If you are currently taking a PPI drug (such as Pepcid, Nexium, Prilosec, etc) and/or frequently take antibiotics, please watch the below video! I wish I knew then what I know now.
After I had lost 185 lbs naturally, I started getting some digestive issues. I would get very painful abdominal cramps, gas, and bloating. The pain was so bad that it would impact my daily life. Sometimes the pain and cramping would last 8-9 hours straight. I would cancel plans because I wasn't able to leave my house due to the pain. I would not be able to finish a run or meet with my trainer due to the symptoms. It was baffling to me because I was eating so healthy and taking care of myself.
When I first started getting symptoms, they were infrequent. So for many months, I thought I had a food sensitivity. I tried many elimination diets, but the symptoms remained. The symptoms would usually start early afternoon after my body had a chance to digest my food from the morning. I even got a food sensitivity blood test in hopes I could figure out what was causing the issue. I eliminated the foods I was sensitive to and yet the symptoms still persisted. Now, the symptoms were happening EVERY DAY. Over the counter medications didn't work. The pain and bloating were different than any stomach/abdominal issues I had ever felt before.
That's when I sought the help of functional medicine doctor Dr. Emily Parke. She was fairly certain I had SIBO (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth). I took a breath test which confirmed her hunch. I had SIBO-D (aka hydrogen dominant SIBO).
I have been treating SIBO for almost a year now though I am pretty sure I've had it for about 2.5 years. Even though I still have it, it is much better and I believe it is finally almost gone.
In the below video, I interviewed Dr. Emily Parke about SIBO to help educate people about what it is, what causes it (including how damaging PPI drugs and antibiotics can be and alternative treatment options), how to treat it, and why many doctors have never heard of it.
Many people have SIBO but have been diagnosed with IBS. If you experience these symptoms, make sure to get tested for SIBO to rule it out! The treatment protocol for SIBO is very different from IBS.
If you think you have SIBO and/or want to seek alternative treatment methods for heartburn/acid reflux, please visit a functional medicine doctor. If you are in the Phoenix, AZ area, visit Dr. Emily Parke. If you are not in the Phoenix area, go here to find a functional medicine doctor in your area.
If you are interested in health coaching so you can lose the weight for good in a natural way without deprivation, schedule your free 30-minute consultation with me today!

