In this article we will discuss how long it takes to cure SIBO. We will look at some of the models that help us understand what's going on with patients when they have SIBO. We will use an illustration, a sample report, and descriptions to give you a better understanding of what's going on in your body at different phases of the SIBO treatment. This should help keep you on track with your treatment protocols and to help you have a clearer understanding of why you are having certain symptoms and feeling certain ways.
If this is something that interests you, keep reading.
Curing SIBO Considerations
What we want to address in this video is, how long should it take or how long does it take to heal or cure SIBO. The first thing to note about this question is that we can only have an approximation of how long it will take in any case. When someone gives you a specific length of time it is only an approximation.
Firstly, we are assuming that whatever testing you did was accurate and you actually do have SIBO. The SIBO breathe tests do have false positives and false negatives. That is not to say that these test are not useful but there can be false positives and negatives. The only way to know for sure if you have SIBO is with an actual biopsy of the small intestine. Otherwise we don't know with 100% certainty that your symptoms are from SIBO. Chances are though, if you have all the symptoms and the test is positive, you have some microbial imbalance in your intestines.
The models and tests that we use give us an approximation of what is actually going on, which we will discuss in more detail below. Chances are, if you are asking the question "how long does it take to cure SIBO" you have already experienced the treatment. Maybe you did a SIBO treatment and you got worse or you didn't get as much improvement as you expected. For both scenarios there are reasons for that. You should not (always) abandon your treatment just because you didn't get the results you expected.
If you are somebody that tends to be need a little more certainty in your treatment, you may want to rely heavily on testing and retesting. This will cost you a little bit more money for more frequent testing, but at least you will have more certainty on what's going on. Others may find the information below useful.
How Long Does It Take to Cure SIBO?
What things can go wrong on your path to SIBO cure? Why are you not getting the results you expect? Really how long should it take to treat and or heal SIBO.
So when you have SIBO you may or may not know this already but it stands for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. There is an overgrowth of bacteria in an area that should not have much bacteria at all. In your digestive tract you can think of it as having three compartments. You have the stomach first, then the small intestine and then the large intestine. The large intestine is supposed to have lots of bacteria in it with lots of diversity. This is a healthy microbiome.
The small intestine and stomach have less microbes. Now they do probably have some small amounts but not nearly as much as what's in the large intestine. The problem with SIBO is some of the bugs from the large intestine get into the small intestine. That leads to fermentation, since microbes eat the food that is there before it is fully absorbed. The byproduct of fermentation is gas. If your small intestine has excess microbes in it (aka SIBO) that's what is occurring.
One of the things that may be relevant for you is to quantify the problem a little more. How much of this small intestine is filled with microbes. Using the plastic tubes in the video picture (above), the top part of the tubes are the stomach and the middle the small intestine. Down on the bottom is where the small intestine connect to the large intestine. So how much of the middle is filled with microbes? Is it just one small part? Is it a third or two thirds of the full length filled with bacteria? When you understand this you can get a better idea of how long it will take for you to to actually cure SIBO or at least see some results with your treatments. So how do you know how much of the intestine is affected?
To get an approximation of this we want to look at an actual hydrogen breath test. Basically you want to overlay the test with the model of the intestines to get a better picture of how long it's going to take to cure your SIBO..
Using Hydrogen Breath Test to Determine How Long It Takes to Cure SIBO
This is a sample SIBO hydrogen breath test. You can see hydrogen and methane samples. These are two types of gases that might show up on your breath test . This is a sample report. When we are looking at this we can overlay it with the model of the intestines to approximate how much bacteria are present. From that we can deduce a plan of action of how long this might take. Now it will not be one hundred percent certain but you can start to get a general feel for what that might look like.
Starting from your baseline, if you get a really large spike here, that could mean much of the small intestine is affected. Normally at baseline we would expect to have pretty small amounts of gases. At 20 minutes if you get a large spike then we also expect that a lot of the intestines are affected by these bacteria. If this occurs you will typically see elevations at 40 minute, 60 minute, and 90 minutes as well. Sometimes there are test errors. With this you will see a spike in beginning, then it kind of comes down for the rest of the test. In this case you might want to repeat the test.
Looking at the first scenario where it's high from the beginning and continues, we would expect these cases to have longer duration to reach a cure. What the test is telling us, is that most (or a lot) of the small intestine have bacteria in them.
Sometimes you'll see low levels and then at 90 minutes it spikes up to 60 or even 40. That result is more of a mild positive. In a case like this we are approximating that maybe just the lower third or even lower quarter of the intestine is affected. The test cut it off at 90 minutes and sometimes 120 minutes but 90 is usually the cutoff time. So that gives you an idea of how much microbes are present in the intestines. From here you basically overlay your treatment strategy or length of time based on this.
For instance, if you have a spike at the first interval after the baseline then you're looking more at probably 12 months or maybe more depending on how tolerant you are of the treatments. Sometimes people can only do a treatment like once every four months and it only lasts for 2-6 weeks. This case is going to take a lot longer. There are several other things that can be going on in the intestines outside of just bacterial overgrowth. So we have to keep those things in mind too. Still when there is a lot present showing on the hydrogen breath test, generally it's gonna take a lot longer. Whereas someone that spikes at the 90 minute and is only roughly like double what the baseline was that may look like less than six months.
IN these case you will typically have more consistent symptom improvement right from beginning. That is at least what is expected. If you are not getting those expect expected results you may be looking at something else like:
- a false positive
- there's something else going on in addition to what you're seeing on this test
In the case where you have a spike early on, we might not expect to see a whole lot of improvement right in the beginning of treatment. In addition to that, we might also expect someone to feel a lot worse and you may need to take things slower.
Hopefully that gives you a better understanding how ho long it takes to cure SIBO. Generally speaking when there are higher hydrogen or methane counts, curing your SIBO it's going to take longer. I should also note that the methane positive tend to be a little bit more challenging to treat.
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