How Do You Get Tested For SIBO?

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, or SIBO, is gaining more and more awareness as research into the condition progresses. You’re reading this article, so the chances are that you’ve heard of SIBO. 

Thanks to that research, we now have an accepted SIBO test. However, not everyone knows what the test is, or how to get one. Our handy guide will tell you everything you need to know about the testing process, including where to get one and how it all works.

What is SIBO?

SIBO happens when there’s an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine. While a small number of these bacteria in the small intestine is good for our gut health, most of them belong in the large intestine. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth can cause unpleasant symptoms.

Today, research shows us that SIBO can play a key role in the development of digestive symptoms, such as bloating, diarrhoea and flatulence [Source: PubMed]. With an estimated 10 to 20 percent of adults in western countries suffering from digestive symptoms [Source: PubMed], identifying and tackling the cause of SIBO can be pivotal for a lot of people when it comes to improving their health.

There are now breath tests available that can indicate the presence of an overgrowth by measuring your levels of hydrogen and methane. Excessive amounts of either indicate a bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine [Source: PubMed], and will confirm SIBO.

Could your symptoms be SIBO?

View our at home SIBO test

Why do you think you might have SIBO?

As a gastrointestinal condition, SIBO shares its symptoms with many other digestive conditions. This can make it difficult to diagnose without a test.

If you think you could have a bacterial overgrowth in your small intestine, it’s useful to know exactly what the possible signs and symptoms of  SIBO are. This can also be useful to know when you’re asking your doctor for a test, as you’ll be better able to discuss with them why you think you need one.

If you’re completely new to SIBO, don’t worry: check out our blog post, SIBO Test: All Your Questions Answered, which will tell you everything you need to know about the testing process. We’ve covered everything from the reliability of the test to understanding your results. 

SIBO symptoms

As with many other gastrointestinal conditions, it can be tricky to identify SIBO because the symptoms overlap with so many other digestive complaints. 

We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to SIBO symptoms, which is a great starting place for anyone who’s new to SIBO and wants to know more about how it can affect people.

A 2019 study [Source: PubMed] identified the symptoms of SIBO as: 

  • Abdominal pain
  • Belching
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhoea
  • Distension (a big belly)
  • Flatulence (wind)
  • Indigestion

A more recent study stated that SIBO can also cause constipation [Source: PubMed]. This may be useful to know when asking for a test from your doctor, as they might not be aware that SIBO can cause both diarrhoea and constipation. 

UK SIBO testing

While it’s not offered everywhere, it is currently possible in some areas to get tested and treated for SIBO on the NHS. Because it’s a relatively new condition there’s no official universally-accepted ‘gold standard’ for treatment [Source: PubMed]. However, experts do agree that the breath test is currently the best way to test for SIBO [Source: PubMed].

The testing process should measure both your hydrogen and methane levels in your breath: an excess of either indicates a bacterial overgrowth in your small intestine. Many NHS trusts currently test for SIBO by looking at hydrogen levels only: meaning that if you have methane SIBO, you’ll get a false negative result.

It’s important to know that some doctors may not be aware of SIBO, and some NHS trust areas might not offer any kind of SIBO testing. In this case, private testing might be a better option for you. 

Private SIBO tests and clinics

At Healthpath, we offer a simple hydrogen and methane SIBO test, complete with a follow-up plan that will give you everything you need to start your journey to better health. We give you a tailored food plan too, and, if your test is positive, a supplement regime to tackle the overgrown microbes in your small intestine.

There are many clinics and providers in the UK that offer private tests to confirm SIBO. Most of them, however, only offer the test and the results. They don’t offer follow-up advice or any form of plan to help tackle the root cause of SIBO.

As far as we’re aware, Healthpath is the only provider in the UK that offers a test for SIBO that includes advice and a support plan within the price. We want to make sure that if you have SIBO you have everything you need to tackle it. We don’t want to simply mask the symptoms: our aim is always to address the cause, and eradicate the overgrowth once and for all.