What is SIBO? A Functional Medicine Perspective


Jennifer McKee:               I'm Jennifer McKee, an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and founder of McKee Health Transformations. I've lost 185 pounds naturally, no surgery, no shakes, no diet pills, no nothing, just by making healthy habit changes to my nutrition and mainly to my mindset, learning how to not let my negative inner critic control my life. I also had to eliminate all or nothing thinking and get a handle on that.
Jennifer McKee:               At the end of my journey, I was doing really great but then I started getting digestive issues and I started noticing terrible abdominal cramps. This may be TMI but gas and just not feeling normal. It did not feel like regular upset stomach. It felt different. That's when I sought out Dr. Emily Parke who is here with us today.
Dr. Emily Parke:                Hi.
Jennifer McKee:               I wanted to see a functional medicine doctor, to get some advice on that. That's when I found out that I had something called SIBO. So I've been trying to treat SIBO now for almost a year. I think I probably had it for at least two, two and a half years without realizing what it was. I thought it was a food sensitivity so I had tried tons of different elimination diets but I still have the same symptoms which is another reason I knew it was something different. My symptoms would always happen starting in the afternoon, like after my body had had a chance to digest some food, that's when the issues started happening. I rarely wake up with any SIBO symptom.
Jennifer McKee:               So I want to interview Dr. Emily Parke today to talk about what functional medicine is but also talk about SIBO because a lot of people out there are not educated about SIBO, unfortunately, and to my surprise, there's a lot of people out there who do have SIBO. I didn't realize it was so widespread. So we're going to talk about that today. So welcome, Dr. Parke. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this. Why don't you give us a little bit of background about yourself, your qualifications, and also what a functional medicine doctor is.
Dr. Emily Parke:                Sure. So awesome, Jen. Thank you so much for having me, too. Thanks for your time also. Yeah, this great. So functional medicine is all about finding and treating the root causes of whatever signs and symptoms are going on. So that's a little bit different than the traditional medicine approach. And I did go to traditional medical school, internship, residency, fellowship, so I have all of that training. Then I got trained in functional medicine so I understand both ways of thinking very well.
Dr. Emily Parke:                In traditional medicine, unfortunately, the way it works is oh, you have a symptom, here is the pill or the procedure we have for you. The root cause thinking like the how did you get there, the why, or more commonly whys because most of the time, there's multiple root causes behind how you're feeling now, that method of thinking is just unfortunately completely missing and devoid from traditional medicine training.
Dr. Emily Parke:                So in functional medicine, we are the detectives. We really want to get to the bottom of all of the root causes because if you never get to the bottom of it, you may feel better temporarily but it's nothing more than a bandaid and until you really fix the root causes, you're going to struggle with your health.
Jennifer McKee:               I could not say anything better than that. That's amazing. That's exactly right and that's why I sought a functional medicine doctor to help me with the issues that I was having, so great. So why don't we talk now what is SIBO? What does it stand for and what are the symptoms? I know I talked a little bit about my symptoms but I know that there's some other symptoms as well.
Dr. Emily Parke:                Totally. So SIBO stands for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. It's bacteria that overgrown in the small intestine and just to let you know a little bit about the small intestine, small intestine is several feet long. So just a quick little anatomy lesson, when you eat your food, your digestion begins in the mouth, you swallow, it goes down in the esophagus, then it's the stomach where acid starts churning. This will become important later. You're breaking down food in the stomach, physically churns it, and then it'll empty into the first part of the small intestine.
Dr. Emily Parke:                Then the small intestine is several feet long and the small intestine's job is to really further not just break down food nutrients because in the first part, the pancreas and the gallbladder actually spit out its extra digestive help. The gallbladder spits out bile and the pancreas spits out pancreatic enzymes which further help break down food nutrients. As the food travels through the small intestine, its main job is to absorb the nutrients from it. Then once food hits the colon, it's still liquid at that point and then we all know that as it goes around, the colon will absorb more liquid from it and it will become solid and that's what stool is made of. So some of those things are going to become important later. You know this though, Jen.
Jennifer McKee:               Yeah.
Dr. Emily Parke:                So what happens in SIBO with the small intestinal bacterial overgrowth is bacteria get overgrown in levels in small intestine that aren't normally there. So you start to get symptoms very commonly like abdominal bloating, of course gas, and sometimes the gas will be trapped, as in you'll just have stomach grumbles.
Jennifer McKee:               That's what I have, yeah.
