Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)
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What is Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)?
Why SIBO is more common than you think and what you need to know about testing and treatment
Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth or SIBO is a condition where abnormally large numbers of bacteria (at least 100,000 bacteria per milliliter (ml) of fluid) are present in the small intestine.
SIBO is the most common cause of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and is associated with many other health conditions like:
- Diabetes ( Disease where the body can’t regulate the amount of sugar in the blood)
- Scleroderma (Autoimmune disorder that affect the skin and internal organs),
- Crohn’s disease (Chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract).
- Acne Rosacea (commonly caused by SIBO and another gut bacteria H.pylori)
- Hypothyroidism (SIBO affects conversion of T4 to the active T3 in the gut)
- Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Anxiety and Depression (the gut bacteria influence the brain’s neurotransmitters)
Believe it or not, your small intestine measures 21 feet in length and is part of the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract) that connects the stomach to the colon.
Its main purpose is to digest and and absorb food into your body.
Your entire GI tract, including the small intestine - normally contain bacteria.
The number of bacteria is greatest inside the colon ( at least 1 trillion bacteria per ml of fluid).
In your small intestine, however the normal amount of bacteria is much lower (less than 10,000 bacteria per ml of fluid). It is when increased amounts of this bacteria occur that the problems of SIBO develop
So what causes SIBO?
Your GI tract is a continuous muscular tube that transports digested food to your colon.
The coordinated activity between your stomach muscles and your small intestine propels food through your stomach, small intestine and into your colon.
These muscle reactions through your small intestine are not only critical for your digestion - but “sweep” bacteria out of the small intestine. And help limit the numbers of bacteria in your small intestine.
Anything that interferes with this “muscle activity” in the small intestine allows bacteria to stay longer and multiply.
The lack of muscular activity can also allow bacteria to spread backward from your colon into your small intestine.
In other words, that potential 1 trillion of bacteria lurking in your colon moves into your small intestine.
And that’s how you get the abnormally high amounts of bacteria in your small intestine - SIBO. Other causes of SIBO can be food poisoning, gut infections and a diet high in refined carbohydrates.
To learn more - check out this quick overview video of SIBO - how it occurs and why it can cause so many other digestion and health problems.
Symptoms of SIBO include:
How to treat SIBO
The two most common methods of treatment for SIBO are oral antibiotics and natural antimicrobial herbs/ probiotics. Both have been proven to be effective but each has their advantages and disadvantages.
The antibiotics are best used for short-term treatment (2-4 weeks). Studies show that they are not more effective than natural treatments, and the specific antibiotics that are used are hard to get and expensive, plus they don’t treat the underlying cause.
Anti-microbial herbs and Probiotics – This is my preferred method of treatment, the combination of products used addresses the bacteria overgrowth, breaks down the biofilm that “protects the bacteria, and focuses on improving motility to prevent reoccurrence.
There is not one perfect protocol for everybody and this is going to vary according to your test results, your signs and symptoms, and any other health issues you have.
Diet is also very important part of the treatment plan.
In the last 10 years, there’s been research that shows that a combination of dietary changes and anti-microbial herbal and nutritional therapies can be more effective than most antibiotics – and equal to Rifaximin – one of the most expensive antibiotics available.
At Planet Naturopath we have developed an effective treatment strategy for treating SIBO, the treatment varies depending on whether you have methane or hydrogen dominant SIBO.
But before you decide on treatment – naturopathic or conventional – you need to evidence if you have SIBO…