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Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth

Updated: Jul 21, 2022

Do you ever feel bloated after eating, even if you've only had a small amount of food? Do you have trouble losing weight, regardless of how much you diet and exercise? Do you have irritable bowel syndrome? If so, you may have Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO).

SIBO is a condition in which too many bacteria grow in the small intestine, causing gas, bloating, and other digestive problems. There are many different root causes and risk factors for developing SIBO. The underlying cause, and then obviously the treatment as well, is different for different people, however diet and lifestyle factors play a role for everyone. In this post, we'll discuss what SIBO is, its symptoms and causes, and how to treat it naturally. So read on to learn more about small intestinal bacterial overgrowth also known as SIBO.

1. What is Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)?

SIBO is a condition in which too many bacteria grow in the small intestine. It becomes bothersome particularly when types of bacteria which are not commonly part of the normal small intestinal bacterial microbiome in this part of the digestive tract overgrow.

The small intestine is normally home to a diverse population of bacteria. This is normal, and we need these bacteria to help us digest our food. However, SIBO occurs when there is an overgrowth of some of the harmful bacteria. The exact cause of this overgrowth differs from person to person. Sometimes good bacteria get killed off when we use antibiotics for another sickness. Sometimes bad bacteria which grows on sugar grows too much and overpopulates our gut because we are eating a diet with too much sugar and processed food.

Most often SIBO starts when your small intestine doesn't move food along the way it should. Bacteria grow and stick around too long. If the good bacteria that help you digest food can't keep up with the harmful bacteria, you might notice symptoms such as discomfort, bloating, diarrhea, decreased absorption of nutrients, vitamin deficiency and other digestive problems.

In my Clinic, I find that SIBO exists on a spectrum. It is not something that you have or don't have. It is rather something on a continuum, causing symptoms in some people if these harmful bacteria overgrow at certain times, and then, according to your diet, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth improves at other times. Even when we treat someone, they won't be cured for life, as these bacteria can overgrow at a later stage again.

The key in taking control of your own health, is to start noticing when you have certain symptoms, and trace it back to when it started for you. Reflect on your day, your diet and lifestyle to figure out what makes it worse, and what makes it better. Your Health Practitioner can help you figure this out by taking a thorough medical history.

2. Symptoms of SIBO

SIBO symptoms affect the gut. Bloating is one of the most common symptoms of SIBO. Abdominal pain is often described as a dull ache that may be worse after eating. Some people experience cramps, some diarrhea, and some constipation.

Patients often experience indigestion, and then commonly get prescribed an antacid such as a proton pump inhibitor which lowers stomach acid in the upper gut where we normally have a higher content of stomach acid. Even though proton pump inhibitors decrease the level of stomach acid, it does not treat the root cause of intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and is actually another risk factor for developing intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). Some people complain about a regular feeling of fullness. Some people experience abdominal pain due to gas. Some people experience unexpected weight loss.

Nutrient deficiencies are another common symptom of SIBO. This is because harmful bacterial overgrowth takes the place of good bacterial overgrowth (the way it would be in the small intestinal environment of healthy controls)

3. Causes of SIBO