Despite its name, the small intestine is actually a whopping 20 feet long and plays a big role in our health. Working alongside your stomach and large intestine, the small intestine has the important job of digesting food and absorbing nutrients. As if that wasn’t significant enough, our little intestinal friend is also a key contributor to a healthy immune system.
The small intestine is host to specific beneficial microorganisms that help protect our bodies against bad (pathogenic) bacteria and yeast. These good bacteria also do their part to produce vitamins and nutrients like vitamin K and folate. They are the keepers of the small intestine, ensuring that it continues to do its thing, muscling waves of food through the gut.
What is SIBO?
Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, well known as SIBO, occurs when there is an increase of bacteria and/or a change in the type of bacteria present in the small intestine. Most often, SIBO is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria that actually belong in the colon (the large intestine).
In other words, SIBO is like a bad tenant. He invites all his rowdy friends in for a party and they damage the walls of the apartment (in this case the cell lining of the small bowel). This can lead to a leaky gut, allowing large protein molecules to move through the intestinal barrier and escape into the bloodstream. As you can imagine, this causes a number of problems, including general inflammation, immune reactions that cause food allergies and intolerances, as well as autoimmune diseases. These little reckless bacterias are also responsible for poor digestion and diarrhea. In most severe cases, they can also be the cause of unintended weight loss, osteoporosis as well as nutritional deficiencies, particularly in iron, vitamin B12, and fat-soluble vitamins.
How do you know if you have SIBO?
SIBO is often an undiagnosed condition as many people do not seek medical care for their symptoms but here are a few common symptoms:
- Bloating and abdominal swelling
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Gas and belching
- Weakness and fatigue
- Weight loss
- Vitamin deficiency-related symptoms.
Are you at risk for SIBO?
While the elderly may be the most vulnerable to developing SIBO as its prevalence rises with age, there are multiple other risk factors that can increase your chances, no matter how old you are. These include:
- Medication, especially antibiotics
- Gastric acid suppression or Low Stomach Acid
- Celiac disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Prior bowel surgery
- Diabetes Types I & II
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Organ system dysfunction
Studies also indicate that moderate alcohol consumption — that’s one drink a day for the ladies and two for men — not only promotes the overgrowth of certain types of bacteria, but it can also impair vital functions resulting in small bowel injury and decreased muscle contractions.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above or think you might be at risk, then we encourage you to make an appointment to assess your symptoms and get tested. Specialized testing can be accomplished through a breath test that measures your hydrogen and methane gas levels produced by the bacterial metabolism and can be a very helpful indicator to determine if you are suffering from SIBO.
How can you treat SIBO?
Despite multiple courses of antibiotics being a risk factor, antibiotics are still most often used to treat SIBO. However, studies show that SIBO returns in nearly half of all patients within only a year!
Successful treatment of SIBO must be handled just like any other health condition – not with a temporary Band-aid solution, but by addressing the underlying cause! Intestinal bacteria can be influenced by numerous factors beyond what we eat and how much.
Environmental effects, drugs, alcohol, and lifestyle factors such as stress can all be contributing factors to poor gut health. Therefore, the treatment must be unique to the individual.
Once you have identified the cause, SIBO symptoms should be treated through a healthy diet, nutritional supplements and positive lifestyle changes that help return the body to balance.
Tips for dealing with SIBO
- Eat three meals a day 4-5 hour apart and avoid snacking. We need to give our body time in between meals to improve our intestinal motility. More often than not, motility becomes an issue with people suffering from SIBO.
- With guidance from your holistic practitioner try an elimination diet for two weeks to get your body back on track by reducing inflammation and bacteria overgrowth.
- Enjoy foods that assist digestive health like fresh pineapple which is rich in bromelain and can also help lower inflammation, and bananas which are an excellent source of potassium and manganese that your stomach lining needs for healing.
Do any of the above symptoms or risk factors sound familiar? Do you think you might be suffering from SIBO? We can help! Please contact our clinic, and we’ll get to the bottom of what’s going on and create a plan of action to bring your body back to good health.
Call or email us at 613-656-9629; firstname.lastname@example.org
All in good health,
Your team at Somerset Health and Wellness Centre