You would have seen this term used in alot of my posts and my health story, and you may have heard other people mention SIBO too. You might be wondering...what the heck is SIBO?!
SIBO is an acronym that stands for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. It is a very common, yet not so commonly diagnosed, digestive condition that produces many of the same symptoms as IBS. In fact, SIBO is the main cause of IBS.
Normally, in healthy digestive system, there are trillions of bacteria living in the large intestine and they all work together to keep us healthy. The small intestine however, is the where nutrients are digested and absorbed and bacteria levels should be very little if any. SIBO occurs when the bacteria from the large intestine migrate and reside in the small intestine where they feed off carbohydrates and produce gases (methane & hydrogen) as a byproduct. These gases not only produce an array or uncomfortable symptoms throughout the body but they also damage the intestinal lining which disrupts absorption of nutrients resulting in malabsorption.
The overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine can be caused by a bunch of things
A diet high in refined carbohydrates which provides the ultimate environment for the bacteria to feed and flourish.
Poor motility of the digestive tract (constipation) which causes stagnation and provides a breeding ground for bacteria. This is common in ageing as our gut motility slows down. Sluggish elimination also causes other issues like toxic build up in the body.
Ileocaecal valve (the valve that joins the small intestine to the large intestine) dysfunction which allows a back-flow of bacteria from the large intestine into the small intestine.
Other structural or physical issues such as adhesions or scar tissue as a result of abdominal surgery, and structural defects in the small intestines.
Parasites or bacterial infections such as gastroenteritis.
Stress plays havoc on many functions in the body including digestive function by altering gut motility and bacteria and also affects the production of stomach acid which is important for killing bacteria that we ingest with our food.
Medications like immunosuppressants, proton pump inhibitors, morphine and opiates.
Other health conditions including diverticulitis which causes little pockets in the intestines where food may get trapped and bacteria can feed off and multiply, celiac disease and immune disorders.
The list of symptoms is quite extension and varies for each individual, this is why it can be difficult to diagnose without testing and can often be misdiagnosed. Symptoms are vast but can include:
Alternating diarrhea & constipation
Irregular or incomplete bowel motions
Weight loss or weight gain
Skin conditions (rashes, eczema, rosacea, acne)
Brain fog or cloudy thinking
Depression and/or anxiety
Respiratory conditions like asthma
As a SIBO sufferer myself, I'm not going to lie, treating SIBO can be complicated but the good news is there are specific breath tests for diagnosis and it can be treated so don't give up hope! Treatment varies from person to person but almost always involves a very low carbohydrate diet and restriction of all refined sugars, gluten and most dairy products during treatment and healing. It may take time but SIBO can be healed and food intolerances can be reversed.
If you experience persistent digestive or other symptoms mentioned above please reach out and get help! You can contact me via the contact me page to get your healing journey started!