into your daily routine. But there are some additional ways you can show your gut some love – click here to see what they are.
- Balancing your immune system: Your immune system and your gut health are intricately linked. So it’s essential to address your gut health and your immune health simultaneously. Click here to learn some effective ways to boost and support your immune health.
- Prioritizing sleep: Sleep is one of the core pillars of your health (along with diet, exercise, and mindset). So logging adequate hours of high-quality sleep is a critical component of addressing SIBO and healing your gut.
- Incorporating nutraceuticals like Antrantil: Antrantil is a nutraceutical blend of all natural botanicals specifically calibrated to relieve bloating and discomfort caused by excess gas. It addresses the excess gas at the source by specifically attacking and eliminating problem bacteria. You can grab your own bottle of Antrantil by clicking here – you can even get 10% off your first order by clicking here.
Our bodies are not compartmentalized – everything is connected. So truly healing and balancing your gut requires you to take care of your own well-being across the board.
You Are Your Own Best Advocate
If you’re concerned that you or a loved one might have SIBO, I strongly encourage you to seek out the expertise of a Functional and Integrative Medicine Practitioner. They will give you guidance and help you stay in the driver’s seat when it comes to your own health and healing.
Because when dealing with complex health issues like SIBO, you are your own best advocate. And the day-to-day lifestyle choices you make are the strongest determinant in your ability to heal and keep future issues at bay. That’s why I’m dedicated to helping you stay informed and take action when it comes to your health and well-being. If you’re ready to take your health to the next level, I suggest signing up for my newsletter – you’ll get my best tips delivered straight to your inbox. All you have to do is enter your name and email address in the form below.
Now it’s time to hear from you. Were you surprised to learn that there’s another, lesser-known form of SIBO? What steps are you taking to keep your gut healthy and happy? Leave your questions and thoughts in the comments below!
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The product mentioned in this article are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information in this article is not intended to replace any recommendations or relationship with your physician. Please review references sited at end of article for scientific support of any claims made.
Hi, I’ve been diagnosed with mold toxicity and the worst case of hydrogen AND methane SIBO my doctor has ever seen. We’ve been trying different “cocktails” of medications to see what will eliminate it once and for all. The bloating will be gone but then a month or two later, it’s back. I have severe constipation, along with a slow moving spastic colon. I’m wondering what you would recommend? I’ve tried Antrantil, many months on Rifaxamin, GI detox, Neem leaf, essential oils, and many many more. I have multiple food sensitivities and really want my quality of life back. I’ve been out of work for years and need to have a job!
you would need to treat with rifaxamin plus another agent,like neomycin or metronidazole
After two very difficult pregnancies with panic attacks and raging insomnia, I now believe I have been suffering from a combination of hydrogen sulfide poisoning and mold exposure, with a few co-conditions on the side, worsened by all the hormonal shifts. How this could have happened twice in different but similar circumstances is amazing to me, but it helped me to identify the problem. Before this discovery, I thought for years and was treated with the assumption that it was simply emotional trauma. The only functional practitioner in my area treated me just horribly in the first consultation. I have been getting by with a combination of armour, unisom, red light, and infrared sauna, and any other thing I heard of that sounded promising and relatively safe. I was able to get almost completely off the antihistamine without too much trouble, which is a relief after discovering zyrtec and benadryl withdrawals. Now that I know the problem, I’m working to figure out how to reduce possible exposures to H2S, but I just got settled into an older rv, with a black tank system, connected to well water, 50 feet from a small beef cattle operation, in the winter, in the dead center of a valley, in an area notorious for the severity of it’s air quality during inversions. Whew! Still better than where I was living previously. I’m also not sure what else I can safely do to recover while breastfeeding. I certainly don’t expect a specific answer from you, at this moment, in this format. Sometimes it’s just nice to say it to someone who might understand.
Thank you for sharing your experience as it may be helpful to others here! Sometimes molybdenum and pantethine help detox sulfur so you might try that? Great work in your healing journey – I wish you the very best!
It’s Klaire Labs.
i got hypothyroid as well as leaky gut what is best to take for it and thyroid as well.i has operation remove my right side cancer10 years ago since then my thyroid got bad and i got leaki gut
There are up to 20 complex root causes of SIBO (where many have 2-4 going on) not mentioned here, also missing is how to relieve excessive hydrogen symptoms which can be particularly nasty and I also found the treatment section woefully short. Without addressing the root causes (the core of functional medicine identifying and eliminating root causes), SIBO just comes roaring right back again for most, and THIS is the number one reason the relapse rate for SIBO is ridiculously high. One of the most common causes of SIBO? Candida, which itself has many causes, but then it goes on to cause numerous issues in the body which can cause SIBO like low HCL levels, impaired Thyroid function, sluggish or stuck ICV valve, and on and on. Hopefully you could do a future much more informative article to help others focused more on root causes are and how to deal with them to get LASTING relief from SIBO
Excellent! I think Candida is a huge cause. All that starch and sugar in the SAD.
Jason your so so so so correct. Seriously that’s the smartest thing I’ve read by anyone ever in all my research!!!
Thank you for this article. I have had a tough case of SIBO for years and have been waiting for the hydrogen sulfide test to be made available. I recently heard Dr Pimental speak of this test but I believe he said that he and his team cannot yet recommend any specific treatment or antibiotics for hydrogen sulfide SIBO? Is this your understanding as well? My physician and I are pretty convinced that I have the hydrogen sulfide form of SIBO, so this info will be helpful for me. Thanks again for writing this article and for doing so much to educate us all. Merry Christmas to you and your staff!
Thanks for any other magnificent post. Where else may just anyone get that kind of info in such a perfect way of writing? I’ve a presentation next week, and I’m on the search for such information.
Short of testing for which type SIBO I may have, and aside from dietary protocols (which are a given), are there interventions that will benefit someone with either type of SIBO? Again? Benefit, not cure (because that’s more complex than I can commit to right now)