Retesting for SIBO can be one of the worst parts of treatment, so are how I used symptoms as a sign to know that my SIBO was gone, without needing to retest.
Treating SIBO (also known as Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) and getting rid of it for good is not an easy task by any means. It took me over three years and countless rounds of antibiotic and antimicrobial treatments to finally say goodbye to those overgrown gut bugs.
One reason why SIBO is so difficult to get rid of is because SIBO in itself is not a diagnosis. SIBO is merely a symptom of a deeper issue going on in your gut, body, or lifestyle. An issue that needs to be addressed before you can completely overcome this condition.
But, once I was able to address my root causes and heal my gut, I was finally able to get rid of my SIBO for good.
However, contrary to popular opinion I don’t believe that you NEED to retest for SIBO using a Hydrogen/Methane Breath Test in order to know that your SIBO is actually gone.
Breath tests, while they are the current gold standard for diagnosing SIBO, are notoriously unreliable and difficult to interpret. They leave so much room for false positives, false negatives, and sample collection error that sometimes re-testing for SIBO after treatment just isn’t worth it.
So, in this blog post I’m going to outline the five ways I knew that I had gotten rid of my SIBO, without re-testing!
And like anything when it comes to your health, these five signs that my SIBO was gone may not be the same for you. You may still be experiencing these issues even if you don’t have SIBO. Or your SIBO symptoms may have been completely different than mine.
If you need more insight into SIBO, how to treat it, and how to prevent relapse my eBook, The Complete Guide to SIBO, is for you. If you’re ready to take your SIBO diagnosis into your own hands, this eBook has everything you need – including a three page SIBO breath test interpretation guide to enable you to read your own SIBO test results!
Sign #1 My SIBO Was Gone: FODMAPs Didn’t Cause Symptoms
When I had SIBO, FODMAP containing foods gave me the worst symptoms. I’m talking fatigue, bloating, gas, pain and cramping, it was awful.
FODMAPs are a group of foods that contain short-chain carbohydrates that your gut bacteria feed off of.
These foods are often a problem in people with a bacterial overgrowth, like in SIBO, because the bacteria are now located in the Small Intestine where digestion takes place. And are now eating those short-chain carbohydrates way earlier in the digestive process than they’re supposed to. A phenomenon that causes many of the symptoms of SIBO and IBS.
Many people, myself included, find huge symptom relief from SIBO or other gut issues when going on a low-FODMAP diet.
So, when I was finally able to eat as many FODMAP containing foods as I wanted, that was a huge sign that my SIBO was gone!
Being able to tolerate FODMAPs again, even when I didn’t have SIBO did take some time. I had been restricting these foods for about two years. So as you can imagine, my body had basically forgotten how to digest them properly.
This is super common with any food or category of foods that are restricted for a long time. Your body actually stops making the proper digestive enzymes to break down those foods. So when you do start eating them again, they can often cause symptoms that are very similar to SIBO.
By starting with small portions spaced out over a few days you should be able to gradually introduce these once restricted foods back into your diet.
The low-FODMAP diet isn’t meant to be forever. And if you’ve tried reintroducing these foods and are still having symptoms, it’s likely that you still have SIBO or some other underlying gut issue that needs to be addressed.
Once I was able to eat foods like onions, apples, and broccoli again and still remain symptom free, I knew that my SIBO had to be gone.
Being able to eat these foods was as good as or better evidence than any negative SIBO Breath Test could have been.
Sign #2 My SIBO Was Gone: I Had Energy After Eating
One of my main SIBO symptoms was that I had absolutely no energy and felt so much worse after eating than I did when my stomach was empty.
This makes sense because the overgrown bacteria in my Small Intestine were essentially competing for my food every time I ate.
Plus, eating means that the bacteria would be eating as well. And when bacteria eat they ferment gas and sometimes toxins as a byproduct. Both of which make SIBO patients feel so awful after eating.
So, once food started to give me energy and no longer made me feel like yawning and needing to take a nap, I knew that my SIBO had to be gone.
And just like my experience with FODMAPs, this return of energy didn’t happen overnight as soon as I finished my last dose of antibiotics. It was a gradual change as my gut was finally able to heal and recover now that it wasn’t battling SIBO all the time.
Sign #3 My SIBO Was Gone: I Could Sleep Through the Night
Another major symptom of my SIBO was that I woke up nearly every single night. Without fail I would wake up around 2am, about four hours after I had gone to sleep.
After much digging and researching into why this could be the case, I was able to figure out why it was happening and how it was related to my SIBO.
