Millions of people are affected by gut issues that cause them discomfort, pain, and embarrassment. Yet, somehow, discussion of digestive health and the gut’s microbiome has until recently remained on the medical world’s far-out fringes. Health professionals and the general public are embracing gut-health management, and they’re finding that a balanced microbiome provides an excellent defense against gastrointestinal issues and overall health.
SIBO is one gastrointestinal condition that is particularly helped by re-balancing the gut’s microbiome.
What is SIBO?
Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, or SIBO, is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine. While your gut plays host to trillions of bacteria, the bacteria that causes SIBO isn’t the kind of bacteria you’d normally find in the small intestine. People living with SIBO experience severe gastrointestinal symptoms that impact their quality of life, physically and emotionally.
Because its symptoms can present as other gastrointestinal issues, it’s important to get a medical diagnosis if you suspect you might have SIBO. Without an accurate diagnosis, it’s difficult to take the proper course of treatment. Antibiotic therapies are commonly prescribed to suppress the overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine, and surgery is sometimes necessary. SIBO sufferers also need to correct the nutritional deficiencies caused by the disease.
What Causes SIBO?
SIBO symptoms often present like other gut health issues, but people experiencing SIBO have certain risk factors that make it the likely culprit. SIBO affects the small intestine, where food blends with digestive enzymes so your body can absorb nutrients. When food gets caught up in your small intestine, the place becomes a breeding ground for bacteria that don’t belong there.
The causes of SIBO can include:
- Abdominal Surgery: Surgeries that involve the gut, such as gastric bypass or ulcer treatment surgeries, can result in complications or loops that restrict movement in the small intestine. This restriction can lead to SIBO.
- Problematic Gut Tissue: Scar tissue caused by surgeries, genetics, or medical conditions can create bottlenecks or bulges in your small intestine that prevent food from passing onto the large intestine. This may result in a bacterial overgrowth that causes SIBO.
- Medical Conditions: There are numerous medical conditions that might affect the proper functioning of your small intestine. Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, and even diabetes, among others, may prohibit efficient functioning of your small intestine and lead to SIBO.
- Medications: Certain medications affect the flow of food through the digestive tract by stymying the body’s nervous system. Narcotics, for example, slow down gastric emptying while antibiotics kill the good bacteria your gut needs to promote digestion.
SIBO symptoms are similar to those of other gastrointestinal issues. If you experience these symptoms in conjunction with any of the risk factors described above, your discomfort may very well be the result of SIBO.
Symptoms of SIBO include:
- Pain in the abdomen
- Distension of the stomach
- Nausea and vomiting
- Bowel issues, such as diarrhea or constipation
- Weight loss
- Nutritional deficiencies
Different gut issues require different treatments, so it’s important to get properly diagnosed. Compared to other ailments, diagnosing SIBO can be relatively uncomplicated, and may be done through breath testing or a culture of the fluid from your small intestine.
The Impacts of SIBO on Gut Health and Your Microbiome
SIBO is the antithesis of a healthy and balanced gut microbiome. A healthy gut contains trillions of microorganisms that work together to facilitate proper digestion; when any portion of your gastrointestinal tract is hostile to the bacteria you need, your body won’t be able to absorb crucial nutrients. In addition to the painful and inconvenient symptoms of SIBO, you’ll likely find that your overall well-being suffers when you become nutritionally deficient.
The most common medical treatment for SIBO is the administration of antibiotics designed to kill the unwanted bacteria in the small intestine. Of course, antibiotics can also cause SIBO, so this treatment method is a little like fighting fire with fire.
Many people with SIBO find their symptoms are helped by specific dietary choices. There are foods and drinks—to consume or avoid—that will foster your gut microbiome’s return to health. Many SIBO sufferers benefit from excluding certain types of carbohydrates from their diets.
Carbohydrates that can worsen SIBO include:
Different people are sensitive to different foods, but you can learn what does and doesn’t work for you through an elimination diet. In addition to monitoring the foods you eat, you should drink plenty of water and incorporate probiotics into your routine.
SIBO and Probiotics
The use of probiotics is proving an exciting new therapy for SIBO sufferers. Probiotics are found naturally in some foods, like yogurt and kimchi, but in some people these foods can also aggravate SIBO. Often, supplements offer the best method of incorporating probiotics into your system.
Probiotics can be beneficial to SIBO sufferers in more ways than one. Not only do they wage war against the bad bacteria in your small intestine, they can also help restore and maintain balance in other areas of the GI tract—especially after a course of antibiotics. Our Gut Prep and Gut Recovery offer prebiotic supplementation and the post-antibiotic help your body needs.