Dr. Emily Parke:                Right. But sometimes it can also come up and out like burping and sometimes it can go out as far as flatulence on the other end, too. So that's very common but there's two types of SIBO. There's a diarrhea dominant kind and a constipation dominant kind. People can also float in between the two. So diarrhea and constipation are other common bowel symptoms but those are the common ones and those are the ones that people think about all the time, the bloating, either constipation or diarrhea, but it really can present with all kinds of other abdominal pains and sensations and it can also present with symptoms outside of the GI tract. It's very common to have fatigue, a decrease in energy levels. It's really common to have brain fog, like unclear thinking. You can even have skin rashes and you could have muscle aches, joint pains. There's a whole host of things that can happen outside of just gut symptoms.
Jennifer McKee:               Is part of that from not being able to absorb certain nutrients? Is that-
Dr. Emily Parke:                Yeah. Absolutely, that is absolutely part of it. Typically, besides having a positive SIBO test which is a breath test, what we would talk about in a second, we commonly see in labs, people will have multiple nutrient deficiencies and it's because part of the small intestine's job is to absorb the food nutrients. Well, if there's bacteria that are overgrown in there, they're stealing the nutrients that are meant for you, just the bacteria growing more and more.
Jennifer McKee:               I know with my blood test, that's one of the reasons you were like, "Yeah, I'm pretty sure you have SIBO," because we looked at my blood test and even though I doubled the amount of vitamin D I was taking, my level went down and I was like, "I am taking my supplements, I swear." So that was really shocking to me to see that. So that was weird. It's not a good feeling when you know you're eating healthy and you're taking the supplements you need to but your body's not absorbing some of that. It's frustrating. So anyway, great. That's great. What causes SIBO? I know this is not a simple question.
Dr. Emily Parke:                Right. No, no worries. Yeah. So yeah, it's Pandora's box we're going to open here, Jen. But yeah, the reason I went to that little digestive thing at the beginning because some of those have to do with the root cause of SIBO. So one of the most common causes of SIBO is people that are on or have been on for a long period of time acid-blocking medications.  The stomach secretes hydrochloric acid which helps break down food nutrients. So if there's no acid in the stomach, food nutrients done get broken down properly. Then when they hit the small intestine, two things happen. One, you're really not going to absorb the nutrients properly. Two, you're going to create some inflammation because there's these bigger, non-broken down food particles that are bumping up against the small intestinal wall so that's it. That's a significant issue.
Dr. Emily Parke:                Then of course, if you're not breaking down, absorbing your food nutrients properly, it's the bacteria, the small amount of bacteria that are there, then it's like a feeding ground for them. Then it allows those bacteria to grow. So acid-blocking medications or not having enough stomach acid which can happen from other reasons, too. Actually as we age, like the elderly population, they do make less hydrochloric acid. That can be an issue. Sometimes if someone has a chronic gastritis and inflammation of the stomach, we could make less stomach acid. So stomach acid, not enough of it is one big root cause.
Dr. Emily Parke:                Another huge root cause are people that have been on multiple courses of antibiotics in the past and that's because any time you take a prescription antibiotic, it's meant to kill the infection that you have but it doesn't just kill that infection. We all think of it as going like right to the source of why we're taking the antibiotic but it totally kills bacteria in all other parts of the body. Our gut bacteria, our microbiome makes up more cells than we have in our human being which is crazy to think about but true. So the gut bacteria that we have, the healthy gut bacteria, we want to maintain and protect it. When you take the antibiotics, what you do is you actually not only decrease the total number of healthy gut bacteria but you can decrease just certain ones of them and that allows for others to flourish and create problems. The same thing can happen in the small intestine, of course.
Dr. Emily Parke:                So now, we've got acid blocking medications and antibiotics. Those are huge ones. People that have been on steroids long term and same thing because it will thin the lining of the gut walls and the lining of the stomach. Very commonly, people are placed on acid blocking medication as well. They're on steroids, too. But also, chronic constipation, so not having a daily bowel movement is a huge risk factor for SIBO because as I was telling about how the digestion occurs, if food's sitting in the small intestine for longer, think about what happens to food when you leave it out. It's going to ferment and grow bacteria, so all that's happening in the small intestine if it's not moving through as fast as it should.
Dr. Emily Parke:                Then the last cause could be ... Actually, there's two. One could be anatomical as in if there has been surgery in the area that connects the small intestine to the large intestine, it's called the ileum, then that can allow bacteria to freely reflux back from the large intestine into the small intestine. If you have had a chronic infection of some kind or something as even an acute infection, if you've got a really bad gastroenteritis, sometimes that's enough to tip the scale and imbalance the bacteria that just can't get quite back on track. So those are the known causes for SIBO.