I learned that my waking up at night was likely a result of both my carb-restricted diet giving me blood sugar imbalances, and the increased toxic burden on my liver due to the overgrown bacteria.
Eating a carb-restricted diet, as are most SIBO diets, means that your blood sugar is likely less stable than if you were eating plenty of carbs.
So, when I attempted the overnight fast that is sleeping, my blood sugar would dip too low and my body would need to spike my cortisol to get it back into a normal range. This cortisol spike is what would wake me up.
Also, bacterial overgrowths or gut infections of any kind put extra stress on your detox organs. (Here’s an article I wrote on why supporting your detox pathways is so important during SIBO treatment.)
And, according to Chinese Medicine, the time the liver (our biggest and baddest detox organ) is most active is between 1 and 3 in the morning. The exact time that I found myself waking up every night.
So, I knew that my overall toxic burden was lower and my SIBO was gone once I was able to sleep more soundly and stopped waking up all the time. Being able to reintroduce more carbs into my diet as my gut health improved also helped me sleep better.
This was one symptom that I was never positive was associated with my SIBO, but once I beat SIBO and started sleeping better, I was convinced they were related and this was a big sign I was healing and that my SIBO was gone.
Sign #4 My SIBO Was Gone: My Digestion Was Working Again
One of my first SIBO symptoms was incomplete digestion. As in I would actually see whole pieces of food come out the other end (sorry, but it’s a gut health blog, what did you expect?).
At first I just thought my issues digesting food properly were just related to stress. As I knew that stress during college had previously taken a toll on my digestion.
But, once I started working on getting rid of my SIBO and healing my gut, my digestion improved tremendously.
SIBO has been shown to interfere with the proper functioning of the Small Intestine. Leading to the inability to digest food, malabsorption, and nutrient deficiencies.
And once patients clear their SIBO, Small Intestine function is able to return to normal and digestion and nutrient absorption improve.
My improved digestion didn’t just start when I finally got rid of my SIBO. But once I started focusing on healing my gut using supplements like l-glutamine, colostrum, and collagen, plus reducing my stress, my digestion started to improve as well.
Getting rid of my SIBO did bring my digestion back to 100%, and I now, thankfully, have no trouble digesting any of my food.
Sign #5 My SIBO Was Gone: I Could Expand My Once Very Restrictive Diet
This is a realization that I’ve made recently, about a year and a half after I got rid of my SIBO. I’m now able to eat, not only healthy carb-heavy foods like cassava and plantains, but I can also indulge in refined sugar and grains without any digestive symptoms. Two foods that would have made me feel so sick when I still had SIBO, and great signs that my SIBO was truly gone.
Going from just a gluten free, but not grain free, diet (I have Celiac Disease) to an extremely restricted low-FODMAP and SCD diet years ago because of my SIBO diagnosis was a tough transition. One that I’m sure you can relate to.
And now that my SIBO is gone, I feel my best at a happy medium between those two with a higher-carb Paleo approach.
But there are just sometimes when I want to splurge on an occasional pizza that includes grains, or a gluten free dessert at a party.
The fact that I can now do this without any symptoms tells me way more about the status of my SIBO than a test ever could.
And this is probably one of the best parts of being SIBO free. The freedom I can have around food without fear that I’ll feel horrible in a few hours like I once did.
I don’t tell you all of this to but a damper on your healing journey. I know that if you’re reading this article you likely still have SIBO and have been dealing with it for quite some time.
I’m sharing my success and how I knew that my SIBO was actually gone so that you can be encouraged and know that your restrictive diet and gut symptoms are not forever!
Healing is possible, and if you keep fighting and digging to find and treat the root of your SIBO, you can be SIBO free too!
The Bottom Line
Symptoms, or lack thereof, are such better indicators of overall health than any test or lab result could ever be, and were actually all great signs that my SIBO was truly gone.
I never retested for SIBO after I finished my final treatment because all of my previous SIBO symptoms were gone. Retesting would have been a waste of money and extra stress on my newly recovering body.
But, if you’ve just gone through a SIBO treatment and are still experiencing symptoms, it’s usually a good idea to test again.
Not all gut symptoms are related to SIBO. And you very well may have gotten rid of your SIBO, but still have other gut issues to work through.
The road to a healthy gut and finally being SIBO free isn’t easy. But, trust me, it’s so worth the long days, expensive doctor’s appointments, and countless supplements. And healing is possible, even from what may seem like an endless SIBO journey.