Is SIBO A Real Condition?

Altern Ther Health Med. 2019 Sep;25(5):30-38.


Context: Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) has gained popularity on the internet in addition to certain clinical and research circles. This interest has expanded awareness of important new dietary, nutraceutical, and pharmaceutical treatments in addition to laboratory evaluation assessment options. Concomitantly, there appears a loss of parsimony regarding how to use these tools resulting in an untenable degree of testing and treatment for this condition.

Objectives: A balanced review of the data regarding SIBO testing, treatment, and management with the goal of establishing non-biased best practices.

Design: Non-systematic review.

Results: The results for the review fall into two categories. Ineffective Action: Treat only SIBO labs; Treat for SIBO if no symptoms are exhibited; Recommending eating or avoiding foods because they might be good or bad for SIBO; Recommending treatments that are non-validated. Effective Action: Use SIBO breath results, in addition to history and current symptoms, to determine the best treatment; Find foods that work for patients based on dietary elimination and reintroduction; Apply validated treatment for SIBO and IBS in a logical 'step-up' like treatment approach.

Conclusions: Testing and treating for SIBO can offer patients clinically significant relief. However, these tests and treatments must be applied with circumspection to prevent over-testing, over-treatment, squandering resources, or creating a fear around certain foods.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Infections / diagnosis*
  • Bacterial Infections / drug therapy
  • Bacterial Infections / microbiology
  • Breath Tests
  • Diet Therapy
  • Gastrointestinal Agents
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Diseases / diagnosis
  • Intestinal Diseases / microbiology*
  • Intestinal Diseases / therapy
  • Intestine, Small / microbiology*
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / microbiology*


  • Gastrointestinal Agents