SIBO testing on the NHS

Testing is available on the NHS, and many (but not all) doctors are now aware of SIBO. Your GP might agree that you could benefit from a test, however many NHS trusts simply don’t offer them, or only test for hydrogen and not methane.

If you live in an area that doesn’t test for SIBO on the NHS, you can get one privately, either through us or another provider.

If your area does offer NHS testing, and your GP agrees you need one, they can’t perform it for you then and there. You’ll be referred to a gastroenterologist, who will usually carry out the test in a hospital.

Is there a home test for SIBO in the UK?

We have a simple and fast SIBO home test. It takes three hours, and measures both hydrogen and methane levels. Unlike other home tests available on the UK market, at Healthpath we include advice and a support plan in the price of the test. 

If you can’t get a test on the NHS, or you would like a diet and supplement plan included with your result, taking a Healthpath SIBO test is a great place to begin your journey to better health.

Do you suspect SIBO?

View our at home SIBO test

The process of getting tested for SIBO

At Healthpath, we’ve made sure the process is as quick and as easy as possible. You can buy our breath test if you’re ready to get started now. If you’d like to learn a little more about how it all works, we’ve outlined the process for you below. 

The test spans three hours, and measures your hydrogen and methane levels. Check out our blog post, SIBO Test – All Your Questions Answered, for more detailed information, or keep reading our simple step-by-step process below.

The Healthpath SIBO test: step one

The day before you take the test, you’ll need to eat a low-fibre diet. That means simple proteins, such as chicken and eggs, and plain boiled rice, and lots of water. You’ll then complete an 8-12 hour fast ahead of taking your first breath sample, which you collect by breathing into a glass tube.

All you need to do is follow the ‘EasySampler’ instructions. You’ll breathe into the first collection tube, which will become your ‘fasting sample’, and will be used to compare the rest of your samples to.

The Healthpath SIBO test: step two

Once you’ve collected your first sample, you’ll need to drink the lactulose solution provided in your Healthpath test kit. Simply mix it with 200ml water, and drink. Your gut bacteria love lactulose, so when they eat it, they give off gases. 

If you’re lactose intolerant, rest assured that lactulose isn’t lactose. It’s a synthetic sugar made in a lab. But if you have a true milk allergy, or if you’re worried,  we can provide you with a glucose solution instead.

Twenty minutes after drinking the lactulose solution, you can take your next breath sample. Continue to take the remaining samples every 20 minutes for three hours, until you have 10 samples in total. Make sure you label each one as you take it, so we can monitor the precise activity of your gut bacteria.

The Healthpath SIBO test: step three 

Now you’ve taken all your samples, you simply need to post it back to the lab using the return envelope provided. Sit back, relax, and wait for your results to arrive: you’ll get them within five to ten days after our lab receives your samples.

We’ll send you your results along with a detailed plan including everything you need to know about your next steps. It’s our goal at Healthpath to support you take control of your health, so if your test shows you do have SIBO, don’t worry: you’re in good hands.

Conclusion 

  • Breath testing is currently the easiest and the most accessible way to test for SIBO. In some areas you can get this done via the NHS, however you may need to get a SIBO test done privately.
  • A test should take three hours, and tests both hydrogen and methane.
  • If you can get a test on the NHS, your GP will likely refer you to a gastroenterologist. This process can take a long time, and your test will be carried out in a hospital.
  • Some NHS SIBO tests will only test for hydrogen, and may only use a two-hour test.
  • If you buy a private test, make sure it tests for both hydrogen and methane, and takes three hours in total.
  • Healthpath’s SIBO test gives you tailored diet, lifestyle and supplement advice alongside your results, whether you have SIBO or not.
  • This advice will help you to address your digestive symptoms and regain control of your health.

Author

Caroline Hanna BA (Hons) is a soon-to-be Registered Nutritional Therapist (DipCNM mBANT), chef and writer. A lover of food and nutrition, Caroline first trained to cook at Le Cordon Bleu before studying at the London College of Naturopathic Medicine.

Caroline also has a background in journalism and copywriting, and continues to write regularly for magazines and private clients, inspiring others to optimise their wellbeing through delicious, healthy food.

 

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