Jennifer McKee:               I want to point something out because I didn't find out about those in so probably like the last year or so, but I think part of my cause was stomach acid and taking PPI drugs. I used to take when I was at my heaviest, so 358, I got really bad heart burn and acid reflux mainly because I think being so heavy but also the types of foods I was eating were causing that. So I used to take Pepcid Max daily, sometimes twice a day to prevent and I was doing that almost every day for handful of months.
Jennifer McKee:               What I think is interesting about that is a lot of traditional medicine doctors because I did go to my doctor and say that I had acid reflux and they wanted to put me on Nexium which I actually had a bad reaction to so that's why I stuck with Pepcid Max. But anyway, when you tell them that they do try to treat the symptoms but what I found out just not too long ago is that those drugs do the opposite of what you need which the reason that I was getting acid reflux and heartburn is because I actually had low stomach acid, and so those PPI drugs make your stomach acid even lower which alleviates the symptoms but it doesn't treat the root cause.
Jennifer McKee:               So really, one thing you can do ... I mean I'm not a doctor but what I did was I started taking betaine HCL with Pepcid to help get that stomach acid, like more stomach acid and that has really, I think, helped me a lot. I wish I would've known that a few years ago and I would've taken that instead of taking Pepcid. I didn't realize all the problems that PPI drugs can cause.
Dr. Emily Parke:                Right. Ironically, not enough stomach acid is actually a stimulus for that sphincter, the muscle between the esophagus and stomach to open up. Then so whatever you do have in your stomach is more likely to reflux up. That's a very common cause of acid reflux, and so are food sensitivities. That's pretty much missing in traditional medicine. They might say, "Oh, just avoid eating very large meals and avoid spicy things."
Jennifer McKee:               Oh, that's exactly what they told me.
Dr. Emily Parke:                Right? I know, yeah. But really, the top two food categories that cause problems for acid reflux are the grain family and the sugar family. So it's infinite, actually, the number of possibilities of food sensitivities is creating acid reflux. But those are the top two things, yeah.
Jennifer McKee:               I'm getting sidetracked here but we talk about low stomach acid. I just wanted to ask you, we're talking about some of the causes of low stomach acid and I was wanting to ask you if poor eating habits, could that also be a cause of low stomach acid or is that not a cause?
Dr. Emily Parke:                It can be secondarily especially if the poor eating causes inflammation and then that kind of chronic inflammation can certainly cause the cells to not to make as much stomach acid, the proton ones to not [inaudible 00:14:57] as much acid as they need to.
Jennifer McKee:               Okay, thank you. I was curious about that. So now, again, Pandora's box, how do you treat SIBO and what is the expected recovery time? One thing I'll say quickly is that I didn't know much about SIBO when I was diagnosed by you with SIBO and a lot of times, we hope that it's a quick fix like, "Oh, I just take a pill and everything will be better." Unfortunately, it's not like that with SIBO. So now, I hand it over to you for you to talk about how to treat it.
Dr. Emily Parke:                So I think it's really important to you to get an accurate diagnosis of SIBO. The only tried and true way to test for it is what's called a breath test. It's an easy test to do but it's kind of a pain in the butt, right Jen, because it's long. It's three hours of breathing into these little tubes after you drink this lactulose sugar solution. Basically, what the test is doing is it's collecting two gasses, it's collecting hydrogen gas and methane gas. Remember how I said there's two types of SIBO, there's diarrhea dominant and constipation dominant. Typically, if hydrogen-producing bacteria are overgrown, you're more likely to have diarrhea symptoms and if methane-producing bacteria are overgrown, you're more likely to have constipation symptoms.
Dr. Emily Parke:                Now, I can tell you from clinical practice, it doesn't always turn out exactly perfect like that but typically. So the breath test is looking at levels of hydrogen and methane, how high they are and how fast they rise. That will give me an indication as to is it hydrogen or methane dominant and how bad is it, and that gives us the best estimate to start doing a treatment plan. Now I will say the SIBO breath test, it's more likely to have a false positive than it is a false negative, meaning if your test is negative, you can be pretty sure it's negative. If anything, it may lead toward a false positive side, meaning it's more likely to have a positive test if you don't have SIBO.
Dr. Emily Parke:                But now, with the way the tests are interpreted, it's pretty easy to rule that out and it's also pretty easy to follow the prep guidelines really well which decreases the false positives tremendously. You can attest to having a pretty boring, bland diet the day before.
Jennifer McKee:               I hate that diet but it makes me appreciate my normal diet more but it is just one day, thankfully. I just tell myself you can make it but yeah, you're very specific. I can only eat and drink certain things very bland like you're saying and also certain supplements you can't take a few days before and probiotics, I think possibly magnesium. I forget what the other one is. Yeah, I have to follow all of that.
Jennifer McKee:               Just to be clear for people who don't know about a breath test, you can go into some doctor's offices and do a breath test but there's also an at-home breath test which is what I do. Unfortunately, a lot of insurance companies don't cover that or it's considered out of network but for me, I just decided that's easier. It really doesn't cost too much and the cost does get applied usually to out of network or part of the cost gets applied to out of network. But I know a lot of people have talked about that but sorry, go ahead.
