How alkalinity and body pH affects SIBO + IBS

Before SIBO, I had heard about wanting your body’s pH to be more alkaline than acidic, but honestly, I had no idea what that really meant.

In learning more about SIBO, I discovered that our body requires an alkaline state to function well, and the western diet many of us follow unfortunately tends to keep most individuals pretty acidic.

What’s a good pH level for SIBO?

When we have low stomach acid (try the HCl Challenge to find out yours), our body lacks the ability to activate protein-digesting enzymes in our stomach, called pepsin. We need a pH level of around 7.0-7.4 to ensure optimal digestion. The goal is never to eliminate acid completely, because our stomachs need it to break down foods. But low, balanced pH inhibits bad bacteria from growing which is important for SIBO sufferers.

Discover Your pH from day to day

You can purchase your own pH testing strips on amazon or any drugstore. You can test your saliva, urine, or both, and chart your results so you can log your personal progress.  I’ve included the chart below to help you determine what your results mean.  

Since being diagnosed with IBS and SIBO myself, I have tested my urine and saliva to keep track of my pH levels.  While they’ve improved over time, my body is still too acidic, typically around 6.0-6.3, so I continue to monitor my personal results and eat lots of alkalizing foods to progress and continue to heal.

What foods should I be eating?

Highly acidic foods include meats, dairy, and alcohol.

Highly alkaline foods include nuts, legumes, veggies and some fruits.

The foods recommended in my SIBO protocol will offer you a good balance of the alkalizing foods you need, while eliminating almost all the acidic foods.

Also, it’s a common misconception that lemon is highly acidic - but it’s actually one of the most alkalizing ingredients you can have because when lemon juice is fully metabolized and its minerals are dissociated in the bloodstream, its effect is alkalizing!  Lemons and limes are delicious and healthy additions to your diet!

A quick recipe to shift your pH in your favor:

Taking advantage of our savior, lemon - you can start the day with warm water and squeeze in a half a lemons worth of juice. It’s a refreshing and healthy way to start the day and one I highly recommend!  


Are SIBO and IBS the same thing? What is the connection?


Do you have IBS or SIBO??

When I first began searching for an answer to my severe stomach pain, I remember reading all about “IBS” online.  

Since most of what I read was vague and didn’t seem to have a “cure”, I found it confusing, frustrating, and disappointing.  Being in constant pain, it was only a matter of time until I found myself sitting in the chair at my doctor’s office looking for answers.  

But instead of finding them, I ended up listening to my primary care physician explain to me that I had IBS, a blanket diagnosis with no known cause and no discovered cure.  She took the time to share details about the IBS medicines I should try to alleviate symptoms, the dietary protocols I could explore (Low FODMAPS was their suggestion), and the tests I could take to ensure it wasn’t something more serious.  

However, as she sat there talking, I distinctly remember thinking to myself, “I’m twenty two and healthy - why the hell do I have IBS?”
After digging deeper and learning a ton through my own SIBO journey, I discovered that studies have shown that over 80% of patients diagnosed with "IBS" actually test positive for SIBO.

While there is no “definitive” conclusions that SIBO is the direct cause or effect of IBS, it is important to note that the two are often very commonly linked and most individuals who are diagnosed with “IBS” do test positive for SIBO.

What is IBS?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is the most commonly diagnosed chronic functional gastrointestinal disorder. It affects females approximately twice as often as males and is most frequently diagnosed in individuals between the ages of 30 and 50 years - though it has been found recently in those of younger ages, especially women.  Many of the friends and connections that I’ve made through my own journey have been in their teens or early to late twenties - it has certainly become a growing diagnosis in the younger age groups. Symptoms include cramps, constipation, feeling like you haven’t finished a bowel movement, alternating between diarrhea and constipation - and more.  

The IBS & SIBO Link - Bloating

Since bloating is a unanimous symptom for IBS sufferers, whether they had constipation or diarrhea as their main symptom, it led researchers to look for a possible deeper problem.

The idea that SIBO may explain bloating in IBS is because of a correlation between the pattern of bowel movement and the type of excreted gas.

So how do you know if your IBS diagnosis may, in fact, be SIBO? 

  1. Fiber makes your constipation worse

  2. You notice an improvement in IBS symptoms when taking antibiotics

  3. You feel more gas and bloating when you take probiotics that contain prebiotics

  4. Your blood work shows chronically low iron or ferritin with no known cause

In Summary:

If you’ve been diagnosed with IBS and are treating it either through prescription and diet - and still experience severe discomfort, nausea and bloating, you may have SIBO.

If you have had tests like an endoscopy, a colonoscopy, blood work, or even an MRI that come back "normal", I would highly suggest being tested for SIBO with a lactulose SIBO breath test.

The treatment for both SIBO and IBS that I suggest is similar - diet change, stress reduction, and self-care practices.

Guidelines to follow when you have (or think you have) SIBO

For a full “good food” and “food to avoid” breakdown, download the BeatSIBO Specific food guide here. This has been the best guideline for me, one that I’ve established through personal experience, trial and error, and nutritionist advice. I highly recommend the protocol, and follow it myself.  

What is SIBO?

What exactly is Small Intestinal Bacteria Overgrowth (SIBO)?  Covering its causes, symptoms, testing options, and treatment, find out all you need to know in this blog post!

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