Do you suffer from gas and bloating? Loose stool or constipation? Abdominal discomfort? Fatigue? You very well could be one of the many millions of Americans that suffer from an all-too-common condition known as small intestine bacterial over-growth—also known as SIBO (pronounced see-bow). This condition is the culprit behind a huge number of digestive disorders. In fact, SIBO is associated with:
• 78 percent of IBS cases
• 67 percent of celiac disease cases
• 88 percent of Crohn’s disease case
• 81 percent of ulcerative colitis cases
SIBO’s problems do not stop with digestive problems. It also rears its ugly head in up to 44 percent of diabetics. And it’s estimated that nearly 54 percent of those with hypothyroidism, up to 20 percent of those with fibromyalgia and up to 41 percent of people with e obesity have SIBO. SIBO is an often-overlooked cause of IBS as well as a variety of other digestive and systemic problems.
SIBO symptoms may include:
• bloating after meals
• diarrhea, constipation, or both
• bad breath and/or a fishy body odor; as well as nausea
• generalized abdominal discomfort (usually mild)
• general body discomfort including fatigue, joint and muscle pain, brain fog
What’s Happening in Your Guts
To understand SIBO anatomically remember that the small intestine is the section of your digestive tract that connects your stomach to the colon. It’s a critical area since it’s where our bodies absorb nutrients from the foods we eat.
As with the other areas of the digestive tract (including even the mouth) your small intestine contains bacteria—although less than you’ll find in the colon. Scientists and doctors refer to these healthy and expected bacteria as commensal or native bacteria. SIBO occurs when either these native bacteria or non-native bacteria overgrow in your small intestine, particularly in regions which usually have relatively low levels of bacteria. When this happens the fermentation of food leads to gas, bloating, and pain. Inflammation kicks in and your body becomes less effective eat absorbing needed nutrients from your food. Many SIBO sufferers experience fatigue, brain fog, muscle, and joint pain as a result.
A sluggish small intestine could be a SIBO sign. People develop small intestine bacterial overgrowth for a variety of reasons. When things are working correctly, the nerves and muscles in your digestive tract contract and re-ax rhythmically moving food along. Known as peristalsis, the process moves food through the stomach to the small intestine, then through the colon, and finally out the rectum.
There are also contractions that occur between meals approximately every1.5 to 2 hours. This regular function sweeps bacteria of the small intestine along too and prevents bacteria overgrowth. But when you have a sluggish small intestine, this process doesn’t work quite as well, and research has found that people who have these kinds of small intestine motility problems—as is the case with many with IBS—are at higher risk for SIBO. As I mentioned earlier, a huge percentage of IBS sufferers (up to 78percent) also have small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Some experts theorize that SIBO develops in so many people with IBS as the result of digestive tract infections. This may originally be a viral, parasitic, bacterial, or worm driven infection leading to the release of a toxin that damages the cells of the gut that are involved in muscle contraction. With the muscles in your small intestine unable to expand and contract effectively the stage would be set for bacteria to begin to overgrow.
Sluggish small intestines are not the only thing that can put you at a higher risk for SIBO. People who have shorter bowels as the result of surgery or who simply have bowels that don’t work well are at an increased risk. Also, if you have any of a number of diseases that can infect your intestinal muscles including Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes, chronic kidney disease, hypothyroidism or scleroderma your risk is higher. And certainly, people with digestive diseases including diverticulitis, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, malabsorption, and acid reflux are at higher risk. However, the biggest risk factor is either having been on repeated rounds of gut flora altering antibiotics or steroids. Or having had gut bug destroying chemotherapy or radiation treatments.
At the Stengler Center For Integrative Medicine we use state of the art breath testing to diagnose SIBO. There are three types of SIBO, and the advanced test we use tests for all three types. Most SIBO tests only measure two types of gases related to SIBO.
Part two of this article will focus on the holistic treatment of SIBO. It will be released shortly so look for in it your email or at www.americansnaturaldoctor.com
Dr. Mark Stengler NMD, MS, is a bestselling author in private practice in Encinitas, California, at the Stengler Center for Integrative Medicine. His newsletter, Dr. Stengler’s Health Breakthroughs, is available at www.americasnaturaldoctor.com. His clinic website is www.markstengler.com