Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth
By: Amanda Capasso | October 20, 2018 | Digestive Health, Lab Testing, Nutrition
Are you one of those people who experiences abdominal bloating no matter what you eat? Have you tried cutting out wheat and dairy with no relief from abdominal discomfort? Have you been diagnosed with IBS but haven’t noticed an improvement with probiotics? If any of this sounds like you, you could be living with a condition called small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). SIBO is exactly what the name implies- an overgrowth of bacteria in your small intestine that should not be there.
The small intestine is responsible for 90% of the digestion and absorption of what you eat. It has its own distinct bacteria and a much lower amount than the intestinal flora found in the large intestine. By the time your food makes it to the large intestine (after going through over 20 feet of small intestine) it has been over 90% digested and absorbed and there isn’t much left for those bacteria to feed on. In SIBO, you have a large amount of bacteria right at the beginning of your digestive tract. This means they are exposed to all the food you eat, before its been digested and absorbed and they are able to consume it. When these bacteria eat carbohydrates, they in turn produce a gaseous waste.
This excess production of gas causes bloating, abdominal discomfort, constipation, diarrhea as well as a chain reaction of inflammation. Many SIBO patients often experience low mood, brain fog, low energy, joint pain, etc. from this inflammatory process. These symptoms are very similar to the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and studies have shown that many IBS patients actually have SIBO . Probiotics don’t improve SIBO symptoms and can even make them worse since there are already too many bacteria in the small intestine.
The gold standard of testing for SIBO is through a hydrogen/methane breath test to determine the number of bacteria in the small intestine. If you receive a confirmed SIBO diagnosis the treatment involves stopping probiotics and a round of antimicrobials to eliminate the overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine. A naturopathic doctor can order a SIBO breath test as well as treat SIBO patients with herbal antimicrobials. We also provide care to prevent future occurrences of SIBO.
1) Ghoshal U., Shukla R. Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth and Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Bridge between Functional Organic Dichotomy. Gut Liver. Mar 2017; 11 (2): 196-208.