Dr. Emily Parke:                No, I was going to say the tests are typically less than $200 to do a home test and you can, like you mentioned, you can do them at some GI doctor's offices. Depending on how they do it, what I found is that some GI doctors won't look at hydrogen and methane. They'll only look at hydrogen or they don't use lactulose as the substrate. They may just use glucose which will get the first part of the small intestine basically but doesn't look at the whole intestine. So there's all kinds of caveats when it comes to SIBO breath testing. But that right now is the only way to really test for SIBO.
Dr. Emily Parke:                Then once you get the test results, then like I was mentioning, it can give me an idea of how long to treat and how significant the disease is. But with treatment, it's always a guess. It's an educated guess but it's always a guess and that's one of the most frustrating things. Right, Jen?
Jennifer McKee:               Yeah.
Dr. Emily Parke:                On the doctor's side and on the patient's side, it's because there's no way to do a culture of the small intestine that's accurate. They've tried. They actually did some studies with GI docs putting scopes down because really with the scope, you can only get to the first couple inches of the small intestine from above and the last couple inches from below, from the colon. So all of that several feet of small intestine is uncharted territory. So we really don't know what bacteria are in there and there's no good way to biopsy or to take a culture of it.
Dr. Emily Parke:                It really is a guess as far as treatment because if you had an infection on your arm, we could take a swab and go, "Oh, hey. Slap it down in the culture plate and look, it's staph bacteria and it's sensitive to a penicillin drug." That doesn't exist with SIBO so our best guess is looking at whether it's hydrogen or methane dominant and there are multiple different treatment protocols to tackle SIBO and I guess there's really three main categories for us to talk about.
Dr. Emily Parke:                There's the traditional antibiotics which is typically consists of something called rifaximin and it's an antibiotic but it doesn't get absorbed in the rest of the body. So it really only works in the GI tract and that's what traditional GI docs will do for people that have SIBO that they diagnose with SIBO is a two-week course of, excuse me, what's called rifaximin. Sometimes this is covered by insurance and sometimes it's not and cash pay, it's usually thousands of dollars. If you just do that and nothing else, your good cure rate is about 50%. So it's not great. So I pretty much will never do just rifaximin by itself. But traditional treatment, if you do two weeks of rifaximin, what I would do is I add a second antibiotic and depending on whether you're hydrogen or methane dominant, and then on top of that, there's at least three supplements that I will add that will get the cure rate up higher. So that's the shortest treatment protocol.
Dr. Emily Parke:                Then there's a complete herbal antimicrobial protocol, meaning taking a combination of supplements and herbs that are well studied to help decrease SIBO and it's a lot longer of a treatment course. The shortest course would be four weeks but usually, it's more like eight to twelve weeks depending on how high the hydrogen or methane levels are. So that's an undertaking. So now you talk about a month, two months, three months of treatment. But certain protocols have counted up to an 87% cure rate. So that's a heck of a lot better than 50%.
Jennifer McKee:               That's just what I was going to say, that the success rate is a lot higher with the herbal treatment for sure.
Dr. Emily Parke:                Yeah, exactly. Then the third treatment option for SIBO is something called an elemental diet which-
Jennifer McKee:               My favorite.
Dr. Emily Parke:                I hate the name because when you say diet, it implies that there's food involved, right?
Jennifer McKee:               Yeah.
Dr. Emily Parke:                But there is not. It's amazing medical protein shakes that are specifically formulated so no, you cannot do this with like just any protein powder. It's specifically formulated to help with SIBO and actually with inflammatory bowel disease. So if there's someone listening that has Crohn's or ulcerative colitis, sometimes the elemental diet will be used to help with those flares, too.
Dr. Emily Parke:                So you basically eat all of your calories for the day with nothing but those shakes. It usually is pretty effective at helping to either cure or reduce, significantly reduce SIBO. That is done for anywhere from seven to fourteen days on average. I had one patient that actually did a whole 28 days and I've had cures in as short as people tapping out at three days and okay, let's retest and find out how we did.
Dr. Emily Parke:                But those are the basic three treatment options. You've got the rifaximin and or other antibiotics which I always will mix with a partial herbal protocol. We've got 100% herbal protocol for anywhere from one to three months. Then we've got an elemental diet which is anywhere from seven to fourteen days to make any kind of impact. Those are the three mainstays of SIBO treatment.
Jennifer McKee:               What I would tell people, to anybody who's watching this who has SIBO who maybe has been treating their SIBO for a while, is not to give up. I'm partially talking to myself here too because I have seen improvements. It's slow but my symptoms are so much better now than they were a year ago, so much better. So even though I still have it a little bit, it's much better and I do think it is continuously getting better. It's just taking some time so I'm trying to be patient, follow the protocol. I know too that when I did take ... How do you say?
