SIBO vs Candida: The Differences Explained

by | Oct 31, 2023 | Blog, Candida and Fungal, SIBO

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Experiencing bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and stomach pain? Dozens of health conditions cause these symptoms, making it difficult to determine how to treat them at their source. Most treatments for these digestive complaints only address the symptoms. Getting a correct diagnosis to target the underlying cause(s) and prevent these uncomfortable symptoms from becoming chronic is crucial. Two primary causes of digestive discomfort are SIBO and candida. SIBO is a condition resulting from bacterial overgrowth, while candida or candidiasis is a fungal infection. This guide to SIBO vs. candida explores the symptoms and causes of these conditions. We will also discuss their differences, including how they are diagnosed and treated. Read on to learn more.

What Is SIBO?

SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) is a diagnosable digestive disorder featuring an increase of bad bacteria in the small intestine. It may be caused by IBS or poor diet. Other conditions impacting the gut microbiome may also bring about SIBO symptoms.

Experts estimate that SIBO is prevalent in 2.5% to 22% of the population. The range is so wide because many of SIBO’s symptoms are attributable to other digestive disorders and syndromes.

What Are the Symptoms of SIBO?

The symptoms of SIBO are gas, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, nausea, and indigestion. They mimic the signs of many other gastrointestinal (GI) disorders. Experts categorize SIBO symptoms by type:

  • Hydrogen SIBO symptoms include bloating, stomach pain, diarrhea, dehydration, and malnutrition.
  • Methane SIBO symptoms include chronic constipation, weight gain, and, rarely, diarrhea.
  • Hydrogen Sulfide SIBO symptoms include diarrhea, stomach pain, and excessive gas, and when left untreated, tingling in the hands or feet and light or sound sensitivity.

Some people with SIBO may have all or many of these symptoms since it is possible to have multiple types simultaneously. A SIBO breath test can help identify which type(s) causes someone’s symptoms.

What Causes SIBO?

An ineffective digestive system primarily causes SIBO. The GI tract is responsible for breaking down food into nutrients. Yet, it also plays a role in eliminating waste products and toxins from the body.

When this system functions suboptimally, so-called ‘bad’ bacteria may accumulate. An increase in bad bacteria can lead to dysbiosis, or an imbalance in the levels of beneficial bacteria and microbes in the gut.

How our digestive tract organs stop working effectively in the first place is more challenging to understand. Some experts theorize that stress on the digestive system may play a role.

Digestive system stress can come about from poor diet or inflammation. However, hypertoxicity is often the primary culprit. Hypertoxicity happens when the body is over-exposed to environmental toxins.

What Is Candida?

Candida or candidiasis is a group of infections that affect the body’s microbiomes, including those in the mouth and throat, gut, and vagina. Symptoms occur after the overgrowth of a type of fungus called Candida.

In the gastrointestinal system, a species of Candida known as Candida albicans is responsible for the majority of cases. Overall, experts estimate that gut candidiasis has a prevalence of 15.4%.

What Are the Signs of Candida Overgrowth?

The signs of candida overgrowth differ depending on which part(s) of the body is affected. We will focus on the symptoms that occur when candida fungi grow out of control in the gut. Symptoms of gut candidiasis may include:

  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Nausea

These symptoms are common in other digestive disorders, including SIBO. Knowing the difference requires a proper diagnosis, which involves taking mouth, blood, or stool samples to search for the presence of candida fungi.

What causes Candida overgrowth?

Dysbiosis causes candida overgrowth in the gut. Dysbiosis happens when the careful balance of gut bacteria and microbes becomes imbalanced. One of the most common reasons for dysbiosis is the overuse of antibiotics, which kill off beneficial bacteria and allow candida fungi to multiply.

Antibiotic use is not the only potential cause of candidiasis. Using steroids, drinking alcohol, taking birth control pills, and undergoing chemotherapy may also increase one’s risk.

Lifestyle factors may play a role, too. For example, people who do not get enough physical activity or who eat diets high in refined sugars and unhealthy fats tend to have higher rates of fungal infections, including candidiasis.

SIBO could be yet another risk factor for candidiasis. The opposite is also true. Recurring SIBO symptoms can sometimes be indicative of a candida infection that has spread to the small intestine, which is also known as SIFO (small intestinal fungal overgrowth).

SIBO vs. Candida Overgrowth: How Are They Different?

SIBO and candida overgrowth are different in terms of their symptoms, how they are diagnosed, and ways to treat them. They also differ in the types of microbes that cause them.

