SIBO is clinically described as excess bacteria in the small intestine. Typically, the small intestine maintains a relatively low level of bacteria. However, in the presence of SIBO, the region becomes overgrown, which inhibits the absorption of essential nutrients, proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. This is in part due to the fact that, when in excess, bacteria in the small intestine consume nutrients before the body is able to absorb them.

Here are 6 things to know about this condition:

What are the risk factors associated with SIBO?

  • Certain medications: Although it may seem counterintuitive, antibiotic use is a major contributor to SIBO. Antibiotics destroy harmful bacteria as well as bacterial agents that protect against imbalances and overgrowth. Researchers believe this action may be why many SIBO patients experience a more severe return of SIBO after being treated with antibiotics. Other medications including immunosuppressants and proton pump inhibitors can also increase the risk of SIBO.
  • Diet: Dietary imbalances are a common contributor to SIBO. A lack of probiotic food in a patient’s diet can mean they are regularly missing out on essential nutrients, making them more likely to experience a bacterial imbalance. Other dietary risk factors include consuming a high volume of sugar.
  • Age: As bodily functions slow down with age, so does the digestion process, increasing the likelihood that a bacterial overgrowth can occur.
  • Underlying conditions: As many conditions are associated with a bacterial imbalance and overgrowth in the gut, often such conditions are an underlying factor in developing SIBO. Some of the most common contributors or cohorts of SIBO include: dysmotility, chronic pancreatitis, diabetes, diverticulosis, fistula, intestinal lymphoma, rosacea, and scleroderma. In addition, one condition that is frequently seen in conjunction with SIBO is celiac disease. The condition, wherein proteins found in grain aggravate and damage the intestine, promotes inflammation, and limits gut motility, thereby contributing to the development of SIBO.

How does stress impact SIBO?

Chronic stress affects numerous physiological functions and the gut can be particularly impacted. Specifically, chronic stress can negatively impact multiple components of the gastrointestinal tract including gastric secretions, gut motility, mucosal permeability, and mucosal blood flow. In patients with SIBO, gut motility has become dysfunctional, and added stress further suppresses this function. Therefore, bacteria continues to build in the small intestine, worsening the patient’s SIBO.

What happens if SIBO is left untreated?

When SIBO goes untreated for an extended period of time, it can lead to nutrient deficiencies as the bacteria overgrowth limits the absorption of nutrients. This leads to the occurrence of symptoms such as severe weakness, fatigue, gastrointestinal issues, and even damage to the central nervous system.

Is there a SIBO diet?

As previously mentioned, avoiding food high in sugar and incorporating probiotic food into one’s diet is one way to decrease the risk of developing SIBO. However, if a patient already has SIBO, there are general dietary guidelines that will support their recovery. It is important to limit the intake of short-chain carbohydrates to prevent bacteria further bacteria growth. These foods include:

  • Wheat
  • Legumes
  • Onions
  • Asparagus
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Butter
  • Soft cheeses
  • Fruits
  • Honey
  • Mushrooms

What health complications are associated with SIBO?

Due to the interconnectivity of the body, a malfunctioning gut can cause numerous complications in other parts of the body including:

  • Leaky gut syndrome
  • Malnutrition
  • Dehydration
  • Joint pain
  • Constipation
  • In severe cases, hepatic encephalopathy (decrease in brain function)

How is SIBO diagnosed?

Often SIBO is diagnosed with a hydrogen (or methane) breath testing. Patients are asked to drink a sugar solution and then provide samples of their breath at various intervals. If hydrogen or methane is detected within 90 minutes, the patient is diagnosed with SIBO.

However, as there are some questions about the validity of this test, SIBO can be more accurately diagnosed through a sample culture taken from the small intestine via an endoscopy.

Seeking Treatment

SIBO is a common condition that can contribute to the development of many other gastrointestinal disorders. This cascade of dysfunction can only be resolved by correctly identifying and treating all underlying issues including bacteria imbalances. Individually crafted treatment protocols are the only way to effectively eliminate SIBO and restore gut health.

At Holtorf Medical Group our physicians are trained to utilize cutting-edge testing and innovative treatments to uncover and address SIBO. If you are experiencing chronic gastrointestinal disruption and suspect you may have SIBO or if you’ve been diagnosed with SIBO, but aren’t getting the treatment you need, contact us to see how we can help you!

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