SIBO, or Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, is a medical condition that impacts the small intestine. This condition occurs when either the bacteria within the small intestine overgrows or bacteria typically found in the large intestine migrates to the small intestine. A person with SIBO can experience anywhere from mild to severe digestive complaints.
What Causes SIBO?
Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth is often rooted in poor digestion as food does not move through the digestive tract the way it should. This slow down in digestion causes bacteria to grow out of control, resulting in a bacterial imbalance. Several factors can increase the risk of developing SIBO, including:
- Age – As a person ages, the risk of bacterial overgrowth within the small intestine increases.
- Alcohol – Consuming too much alcohol can increase the risk of developing SIBO.
- Anatomy – An unusually shaped small intestine increases the risk of developing SIBO. Causes for an unusual shaped small intestine include a blockage in the gastrointestinal tract, gastric bypass surgery, scar tissue from surgery or radiation, diverticulosis, a fistula in the intestines, or injury to the GI tract.
- Low Levels of Stomach Acid – With low stomach acid, protein digestion becomes compromised and partially undigested foods enter the small intestine leading to improper microbial balance.
- Medical Conditions – Certain medical conditions increase the risk of developing SIBO. These conditions prevent the digestive system from working properly and include inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis), a weakened immune system, diabetes, connective tissue disorder (scleroderma), or lupus.
- Medications – Certain medications including narcotics, antibiotics, medicines used to treat irritable bowel syndrome, and proton pump inhibitors can lead to SIBO.
- Sex – Females are at an increased risk of having SIBO.
Symptoms of Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth
SIBO can cause a wide variety of digestive disturbances. As bacteria proliferate, a person may experience the following symptoms:
- Abdominal Pain – Abdominal pain immediately following a meal is a common symptom of SIBO. Gases like methane and hydrogen build up in the bowel during the process of digestion.
- Bloating – Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth causes bloating and abdominal distention as partially digested foods enter the small intestine and feed the bacteria growing inside.
- Brain Fog – A poor functioning digestive tract impacts cognition. Most of the neurotransmitter, serotonin, is produced in the GI tract. When the tract is unhealthy, serotonin production can decline, resulting in brain fog, memory loss, etc.
- Constipation and/or Diarrhea – When bacteria proliferate in the small intestine, hydrogen (H2) and methane (C4) gases build in the small intestinal tract. Hydrogen has been associated with diarrhea and methane has been associated with constipation.
- Excess Gas – Excess gas, flatulence, heartburn, indigestion, and belching are symptoms of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.
- Fatigue – SIBO overgrowth prevents the digestive system from functioning properly. When the digestive tract does not function properly the body cannot absorb proper nutrients leading to fatigue.
- Food Sensitivities – SIBO causes inflammation throughout the digestive tract. SIBO damages the walls of the small intestine, allowing partially digested food particles to enter the bloodstream. When this occurs, a variety of food sensitivities and food intolerances can occur.
- Loss of Appetite – With SIBO, one may experience loss of appetite or feel unusually full after eating. Nausea from SIBO can make a person not want to eat.
- Malnutrition – The majority of nutrient absorption occurs in the small intestine. When the intestinal tract is overrun with bad bacteria, the small intestine cannot properly absorb vitamins and minerals, resulting in malnutrition.
- Weakness – Nutritional deficiencies and reduced food consumption can cause weakness.
- Weight Loss – Many SIBO sufferers experience weight loss. There are several reasons why weight loss can occur, including malnutrition and loss of appetite.
Holistic Approach to SIBO Treatment
SIBO causes a plethora of unpleasant symptoms. Our digestive health experts understand how imbalances can cause a cascade effect throughout every system, organ, tissue, and cell in the body. Our team will work with you to create a health program designed for your unique health. We will address nutritional deficiencies by creating a fully customized diet plan designed to help heal your body from the inside out. We may also recommend nutritional supplements, including probiotics, vitamins, minerals, and natural remedies to support your body as it rebalances and restores your gut health and overall wellness.