So what is SIBO?
Everyone experiences gas and bloating at some point, right? But what if it just doesn’t go away? The embarrassing rumble in your stomach, uncomfortable distention in your abdomen , and unpredictable trips to the bathroom… it’s all frustrating and painful… and it might actually have a name – Small Intestine Bacteria Overgrowth, or SIBO. Simply put, SIBO is a chronic overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine. These bacteria normally live lower in the gastrointestinal tract but can migrate into the small intestine given the right set of conditions. Once these bacteria migrate, they feed on carbohydrates, which causes a fermentation, which in turn releases a gas – hydrogen, methane, and hydrogen sulfide. This is what causes gas and bloating after meals.
Symptoms of SIBO
- Abdominal pain and discomfort
- Abdominal distention
- Abdominal bloating after meals
- Unusually loud rumbling noises
What Causes SIBO?
The cause of an individual case of SIBO can be hard to determine. SIBO is not an independent diagnosis, because something causes it (most commonly IBS). Causes can include:
- Poor diet
- Nerve damage
- Sloppy ileocecal valve,
- Dysfunctional migrating motor complex (MMC) – chief contributor to SIBO
- Certain infections such as food borne illness or H. pylori
- Acid reducing drugs
- Opioid use
- A variety of problem foods – including foods that are high in refined carbohydrates or inhibit carbohydrate digestion
- Insufficient fasting time between meals
- Low thyroid function
- Adrenal fatigue
- Lack of exercise
- Improper sleep habits
MMC – The Body’s Conveyor Belt
Our gut relies on nerves, muscles, enzymes, and neurotransmitters to properly digest food. Enzymes mainly break down our food while the nerves, muscles and neurotransmitters physically move the food through our digestive tract from the stomach to the small intestine and on to the colon. This movement is referred to as migrating motor complex (MMC). One of the chief contributors to the onset of SIBO is dysfunctional MMC. MMC can become dysfunctional for a variety of reasons, including nerve or muscle damage, bowel disorders such as IBS, scarring, physical obstruction, or even the influence of certain medications.
It’s important to understand how central healthy MMC function is to correcting SIBO. Think of MMC as the baggage carousel at an airport. When it’s working as designed, bags are loaded up, continue down the conveyor belt, and move on to the carousel . That’s where we pick them up and take them where they need to go. But we’ve probably all seen what happens when something in the system malfunctions – bags come out too fast, the belt slows down or stops moving all together, then baggage piles up, there is confusion, and no one gets what they need. The same thing is true in the case of dysfunctional MMC. The body’s conveyor belt slows down or stops, food and bacteria pile up in the wrong place and bacteria overgrows in the small intestines where it doesn’t belong . Just like at the airport, the body’s “baggage” doesn’t move on to where it’s needed – resulting in very unhappy, confused intestines.
Testing for SIBO
When SIBO is present, hydrogen and potentially methane are created as a result of the bacteria feeding on carbohydrates. Both gasses are excreted in the breath. which makes a breath test an accurate tool for SIBO screening. The test kit used by Leaves of Life allows patients to gather breath samples at home and results are usually confirmed within a week.
As with most conditions, it’s important to consult a trained professional to diagnose and treat SIBO. Treatment plans are unique to each patient and have a variety of components including probiotics, fermented foods, fiber, biofilm disruption, antibacterials, and even prescription antibiotic therapy. Francie Silverman, Lifestyle Coach and Wellness Educator, has developed a SIBO treatment protocol that can be customized to patient needs and adapted as the symptoms of SIBO improve.