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What are the signs and symptoms of SIBO?

There are no specific complaints or physical findings that can make the diagnosis of SIBO. Instead, small intestine bacterial overgrowth should be considered in the presence of a compilation of many non-specific symptoms; each by themselves would not be worrisome but together can point to the potential diagnosis.

Initial symptoms are specific to the gastrointestinal tract and abdomen and include:

  • abdominal pain,
  • bloating,
  • indigestion,
  • diarrhea, and
  • excess gas or flatulence.

A person with SIBO does not need to have all of these symptoms.

As the disease progresses, the bacterial overgrowth inhibits the body's ability to properly absorb nutrients from the diet. This can lead to vitamin and electrolyte abnormalities, protein deficiencies, and difficulties with fat absorption.

Inability to absorb vitamin B12 can lead to symptoms of pernicious anemia, including a low red blood cell count and peripheral neuropathy. Anemia also may be due to iron deficiency. Decreased Vitamin A may lead to night blindness. Metabolic bone disease may be due to Vitamin D deficiency and decreased calcium. This may also lead to muscle twitching and spasms.

Malnutrition may result in weight loss, and progress to excessive muscle wasting (cachexia). Inability to absorb fats in the diet may lead to steatorrhea (excess fat in the feces) that results in foul smelling oily stool, and may cause some anal leakage or fecal incontinence.

Return to SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth)

See what others are saying

Comment from: Mike, 55-64 Male (Patient) Published: October 04

I suffered for three years before diagnosis of SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). Antibiotics made me ill due to gastritis, etc. I was hospitalized when I was put on big doses of intravenous omeprazole, and I came out worse, unable to keep any food down. Now any food at all causes pain, bloating, and massive stool variations. I have to take major painkillers. These cause constipation. I lost 20 lb in 3 months. I can only tolerate intravenous antibiotics which accidentally fixed SIBO when previously hospitalized for a major diverticulitis flare up when starvation and IV antibiotics were employed. Now starting a zero sugar diet in an effort to be able to eat something and my way of starving the small bowel bacteria. Symptoms, tinnitus, peripheral neuropathy, bloating, bad gas, bad breath, extensive abdomen pain, blurred vision at times, night sweats, furred tongue, and weight loss.

Was this comment helpful?Yes
Comment from: Longterm, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: March 25

I was misdiagnosed for about a year till I got down to 100 lb. and I am 5 ft. 7 inches. I had to get out of my town and head to University Digestive Center. I went through the malnutrition and mal-absorption. It seems like sometimes my body will absorb my vitamins and medicines and sometimes not. Though my SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) did not reach my blood stream like one of my internist doctor's patient.

Was this comment helpful?Yes
Comment from: jennyone, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: October 06

With SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) I have extreme bloating, gas, and constipation. My stomach bloats after ingesting anything.

Was this comment helpful?Yes

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