Do You Have SIFO? Here’s Everything You Should KnowMonday Sep 26, 2022
You have this gut feeling (no pun intended) that something’s wrong but haven’t been able to put your finger on exactly what it is. Luckily, there might be a very plausible explanation. Across two studies and 244 participants with unexplained gastrointestinal symptoms, 25% were found to have SIFO.
What Exactly Is SIFO?
Small intestinal fungal overgrowth (aka SIFO for short) is a gut-related condition that involves an overgrowth of fungus in your small intestine. This overgrowth can result in gastrointestinal symptoms like bloating, gas, and abdominal pain or discomfort. SIFO is not to be confused with SIBO, which has to do with bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine.
SIFO vs. SIBO:
- SIFO — Fungal overgrowth in the small intestine.
- SIBO — Bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine.
An eye-popping 97 percent of SIFO fungi comes from Candida. Considering it falls under the fungal umbrella taxonomically, you can think of Candida as the most common type of SIFO.
Candida is a yeast that’s perfectly normal to have in your gut. You’ll also find it in your throat, mouth, and vaginal canal for women. As long as Candida stays at low levels, you’re fine. But when it starts to multiply and spread, your body can run into issues that lead to a wide range of infections, such as yeast infections or oral thrush (an infection of the mouth).
It’s also been linked to a wide variety of gastrointestinal conditions, such as IBS, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis .
What Are the Symptoms of SIFO?
As are typical with a lot of gut-related conditions, common symptoms of SIFO include:
- Abdominal pain
What Causes SIFO?
Many different things can increase the likelihood of developing SIFO:
- Using proton pump inhibitors too much — Medications are useful for providing relief from conditions like GERD by reducing the amount of acid in your stomach. But depleted levels of stomach acid can increase your chances of contracting bacterial or fungal infections in your GI tract.
- The muscles of your intestines become impaired — Also known as intestinal dysmotility, this can be brought on by conditions like diabetes, lupus, and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.
- Frequent use of antibiotics — Antibiotics can’t differentiate between which bacteria are bad and which are good. So, while they do destroy bad microbes sitting in your gut , they also take out healthy bacteria that help your gut thrive. This can give bad microbes the opportunity they need to spread and cause problems like SIFO.
- Taking drugs that stifle your immune system — Some medicines have the unintended consequence of suppressing your immune system, which makes it harder for your body to fight off fungal or bacterial infections.
- Colectomy — Research shows there is a high correlation between colectomy and the development of SIFO.
How to Test for SIFO
The world of gut health tests is always expanding. There are numerous ways to test for a variety of GI-related conditions, such as stool tests, breath tests, and blood tests.
For SIFO specifically, the best way to identify it comes from a small bowel aspirate. This SIFO test happens during an upper endoscopy and looks for infection in the small intestine. To perform the test, a gastroenterologist will insert a tube-like device starting in the esophagus and reaching a part of your small intestine known as the duodenum. A sample gets collected and is examined for fungi that could indicate the existence of SIFO .
1. Antifungal medication
Antifungal drugs like Nystatin are a common treatment but the thing with medications is that sometimes, your stomach acids eat them up before they can even reach your small intestine.
If you’re looking for a natural treatment alternative, probiotics have been shown to be an effective treatment for fungal growth in the gastrointestinal tract. Specifically, the Lactobacillus acidophilus bacteria strain has been noted as being particularly helpful for fighting fungal infections.
2. The Candida diet
Following a Candida diet may help you get SIFO under control. Candida thrives on glucose, so it’s best to avoid refined carbs and foods high in sugar (including fruits like bananas and mangos). The Candida diet also calls for the elimination of grains and anything made with yeast (i.e. alcohol, kombucha, soy sauce, etc).
3. Get active and space out your meals
Poor gastrointestinal motility (the process where food moves through your GI tract) may be what’s causing your SIFO. Here are two ways to improve motility:
- Physical activity to get your heart rate up and blood pumping.
- Spacing out your meals by at least three hours. Always having food just sitting in your stomach bogs down your migrating motor complex , which is important for digestion. It’s a system of recurring movement that advances food through your bowels. You can’t get the full benefit of this process on a full stomach.
4. Combatting low stomach acid
A hydrochloric acid (HCL) supplement can increase stomach acid, which helps with digestion and prevents the growth of harmful fungi and bacteria.
The Bottom Line
If you feel like something’s been going on with your gut but just haven’t been able to put your finger on what, it could be SIFO or small intestinal fungal overgrowth
Candida, a yeast that is classified under fungi taxonomically, is responsible for roughly 97% of the fungi in SIFO. It can also contribute to a lot of other health conditions that impact your GI tract, such as IBS, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.
The primary SIFO test is a small bowel aspirate, which is performed during an upper endoscopy and detects the presence of SIFO-related fungi.
Fortunately, there are many treatment options available:
- Antifungal medications are a popular treatment. However, probiotics are a natural alternative that have been shown to be equally as effective at treating fungal overgrowth in the GI tract.
- The Candida diet eliminates refined carbs, foods high in sugar (including fruits), grains, and anything made with yeast to improve SIFO symptoms.
- Physical activity and spacing out your meals can enhance gut motility.
- Taking a hydrochloric acid (HCL) supplement can give your stomach acid levels a boost to help with digestion.
Interested in probiotics tailored to your unique gut profile?
About the Author
Chad Richardson is a freelance writer from Cincinnati, OH who also enjoys going to the gym and doing his best Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonation, scrolling through Netflix trying to find a new binge-worthy show, and catching a game to root on his hometown sports teams.