Learn more about how these conditions differ next.

Causes of SIBO vs. Candida

While candida features an increase in Candida fungi, SIBO is the result of an overgrowth of bacteria. Bacteria and fungi are similar, but they respond to different types of treatments (more on this in a moment).

However, SIBO and candida ultimately have the same basic causes: dysbiosis, or an imbalanced gut microbiome. Dysbiosis can occur due to environmental toxin exposure, diet, and other factors.

Dysbiosis of the gut can lead to SIBO and candida. Dysbiosis of other microbiomes can also be a direct cause of candida but not SIBO, which only affects the small intestine.

Symptoms of SIBO vs. Candida

When candida affects the gut, it shares many symptoms in common with SIBO. Both conditions feature GI complaints, such as diarrhea, constipation, stomach pain, bloating, gas, and nausea.

However, candida can also impact other microbiomes in and on the body. The infection produces unique symptoms depending on which microbiome is affected.

For example, take candidiasis of the mouth and throat. Also known as thrush, this candida infection features symptoms like a white-coated tongue, difficulty swallowing, loss of taste, and dry mouth.

Diagnosing SIBO vs. Candida

SIBO and candida diagnoses begin with a dysbiosis test. A health professional will collect a urine sample and test it for levels of organic acids. Abnormal levels of certain acids may indicate an imbalanced gut microbiome.

If these tests come back positive, they could indicate a variety of conditions resulting from dysbiosis. The next step is to order more lab tests, which usually consist of stool tests and blood tests for candidiasis or breath tests for SIBO.

Candida blood tests identify traces of antibodies that fight this infection. SIBO breath tests measure levels of certain gases in someone’s breath, which can help health providers diagnose the different types of SIBO.

Treatment for SIBO vs. Candida

Treatments targeting bacterial overgrowth can help with SIBO symptoms. Since an increase in fungi, not bacteria is what causes candida infections, they do not always respond to these treatments.

Experts typically recommend a three-step approach to candida and SIBO treatment. These steps are:

  1. ‘Starve’ bacteria and fungi using a diet low in refined sugars, carbohydrates, alcohol, and certain dairy products
  2. Kill off harmful bacteria and fungi with antibiotics (SIBO) or antifungals (candidiasis)
  3. Promote the growth of beneficial bacteria and reduce dysbiosis via probiotic supplementation

Probiotics contain colonies of ‘good’ bacteria. It may seem contradictory to use bacteria to treat a condition like SIBO. Yet, certain types of probiotics promote a balance between harmful and beneficial microbes in the gut.

Revolution Gut Health Candida and SIBO Toxicity Testing

At Revolution Gut Health, we use a unique approach to SIBO and candida diagnosis. Our environmental toxin tests evaluate the GI system’s effectiveness at eliminating harmful contaminants from the body.

A high level of toxicity is often a sign of SIBO, candidiasis, or another digestive condition. Why? Toxin buildup in the body often indicates that the GI system’s ability to eliminate them has broken down.

Improving the body’s ability to eliminate these toxins is not just a treatment for SIBO and candida. It can also help prevent the development or reduce the symptoms of other health risks associated with environmental toxin exposure.

Internal toxicity can be a risk factor for leading causes of death, like heart disease and cancer. Immune system, neurological, and developmental disorders are also potential side effects of toxicity.

Signs Someone Might Need a Toxicology Screening

Chronic or recurring bouts of candida and SIBO are not the only signs someone needs a toxicity test. Other symptoms of toxin overload in the body include, but are not limited to:

  • Fatigue
  • Rashes and other skin conditions
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Brain fog, difficulty concentrating, and other neurological issues
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Respiratory issues
  • Persistent breath or body odor
  • Unexplained weight changes
  • Mood swings
  • Allergies

If left unchecked, toxins can wreak havoc on systems throughout the brain and body. It is crucial to get tested and work on improving the body’s natural detoxification pathways to alleviate digestive and other symptoms.

Support Your Body While Having SIBO and / or Candidiasis

In this guide on SIBO vs. candida, we’ve explored the causes, symptoms, diagnoses, and treatments for these conditions. Having an unbalanced gut microbiome can be the primary underlying factor for both conditions.

Has this post convinced you that you have SIBO, candida, or both? If so, Revolution Gut Health is here to help test and improve your conditions.  Schedule a free discovery call with our gut health experts to start your journey.

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