What Is SIBO?
SIBO stands for “small intestinal bacterial overgrowth” and is defined as excessive bacteria in the small intestine. In a healthy gut, most bacteria naturally occurs in the large intestine, and there should be relatively low levels of bacteria in the small intestine.
The small intestine is the longest section of the digestive tract, and this is the place where the food intermingles with digestive juices and where the nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream. If SIBO is present, malabsorption of nutrients can quickly become a problem.
When in proper balance, the bacteria in the colon helps digest foods, and the body absorbs the essential nutrients that it needs. However, when bacteria invades and overgrows in the small intestine, it can lead to poor nutrient absorption, displaying the symptoms commonly associated with IBS.
When not properly balanced, such as in SIBO, the bacterial overgrowth interferes with the healthy digestive and absorption process as food passes through the small intestine. The bacteria actually consumes some of the foods and nutrients, leading to unpleasant symptoms, including gas, bloating and pain.
This is a chronic condition that can be cured, but it takes patience, perseverance and a change in diet. SIBO treatment includes a healing diet, even if antibiotics are used. Relapse rates are high though if not treated properly with diet.
Symptoms of SIBO
The indications of SIBO mirror the symptoms of other gastrointestinal disorders, including IBS. Common symptoms of SIBO and IBS include:
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss
- Joint pain
- Brain fog
Causes and Risk Factors of SIBO
There are a number of underlying conditions believed to contribute to small intestine bacterial overgrowth, including:
- Chronic pancreatitis
- Small intestine structural defects
- Intestinal lymphoma
- Use of immunosuppressant medications
- Use of PPIs, H2 blockers, and other antacids Immune system disorders
- Recent abdominal surgery
- Celiac disease
- Blind loop syndrome
- Metabolic disorders
- Food poisoning
Complications Associated with SIBO
SIBO, left untreated, can cause potentially serious health complications. It’s vital to get rid of the bacterial overgrowth as soon as possible.
Bacteria overgrowth in the small intestine can lead to malnutrition, one of the biggest concerns with SIBO. Essential nutrients, protein, carbohydrates and fats aren’t properly absorbed, causing deficiencies, including calcium deficiency, iron deficiency, vitamin B12 deficiency, and deficiencies in fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, and K). These deficiencies can lead to symptoms, including weakness, fatigue, confusion and damage to the central nervous symptom.
Treatment of SIBO
There are 3 main forms of treatment available: antibiotics, herbal antibiotics, and the Elemental Diet. (part 2 in this series will discuss treatments in further detail)