SIBO stands for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth and is the most common cause of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It occurs when bacteria normally present in the large intestine is found in large amounts in the small intestines. It’s the location of the bacteria that is problematic rather than the bacteria itself. The small intestines should only be home to very small numbers of bacteria but the large intestines need the large numbers to help complete digestion. The small intestine should only have 100,000 bacteria per ¼ teaspoon of content whereas the large intestine has as many as 20 billion bacteria per ¼ teaspoon of content.
What’s the problem with these bacteria being in the small intestine?
The bacteria will fight for all carbohydrate and sugar sources to feed themselves. They rob us of our food and nutrients and cause it to ferment. This fermentation produces the hydrogen and/or methane gas. Humans don’t produce these gases, they are only produced by the bacteria. These excess gases cause the bloating, burping, flatulence and pain. The type of gas produced can also mean your symptoms tend more to constipation or to diarrhoea.
Both hydrogen and methane also cause damage to the microvilli that line our intestines. This causes leaky gut or increased intestinal permeability. Your gut when working properly acts as a filter, letting the nutrients in while keeping the toxins out. When the gut becomes ‘leaky’ it allows toxins and larger, undigested food particles to get through. This can cause symptoms like joint pain, headaches or skin breakouts depending on your individual areas of susceptibility.
The small intestine can also have its motility damaged by SIBO. The cleansing wave or migrating motor complex (MMC) is a muscular contraction that moves content along at regular intervals throughout the day and is affected by SIBO and no longer works properly. This MMC is also impaired by stress and eating too often.
The symptoms of SIBO are:
Bloating and abdominal distention
Excess gas (flatulence and/or burping)
Cramping, pain or discomfort of the abdomen
Constipation and diarrhoea (or alternating)
Fibre causes symptoms to worsen
SIBO sufferers may also suffer at least one of these symptoms:
GERD / acid reflux
Headaches / migraines
Malabsorption of nutrients
Food intolerances / food sensitivities
Depression or mood issues
Skin issues (eczema, breakouts, rosacea)
Brain fog / concentration issues
Autoimmune conditions (Coeliac disease, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis)
IBD (Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis)
From this list you’ll see that the symptoms affect more than just our digestive system, they can affect just about any organ. If you have SIBO you’ll notice a worsening of symptoms when you eat sugary and starchy foods like bread, pasta, potatoes etc. The longer SIBO has been present the more likely you are to become intolerant to more and more foods for example gluten containing foods, dairy and fructose in fruit.
What causes SIBO?
A single cause of SIBO hasn’t been identified, but there are some known triggers and contributing factors. For many it’s a combination of factors. These are:
- A bout of gastroenteritis often occurred around the time the symptoms start
- Certain medications such as antibiotics, the pill and antacids can be contributing factors
- Chronic stress which lowers stomach acid and interferes with migrating motor complex (MMC)
- Surgery such as appendicitis, hysterectomy or any surgery in the abdominal area
- Digestive disorders such as coeliac disease, ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease
- Conditions such as hypothyroidism and diabetes or poor blood sugar management
- A typical diet high in processed foods, refined flours, alcohol and excess sugar
- Glyphosate, a commonly used herbicide, acts like a low dose antibiotic, so antibiotic exposure in food is relevant
- Hiatal hernia & poor stomach function
- Poor methylation and gallbladder function
- Ileocecal valve dysfunction
SIBO Testing - the best way to discover if you have SIBO
There is a simple, non-invasive test now available to identify if you have SIBO. It’s a breath test that measures the hydrogen and methane output in a single breath. These samples are taken every 20 minutes for 3 hours and the results will tell us if you have SIBO and approximately where in the small intestines it’s present. This test is conducted in your own home after a one day preparation diet. See my SIBO Testing page for more information.
I get great results with my 4 step process to healing SIBO.
Step 1 - Stop putting fuel on the fire and remove dietary triggers
Step 2 - Use the correct antimicrobial herbs to treat your SIBO (specific to your results)
Step 3 - Heal up leaky gut, reduce inflammation and reintroduce foods
Step 4 - Rebalance your microbiome and reduce risk factors for reinfection
See my SIBO Treatment page for more information.
If you’d like to find out more about testing and treatment options for SIBO and IBS or digestive symptoms then please book in for a free nutrition strategy session so I can go over your options.
Or simply call me on my mobile - 0423 761 247 and I'll call you back as soon as I'm free.