Have you been bloated and gassy lately? No matter what you eat you feel like your stomach swells like a balloon few hours after you have eaten?
Pay attention: you might suffer from a condition called SIBO – small intestine bacterial overgrowth.
Bacterial overgrowth of the small intestine, otherwise known as small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), is a digestive disorder that causes chronic bowel problems and intolerance to carbohydrates. Its main symptoms include excess gas, abdominal bloating, diarrhea and/or constipation, and abdominal pain shortly after a meal.
Both the small intestines and colon naturally house bacteria, creating a balance within your digestive system. The types and amount of bacteria that reside in the small intestine and colon are very different. The colon contains roughly 100,000 times more bacteria than the small intestines. SIBO occurs when the bacteria from colon migrate to the small intestine and because there is a lot of not fully digested food in small intestine, the bacteria multiply and overgrow uncontrollably.
Since the main purpose of the small intestine is to digest and absorb food, any disruption in its role affects the absorption and utilization of nutrients into the body. Thus, if SIBO is left untreated for too long – various nutritional deficiencies may occur. It can manifest as anemia, various vitamins deficiencies (vitamin D and B), calcium malabsorption causing weakening of the bones, etc.
SIBO is often overlooked as a cause of these digestive symptoms because it so closely resembles other disorders. In fact, SIBO is theorized to be the underlying cause of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), since up to 84% of IBS patients have tested positive for SIBO. SIBO is associated with many other disorders as well, either as an underlying cause or as an aftereffect of the pre-existing condition. This includes parasites, pancreatic problems, and Crohn’s.
The two major factors contributing to the development of SIBO include insufficient gastric acid secretion and lack of intestinal motility (movement of intestinal content through the lumen). Since both of these mechanisms naturally decline with age, those over 70 years old are especially susceptible. Anything that slows down motility can contribute to overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine because there is no outlet for the waste.
Gastric acids (a hydrochloric acid of the stomach) is another important factor. It helps to break down food and activate digestive enzymes. Without the production of hydrochloric acid or pancreatic enzymes, we can’t digest and sterilize food sufficiently. To help with gastric acid secretion, supplementation with betaine hydrochloride during meals is recommended. People who chronically taking gastric acid suppressing medications are at higher risk to develop SIBO.
If you think you may be suffering from SIBO, please call our office for evaluation. Together we can determine if your condition warrants further assessment. Depending on your particular condition there are several options for treatment: specific diet, probiotics, and natural or pharmaceutical antimicrobials. The longer SIBO is left untreated, the more damage can be done to your body. Although a serious condition, it is treatable once properly diagnosed.