The gut is one of the most important systems in the body and the small intestine plays a major role in its function. The bacterial microbiome found in the gut, which includes the small intestine, contains trillions of helpful bacteria. This important ecosystem influences essential elements of health including immune function, digestion, and thyroid activity. In healthy systems, the majority of bacteria are found in the large intestine and colon while the small intestine maintains a relatively low level of bacteria. When harmful bacteria from the colon, the large intestine, or elsewhere begin to encroach or over colonize the small intestine, the delicate bacterial balance can be overwhelmed. This development can lead to severe gastrointestinal disruption in the form of SIBO, which brings with it a broad collection of symptoms.
Because symptoms of SIBO are highly dependent on individual factors, some patients may experience severe gastrointestinal disruption while others report little to no symptoms. For this reason, SIBO often goes undiagnosed or is misidentified as another condition entirely. Common symptoms of SIBO can include chronic diarrhea, pain and abdominal bloating, nausea, fatigue, excess gas, neurological dysfunction, autoimmune disorders, and more.
SIBO is often linked to underlying issues as many conditions are associated with bacterial imbalance and overgrowth in the gut. Some of the most common contributors or cohorts of SIBO include: dysmotility, chronic pancreatitis, diabetes, diverticulosis, fistula, intestinal lymphoma, rosacea, and scleroderma. 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.
Because SIBO is essentially an excess of bacteria in the gut, medications that kill bacteria and viruses are often responsible for disrupting the balance of the gut microbiome, which can lead to the development of this condition. In fact, 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, as with many digestive issues, is a key contributor to SIBO. Dietary imbalances, such as a lack of probiotic-rich foods, can lead to patients regularly missing out on essential nutrients, making the development of a bacterial imbalance more likely to occur. Furthermore, those who consume a high volume of sugar and complex carbs are also more likely to have greater bacteria prevalence in the gut.
Getting to the root cause of SIBO can be difficult due to the gut’s high degree of interconnectivity, meaning there are many factors that may contribute to the development of this condition. Potential causes of SIBO include: underlying health conditions, certain forms of medication, diet, and other individual patient factors.
At Holtorf Medical Group, our physicians are trained to provide cutting-edge testing and innovative treatments to find the answers our patients deserve and a personalized treatment plan. Contact us today to see how we can help you!