Dr. Emily Parke:                Rifaximin, yeah.
Jennifer McKee:               Rifaximin, when I took rifaximin and I think Flagyl, maybe, with some herbal, what am I looking or, herbal treatment as well with that, yeah supplements. When I did that, I actually felt really, really good while I was taking that but then probably about a week or two later, then I started noticing symptoms again. So if anybody's watching that who's experienced that, I think it's really common for people to experience that with the prescription antibiotic where they'll be better on it but then as soon as they're off maybe a month, a couple of weeks, a month or whatever, they'll start getting symptoms again. Do you find that that's the case sometimes with your patients?
Dr. Emily Parke:                Yes. So it varies so much. Some people get really lucky and after they do two weeks of a combination therapy, their test is better and they feel better. But it is more common to have some ups and downs, and that's after SIBO treatment. No matter which one we choose to treat, you definitely need to do the low FODMAP diet for 60 days after. So after you're done killing off the SIBO, the overgrown bacteria, now you want to have nutrition that's going to starve them out. So those are the FODMAPs. It stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Monosaccharides, Disaccharides, and Polyols. It's a mouthful. Those are the things that grow bacteria.
Dr. Emily Parke:                They also grow your healthy bacteria because I'll have some people ask too, "Well, I feel great on the low FODMAP diet. Can I stay on it forever?" Well, you don't want to because you want to eventually be able to foster your good healthy microbiome that's supposed to be in your large intestine. So we do want to do low FODMAP for about 60 days after you're done treating SIBO to make sure that you give yourself the best chance of not having [crosstalk 00:26:04]. Then you want to slowly add one FODMAP back in at a time to figure out what things you can tolerate because we're all going to have some things that aren't going to go well with that.
Dr. Emily Parke:                But long term for a good, healthy gut microbiome, you are going to want FODMAPs back in the diet. You want to make sure that you treated the root cause of whatever got you to SIBO in the first place so obviously, if someone's on acid-blocking medications, the first step is to get them off because there's no point in treating it until they're [crosstalk 00:26:35]. Avoiding multiple courses of antibiotics if at all possible, making sure you are having a daily bowel movement. If you don't treat the constipation and motility doesn't improve, your chances are high of getting SIBO back.
Jennifer McKee:               I just want to question about transitioning to a low FODMAP diet. Should you be doing that if the SIBO test comes back negative or just right after the herbal treatment?
Dr. Emily Parke:                So there's two camps on that and the latest research shows that you should not go low FODMAP during treatment because you actually want to be feeding the bacteria a little bit while you're giving the antibiotics or the antimicrobials, while you're trying to kill them. You want them out and about so that they can be seen and killed. Then after is the time to do low FODMAP.
Jennifer McKee:               So let's say you do herbal treatment for however many weeks and you're feeling better and then you should go directly to low FODMAP. What if you get a SIBO test and it shows that you're still positive so then you just go back to treating the SIBO again and go off the loop. It's like a cycle sort of [crosstalk 00:27:50].
Dr. Emily Parke:                While you're waiting for test results, you want [crosstalk 00:27:54]-
Jennifer McKee:               Do a low FODMAP.
Dr. Emily Parke:                Right, you want to go a little FODMAP because you assume you either cured or at least made a big dent in it and great, so if that's the case, then you don't want to continue to feed the bacteria. If you did cure it, then great. You are going stay low FODMAP for a total of 60 days anyway and you want to just get that started. If you have made a good dent in treatment but need to do a second round of treatment or a third round of treatment depending on where you're at, then as soon as the results come back, then okay, now go back to your good, healthy, nutritional Paleo or whatever you're doing for nutrition plan while you're doing treatment and then you'll do your full 60 days after.
Jennifer McKee:               Okay, got it. So the last question is because I'm in a few Facebook groups, and I can't believe how many people have SIBO. One of the groups has over 25,000 people. So one of the biggest questions that I see in there which was one of the reason I'm, and I have this questions is why don't many doctors know what SIBO? I see a lot of people posting saying that their doctor is telling them that they're not going to be able to ever feel better or being diagnosed with IBS or something like that.
Dr. Emily Parke:                Yeah, exactly. So GI doctors, gastroenterologists, they do know about SIBO but pretty much like your regular primary care doctor, I don't remember a word about it in medical school or any rotation that I was ever on. It's just not taught in traditional medicine. It's one of those GI specialty things. Then there's even some GI docs that'll say, "I think you might have SIBO," and they'll just give their patients a rifaximin prescription and walk out the door and hope they get better and if not, they might try something else.
