High Cholesterol & SIBO


Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) is becoming a commonly recognized cause of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).  The studies show that 84% of people with IBS test positive for SIBO.  People with SIBO often experience digestive related symptoms like gas, bloating, heartburn, constipation or loose bowels and food intolerance….but not always.

We also know that SIBO & its cousin, SIFO (small intestinal fungal overgrowth) are a major cause of leaky gut syndrome.  Leaky gut syndrome is where the lining of the small intestine gets disrupted.  When the gut lining is “leaky”, chemicals that should stay in the gut can now cross over into the bloodstream.  These chemicals often cause inflammation in the body.

What this means is that people with symptoms of IBS should have a SIBO breath test.  If positive, the likely cause of IBS can be addressed, instead of just managing the symptoms.

The current research on SIBO is solely focused on its connection to IBS.  What is being missed in the research is SIBO’s potential connection to other inflammatory conditions that don’t manifest with gut symptoms.  For instance, commonly run blood markers like C-reactive protein (CRP), Ferritin and Cholesterol panels can be elevated due to inflammation.  These are often run in patients to determine their risk of cardiovascular disease.

In the case of elevated cholesterol, patients are often advised to begin a statin drug to lower their cholesterol.  This approach to lowering cholesterol assumes that cholesterol is only elevated due to genetics and aging.  If the elevated cholesterol were a response to inflammation in the body, identifying and addressing the cause of the inflammation could mean that statin drugs would not be necessary.

I have a subset of male patients with elevated cholesterol who test positive for SIBO.  By and large, these patients denied ANY symptoms at all and came to see me for an alternative to cholesterol lowering prescription drugs.  Treating SIBO for a month followed by re-running their cholesterol panel, ferritin and CRP values resulted in lowering of all of the values back into normal range.

In these cases, SIBO was driving the inflammation that raised their blood markers.  It is reasonable to consider the presence of SIBO as a major contributing factor in any inflammatory conditions.

Testing for SIBO is accomplished through a take-home breath test that takes 3 hours to complete.