Bacterial Overgrowth or Sugar Intolerance: How Can You Tell?
Because there are many stomach problems linked to different disorders, it is often hard for both doctors and patients to figure out the correct diagnosis. So what can you do to help your doctor find out the cause of your stomach problems?
First, a doctor, most likely a gastroenterologist (a doctor specializing in problems of the gut), will be the most qualified person to make a definitive diagnosis. However, it can be difficult for your doctor to make a diagnosis because there are so many conditions where you may have recurring diarrhea, gassiness, or abdominal pain.
Let’s learn more about two conditions where the symptoms can look very similar and can challenge even the most experienced doctor: Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) and Congenital Sucrase-Isomaltase Deficiency (CSID), sometimes called sugar intolerance. Both of these conditions can have similar symptoms: diarrhea, gassiness, abdominal pain, or a combination of the three.
- SIBO is a chronic bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine, a part of the gut right after the stomach. In SIBO, the bacteria that is normally found in the gut is overgrown in an area where it shouldn’t be: the small intestine.
- CSID is a deficiency in digesting table sugar or sucrose. Some people may call it sugar intolerance, but that is not entirely correct. Patients with CSID do not have a working protein to digest sucrose. Sometimes patients with CSID have trouble digesting starches.
It is important that you get the correct diagnosis to appropriately manage your stomach problems. There are some things you can do to help figure out which of these conditions you may have. Before trying any of these tests on your own, please consult with your doctor and nutritionist, especially if you have diabetes, hypertension or any other condition or disease. Note: If you have SIBO and are using some medications to treat acid reflux, then your symptoms may get worse.
- You can try eliminating starches and sucrose, or table sugar, from your diet for two weeks. If you can successfully do that and your symptoms dramatically improve, then you may have CSID.
- You can drink a drink with a lot of table sugar (several tablespoons) and if you have your typical stomach problems happening within 2 to 3 hours after you drink it, then you may have CSID.
- You can try a low-FODMAP. If you have SIBO, your symptoms should improve. If you have CSID, then it is unlikely that you will see any relief.
There are many tests that your doctor can run to help confirm if you have SIBO or CSID. The bottom line is that your increased involvement in your care and knowledge about your condition can help you and your doctor better manage your symptoms.