Dr. Emily Parke:                But the whole approach, a functional medicine approach is very comprehensive. If you say the word functional medicine to most primary care doctors, they don't even know what it is. They didn't know since 2014, there's been a huge Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine that's wildly successful and has over a 2,000 patient waitlist. Dr. Mark Hyman is the captain of the ship over there at the Cleveland Clinic and he's the chairman of the Institute for Functional Medicine.
Jennifer McKee:               One of my favorite people, Dr. Mark Hyman.
Dr. Emily Parke:                It's just an awareness thing and as more people, I think, seek out alternative healthcare options because they're not getting better with traditional doctors or they don't want to take medication or they don't want to have a procedure, they really want to take control of their health, functional medicine is just going to continue to grow.
Jennifer McKee:               I want to say I guess it's not fair to expect just a primary care doctor to know everything because this is something a bit more specific, so you might need to go see a specialist or something. I prefer functional medicine, what I mean is on the traditional side, it would probably be a specialist who would know. But that's what's great about functional medicine doctors. I feel like they know a lot about a lot of different stuff that it doesn't feel to be the same with a lot of primary care physicians.
Dr. Emily Parke:                Yeah. I've had all the traditional training and then I got training for functional medicine and because functional medicine is so cutting edge, we really do keep up with all of the current research because it takes on average 15 to 20 years from the times research proves something is effective till it gets into traditional medicine the standard of care. So we are just ahead of the curve where I'm like ... For instance, I've gone to four conferences already this year, four.
Jennifer McKee:               Wow. Amazing.
Dr. Emily Parke:                More to come. We always have to keep up with webinars and podcast and reading. It's a very cutting edge, exciting field of medicine that's always emerging and changing. It's very different than traditional medicine and certainly it is a specialty on its own. So not every functional medicine doctor knows everything about every single specialty but there are common things that people come to see you for like SIBO is one of them. GI complaints is huge because people will get placed in this IBS box and no further workup will be done. They may be offered some traditional medications whether it's SIBO, for whether it's IBS.
Jennifer McKee:               Maybe.
Dr. Emily Parke:                Oh, my gosh. The list is endless, there could be yeast overgrowth, it could be food sensitivities, on and on. Then autoimmune disease is another huge category that functional medicine does great with helping, with reversing really. If you can catch autoimmune disease early enough, you can reverse it and change the course of someone's life. They don't have to get a chronic disease. So it's really rewarding and important work and I love it.
Jennifer McKee:               Yeah. We'll have to do an interview at some point on autoimmune disease because I have Hashimoto's. Well yeah, we'll have to do another interview on that at some point.
Dr. Emily Parke:                Of course, yeah.
Jennifer McKee:               So for people who are watching, if you think that you have SIBO or if you just want to get tested for SIBO, I highly recommend you see a functional medicine doctor. If you're in the Phoenix area, definitely check out Dr. Emily Parke. So why don't you tell us how people can contact you.
Dr. Emily Parke:                Sure. So the first thing is you can go to the website. It's Dremilyparke.com, so D-R-E-M-I-L-Y-P-A-R-K-E.com. There's lots of great information on the website, all of our contact information, office phone number. I've got lots of great blogs, videos, recipes are all on the website. If you're not in the Phoenix area, you can actually go to IFM.org. It stands for Institute for Functional Medicine.org and they actually have a certified practitioner search so you can search for a certified functional medicine practitioner like myself in your area.
Jennifer McKee:               I'm so glad you said that because that's exactly how I found you. So yeah, I'm glad you said that. That's great. Okay, great. Then if you are interested in health coaching, you want to learn more about great, healthy habits, you can go to my website which is mckeehealth.com. But thank you so much Dr. Parke. I so very much appreciate this and I appreciate your time and thank you so much.

The information provided in this blog is for general educational purposes, has not been reviewed nor approved by the FDA and is not intended to take the place of advice from your medical professional, licensed dietitian or nutritionist.

You are solely responsible for your health care and activity choices. Participation in this blog does not constitute a client-coach relationship.


  1. Kristin Tulip September 25, 2021 at 5:55 am

    You mistakenly say Pepcid is a PPI. It is not.

    1. Jennifer McKee Jennifer McKee September 25, 2021 at 6:40 am

      Hi Kristin,

      Thank you so much for watching/reading this interview and for pointing this out. You are correct.

      The main point we were making is that PPI’s and drugs like Pepcid (H2-blockers) decrease the stomach acid when in fact the issue is that we don’t have ENOUGH stomach acid which can lead to GI issues (and other issues) over time.

      Thanks again for pointing this out so I could clarify!

  2. Kristin Tulip September 27, 2021 at 6:35 am

    Thank you so much for clarifying. I had been told that current H2 receptor antagonists didn’t trigger significant bacterial overgrowth because they do not suppress acid as completely as proton pump inhibitors. I just wanted to make sure drugs like Pepcid weren’t lumped in with the PPIs. Thanks again.

Leave A Comment