Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) Test

What is Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth?

Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) occurs when there is too much bacteria in the small intestine. The bacteria essentially ‘eat’ your food as it enters the small intestine from the stomach. When this happens gases such as hydrogen, methane, and carbon dioxide are produced as well as short-chain fatty acids.

What are the common symptoms?

The metabolic products produced by the bacteria give rise to gastrointestinal symptoms and impaired nutritional uptake. Some people may experience one symptom (bloating, nausea, diarrhoea, constipation, abdominal distension, fatigue, mixed bowel habit, loose stools, flatulence, belching, reflux, joint pain, acne rosacea, brain fog, cramps, intestinal gurgling, weight loss/weight gain, slow intestinal transit) or can be affected by a combination of symptoms e.g. bloating and fatigue. As SIBO can result in the inability of the intestine to function properly, this may significantly affect the absorption of nutrients and damage the lining of the small intestine which may lead to leaky gut. Leaky gut is associated with immune reactions, autoimmune diseases, and generalised inflammation. There is a strong association between SIBO and Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Acne Rosacea, Coeliac Disease, Crohn's Disease and Diabetes. Studies have shown that in over 70% of IBS diagnosis, Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth is present.

What causes SIBO?

SIBO can develop for a number of different reasons. The main cause is a dysfunction of your normal intestinal motility. If there is slow or uncoordinated muscular contractions in the small intestine, stagnant or sluggish flow of intestinal contents can allow bacteria the opportunity to grow. The purpose of motility (migrating motor complexes) in the small bowel is to push debris and bacteria towards the colon. Motility dysfunction can be due to a number of different factors such as a history of food poisoning, diabetes, certain medications, nerve damage, or often the cause is unknown. Other factors involved in the development of SIBO can include not having low enough stomach acid to kill off ingested microbes that enter the stomach with your food and drink, a weak valve that separates the small and large intestine (this can result in the back flow of bacteria from the colon into the small intestine), post gastrointestinal surgery, post radiotherapy, adhesions in the intestine, following bariatric surgery, inflammatory bowel disease.

How is the test performed?

The Hydrogen and Methane breath test is used to detect Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). This is a simple and non-invasive investigation. A baseline breath sample is measured by blowing directly into the analyser. Following this, you will be given a testing solution to consume. You will then be called into the clinic room at regular intervals of 20 minutes to repeat the breath samples. Between samples, you are free to read a book/watch your tablet.

How can breath samples tell me what is happening in my intestine?

If there is too much bacteria present in the small intestine, it will essentially 'eat' your food as it enters the intestine from the stomach. As a result of this metabolic breakdown, gases such as hydrogen and methane are produced. These gases are only produced by bacteria and not by any other part of the body. They have a small size and pass easily through the wall of the intestine and into your blood circulation. When your blood travels around to your lungs, gas exchange takes place and these gases are detected from exhaled breath samples.

Are the samples sent away for analysis?

No. GastroLife has the latest state of the art analysing equipment. All our SIBO tests are performed and analysed on site.

Can SIBO be detected with the camera test?

The camera that passes through your mouth only reaches the first part of the small intestine, if the bacteria is present in the mid or distal part of the small intestine, it is unlikely to be detected. A sample of fluid from the upper part of the intestine can be taken with the camera however, the samples are often contaminated with oral and pharyngeal bacteria as the camera is withdrawn through the mouth. The sample would then have to be cultured in a lab which is quite expensive and not traditionally done in Ireland. The breath test can detect bacteria all the way through the proximal mid and distal small intestine.

Is SIBO the same as the Helicobacter Pylori bacterial infection?

No. Helicobacter Pylori is an infectious bacteria that mainly affects the stomach and first part of small intestine. We do test for Helicobacter Pylori in the clinic upon request. SIBO is an overgrowth of the normal bacteria in the small intestine.

Who performs the test?

The test is performed and analysed by a fully accredited Gastrointestinal Physiologist. Melissa has over ten years’ experience in St. James's Hospital, Dublin specialising in GI function testing under Prof Reynolds. Melissa now works full-time in our Sandyford and Naas clinics performing clinical investigations.

Do I need a referral?

No. You do not need a referral for a SIBO test. You can book directly online, by email, or by phone.

Please note that if you are on a long term antibiotic prescription, please contact us for testing advice. A pre-procedure instruction sheet can be viewed by clicking the download button below. This should be viewed and adhered to upon booking your appointment to ensure accurate results.

A copy of your results will be forwarded to your G.P/Consultant. In the event of a positive Hydrogen & Methane Breath Test, it is recommended that you see your G.P/Consultant for appropriate treatment.

This test can be performed at one of the clinics and results are available on the day of testing. SIBO testing kits can be purchased from the online product store if you are unable to attend one of the clinics.

Test Duration: 2-3 hours

Testing Age: Adults & Children over 25kg in weight

Referral: No referral required

Results: Available on day for clinic investigations

Clinic Test Fee: €140

Client Testimonials

The service provided at Gastrolife is fantastic. I carried out a SIBO test there, and tested positive. After years of digestive issues, I am now finally on the mend after identifying the correct treatment. This has given me great relief. Melissa is a wealth of knowledge and is really at the cutting edge of science in diagnosing and treating digestive issues. The team in Gastrolife is always efficient, professional and very friendly, and I would highly recommend them. - Damien - Co. Clare

I decided to take the SIBO breath test with Gastrolife after suffering with IBS for more than 10 years. Melissa and all the staff were very knowledgeable and the test itself was very simple. I am glad I did, because the results were positive. My Gastroenterologist has since treated the SIBO and I am doing a lot better. - Conor - Co. Kildare

I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to Gastrolife for the changes this test has made to my life. I first heard of this Test through my Dietitian. I had struggled with my symptom’s for over three years before I took the SIBO test.. Following treatment, the positive change in how I felt were quite amazing. Thank you Melissa for the part you played in conducting the Gastrolife Tests without which I feel I could still be going around in circles looking for answers - June - Co. Galway

I attended the Gastrolife clinic twice for breath testing. I was really impressed by their all around efficiency from my appointment, consultation and follow up. All instructions were clearly explained to me on line and by phone if I needed. The website is user friendly and I received my report and receipt promptly on time. - Grace - Co. Dublin

The test is well organised and managed. Everything is clearly explained and Melissa puts you at ease throughout the process. There is a lot of time available to do the test so you can choose the most convenient. - Veronica - Co. Dublin