Leaky Gut vs SIBO: What’s the Difference?

by | Nov 23, 2023 | Blog, Leaky Gut, SIBO

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Many people deal with common digestive symptoms like bloating, excess gas, constipation, diarrhea, and stomach pain. Yet, these symptoms are general, meaning they could arise from many conditions. However, these uncomfortable symptoms could indicate leaky gut syndrome, SIBO, or another gastrointestinal system disorder if chronic or re-occurring. Not all doctors understand leaky gut vs SIBO and related conditions. They may be able to pinpoint the reason for digestion problems but are at a loss when it comes to diagnosis and treatment.

Looking for more information about SIBO and leaky gut and how to improve them? If so, keep reading this guide for the most important facts.

What is SIBO?

SIBO is a condition affecting the small intestine that occurs when harmful bacteria multiply to dangerous levels, leading to a range of uncomfortable symptoms. The acronym stands for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.

There are many potential causes of SIBO, a common one being suboptimal digestion. Failure to digest food effectively can result in malnutrition in extreme cases. More common symptoms are typical of gastrointestinal (GI) disorders and may include:

  • Stomach pain
  • Constipation
  • Bloating
  • Indigestion
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss

There are three types of SIBO, each with its own cause and unique collection of symptoms. Browse our guide to SIBO for in-depth information about this condition’s symptoms, causes, and treatments.

What Is Leaky Gut?

Leaky gut is a syndrome- a collection of symptoms that occur together but do not have a clear cause or medically agreed-upon treatment. Scientists hypothesize that leaky gut syndrome may come about due to intestinal permeability.

Intestinal permeability may allow nutrients and healthy gut bacteria to ‘leak’ out of the GI tract while allowing harmful bacteria and toxins to enter. These issues could explain leaky gut symptoms, which may include:

  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Indigestion
  • Gas and bloating
  • Fatigue

Certain mental health conditions may also indicate this syndrome. To learn more about the symptoms, causes, and treatments, check out our complete guide to leaky gut.

Leaky Gut vs SIBO

As digestive disorders, leaky gut and SIBO share much in common. So, it should be no wonder many people confuse them for each other. However, these two conditions are distinct.

Understanding the similarities and differences between SIBO and leaky gut is crucial for accurate diagnosis and effective treatment, so we’re explaining them next.

What Is the Difference Between SIBO and Leaky Gut?

The difference between SIBO and leaky gut is their causes. An excessive amount of bacteria in the small intestine is what causes SIBO. Leaky gut is caused by intestinal permeability or gaps in the lining of the intestines.

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth may occur for many reasons. Experts have suggested that stress or certain medications may exacerbate symptoms. Risk factors include genetics, aging, and pre-existing immune or GI disorders.

A leaky gut could be a side effect of other digestive disorders, such as Crohn’s or celiac disease. In healthy people with leaky gut syndrome, diet, lifestyle, or environmental toxin exposure may be behind intestinal permeability.

What Are the Similarities of SIBO and Leaky Gut?

Similarities between SIBO and leaky gut include the general cause of symptoms and the symptoms themselves.

SIBO and leaky gut are both caused by disruptions to the function of the GI system. These disruptions may arise differently, though they feature similar symptoms.

Symptoms shared between these conditions include, but are not limited to gas and bloating, stomach pain, diarrhea and constipation, and fatigue.

Probiotics for SIBO and Leaky Gut

SIBO and leaky gut can be supported through supplementation, particularly with probiotics. Probiotics are supplements containing live bacteria strains.

Adding more bacteria to help with SIBO bacterial overgrowth may sound contradictory. However, SIBO is caused by an overgrowth of harmful bacteria. The right probiotics promote beneficial bacterial growth.

How probiotics help with leaky gut is more straightforward. These supplements can replace beneficial bacteria that escape through the intestinal lining.

Diet for SIBO and Leaky Gut

SIBO and leaky gut symptoms also respond well to diet changes. Gut-friendly diets rich in whole foods and low in the following items can help heal unwanted GI symptoms:

  • Processed ingredients
  • Gluten
  • Dairy
  • Sugar
  • Unhealthy fats

With SIBO, the most helpful diet will vary based on the type. For example, people with the sulfur-dominant type of SIBO may benefit from a diet low in sulfurous ingredients like cruciferous vegetables or certain fruits.

SIBO and Leaky Gut Testing

There are many types of tests available to identify if SIBO, or leaky gut, is behind someone’s GI symptoms. Doctors may require a urine, blood, or breath sample to search for biomarkers of these conditions.

At Revolution Gut Health, we use a different approach. Environmental toxins are often the missing link between many common GI disorders.

Testing for high concentrations of these toxins in the body can help diagnose a suboptimal digestive system. Once we identify the level of toxicity, we can design a supportive plan to optimize digestion.

How Does Leaky Gut Affect Mental Health

As mentioned, leaky gut can feature mental health symptoms. These symptoms may arise due to the proposed gut-brain axis, a bi-directional connection between the digestive system and the brain.

The gut-brain axis may suggest that mental health symptoms could also indicate SIBO, though we have less direct research to support this theory.

Depressive, bipolar, anxiety, and stress disorders all have research-backed links to gut health. Researchers believe these conditions may be connected to hormonal, neural, or immune system changes.

Let Us Help You Improve Your Gut Health

In this guide to leaky gut vs SIBO, we’ve explained the different causes and shared symptoms of these digestive disorders. Due to their similarities, both conditions respond well to diet changes and probiotic supplements.

Are you tired of dealing with the symptoms of SIBO, leaky gut, or another digestive disorder? Revolution Gut Health wants to help you transform your life through non-invasive testing and treatments.

Schedule a consultation with one of our gut health experts to learn more about eliminating SIBO and leaky gut symptoms.

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