If you prefer to take the natural route, herbal antimicrobials have been found to be equally effective as antibiotics at treating the small intestine bacterial overgrowth. Physicians at Johns Hopkins and the University of Pittsburgh showed that SIBO treatment using herbal antimicrobial supplements was as effective as the most studied and effective treatment method by mainstream medicine. Herbal medicines have the added benefit of treating other dysbiosis issues, such as fungal overgrowth, parasites, and overgrowth of bacteria in the large intestine. So they might be better for some individuals.
The literature concluded that patients with SIBO can choose antibiotic or herbal therapy depending on their preferences, with similar response rates and safety profiles. In addition, patients who are refractory to antibiotics can receive herbal therapy as a potential rescue therapy with equivalent results to triple antibiotics. The decision is left at the treating physician’s discretion and the patient depending on the clinical setting and the patient’s preference.
Potential challenges to choosing antimicrobial treatment
Antibiotics are highly regulated across the globe and, as a result, are reliable in their composition and efficacy.
On the other hand, Herbal supplements are often regarded as the wild west of medicine. Many companies develop supplements that do not contain enough of the advertised ingredients or don’t have enough bioavailability. Bioavailability refers to the proportion of a drug or other substance like a supplement that enters the circulation when introduced into the body and can have an active effect.
The regulations for supplements in the USA, Australia and the UK are alarmingly low. As a result, many companies develop products with little to no medical research or scientific analysis. If they do not cause harm, they are considered fit for the market even if they cause no benefit and may be harmful to some individuals.
For example, some probiotics are very harmful and make SIBO worse if taken before treating the overgrowth of bacteria.
You should also note that it is perfectly legal to market something as “100% x ingredient” even if, when ingested, 0% is available to the body, and this is an issue. The vast majority of companies have no medical professionals involved in the development of supplements.
We strongly advise you to take supplements prescribed by scientific literature and medical professionals to treat SIBO, as sometimes the wrong combination can do more harm than good, particularly when dealing with SIBO.
This is currently the only proven antimicrobial protocol for the effective treatment of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.
1 Chedid et al., 2014
2 Chedid et al., 2014