This article will look at eight of the main signs that you may be affected by SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) and what causes SIBO, together with some of the circumstances that may have given rise to it. Then perhaps most importantly, how you can go about fixing these and finally eliminating some of those debilitating digestive issues. Is SIBO behind your digestive symptoms? Read on discover more.
What causes SIBO?
A lot of people have never heard of SIBO which stands for ‘small intestinal bacterial overgrowth’ but it’s actually incredibly common – in fact an astonishing 85% of people who have IBS symptoms also have SIBO.
It can all start when our friendly bacteria, which reside in the large intestine, gradually start to migrate to the small intestine.
These bacteria don’t belong in the small intestine, they should only be present in the large intestine. The small intestine should only host a very small number of bacteria, and nothing like the large numbers which are housed by the large intestine.
How does it happen?
In an ideal world, the small and large intestines protect themselves from invaders very well.
For example, the extremely acidic nature of your stomach acid will stop bacteria from setting up shop there. BUT if you take medications to decrease your stomach acid, your stomach’s best line of defence against invaders starts to diminish.
Other medications can contribute to SIBO such as the contraceptive pill, antibiotics and opioids.
The natural course of ageing can also cause stomach acid levels to decrease and increase your risk of SIBO.
What else causes SIBO?
Another huge cause of SIBO is when the motility of the intestines stops functioning as it should. This means the intestines aren’t pushing their contents through quickly enough, which in turn gives an opportunity for displaced bacteria to linger around a bit too long, and start to colonise.
Any kind of bowel surgery, or other bowel condition such as ulcerative colitis or crohns can cause this to happen, as can gallbladder removal.
The gallbladder stores bile, and bile acts as a further line of defence in your intestinal immune system, keeping things in balance and in the correct place.
The signs you may be affected by SIBO are very similar to many other digestive complaints. The symptoms include –
- Weight loss
- Hormone issues such as PMS or bad menopause symptoms. For more on balancing hormones click here.
SIBO is caused by, and hides behind, other digestive complaints you may be experiencing, so it can be tricky to establish what exactly is causing your symptoms.
A telltale sign SIBO is affecting you might be if you’re taking a probiotic supplement in order to alleviate your digestive symptoms, BUT frustratingly your symptoms are getting worse.
This is because adding further bacteria into the mix is really stirring things up.
If you’re treating other digestive issues and seeing no improvement, this may also an indicator that SIBO is playing a part.
Testing for SIBO
The best way to test for SIBO is through a simple breath test. This measures the amount of gas being produced by bacteria in the small intestine. The only way the body produces these gasses (methane and hydrogen) is through bacteria. We can also tell from stool test which bacteria you have present and whether or not they’re likely to be causing SIBO.
We’ve looked at what causes SIBO, but how do we Help SIBO heal?
Healing from SIBO can be notoriously tricky.
Because the bacteria have established themselves in a place they shouldn’t be, so as a means of defence they cover themselves in a protective layer, known as a ‘biofilm’.
Biofilms are created to protect bacterial colonies. Plaque that forms on teeth is another type of biofilm, and you know what a faff that can be to remove!
With that in mind, a program of treatment to effectively eliminate SIBO, and prevent relapse, will look something like this –
Antibiotics and/or natural antibacterial herbs to eliminate the infection.
Supplements to break down the biofilm so the antibacterial agents can get to work. Vital at this stage.
Low FODMAP diet
A low FODMAP diet and the use of digestive enzymes will take the stress off the gut whilst it heals.
Herbs to restore gut motility – ginger is good for this, among others. For info on more herbs and spices which are great for soothing your gut symptoms click here.
Gut repair and lifestyle
Gut repair supplements.
Lifestyle upgrades such as exercise and meditation to control stress. Stress is a MASSIVE cause of gut health issues. So mindset work and exercise will really help you to heal, and help prevent any future flare ups.
If you would like to speak to me about any aspect of your gut health, then please use this link to book into my diary for a FREE 30 minute chat so I can find out more about what is going on for you. Alternatively please use the ‘Learn More’ link below.
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