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SIBO symptoms might include bloating, gas, and abdominal pain. The cause of SIBO is not well understood, but some possible causes are obesity, intestinal viruses, or bacteria. If you have been struggling to find a diagnosis for the digestive issues that plague your life, it may be time to consider the possibility of SIBO as an explanation.
SIBO is a condition that can cause symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. It can be difficult to diagnose because it mimics other conditions like celiac disease.
Every year, millions of Americans experience stomach discomfort and anguish. Leaky gut syndrome, Crohn’s and celiac disease, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) diagnoses are on the rise, and experts are still stumped on why our digestive systems are being attacked.
Researchers have just begun to recognize that another digestive problem exists: small intestinal bacterial overgrowth or SIBO. It’s more common than previously thought, and it affects many individuals with IBS and other underlying problems.
What Is SIBO, and How Does It Affect You?
SIBO stands for “small intestinal bacterial overgrowth,” which is described as an overabundance of bacteria in the small intestine, also known as the small bowel. While bacteria normally appear throughout the digestive tract, the small intestine has relatively low amounts of bacteria in a healthy system; the colon is meant to have the largest quantities.
The small intestine is the digestive tract’s longest portion. Food comes into contact with digestive fluids here, and nutrients are absorbed into the circulation. Malabsorption of minerals, especially fat-soluble vitamins and iron, may soon become an issue if SIBO is detected.
The bacteria in the colon, when in balance, aid in the digestion of food and the absorption of critical nutrients by the body. When bacteria invade and take over the small intestine, it may cause poor nutrition absorption, IBS symptoms, and even stomach lining damage.
When you have SIBO, the bacterial excess in your small intestine interferes with the proper digestion and absorption process. SIBO is caused by bacteria that eats part of the meals and nutrients, resulting in unpleasant SIBO symptoms such as gas, bloating, and discomfort.
The recurrence rate is significant even when antibiotics are used to treat minor intestine bacterial overgrowth. This chronic illness can be healed with patience, persistence, and a diet adjustment. SIBO therapy requires a healing diet, and some foods should be avoided until the gut flora is restored.
SIBO symptoms are similar to those of other gastrointestinal illnesses, such as IBS. According to a research published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology, there’s a reason for the comparable symptoms: there’s a link between IBS and SIBO. According to the researchers, before making a conclusive diagnosis of IBS, doctors should try ruling out SIBO.
The following are some of the most common SIBO and IBS symptoms:
- Loss of weight
- Joint discomfort
Risk Factors and Causes
Various underlying disorders are thought to lead to bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine. Dysmotility (when digestive system muscles don’t perform correctly), chronic pancreatitis, diabetes, diverticulosis (a structural abnormality in the small intestine), injury, fistula, intestinal malignancy, and scleroderma are among them.
Certain drugs, such as immunosuppressants and proton pump inhibitors, as well as immune system problems, recent abdominal surgery, and celiac disease, are linked to an increased risk of SIBO. Celiac disease is particularly concerning because it disrupts gut motility, resulting in poor small intestine function.
According to a research published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, 66 percent of celiac disease patients who followed a gluten-free diet were found to have bacterial overgrowth.
Patients were treated with a mix of antibiotics, prescription worm and parasite drugs, and a change in diet in this trial. After SIBO therapy, all of the patients felt that their symptoms had subsided.
Blind loop syndrome is another underlying cause of SIBO symptoms. This happens when the small intestine creates a loop, allowing food to flow through portions of the digestive system. Food moves more slowly through the system as a consequence, which makes a breeding habitat for germs.
Certain gastrointestinal diseases are thought to be caused or exacerbated by metabolic illnesses, such as poorly managed type 2 diabetes. For example, SIBO was found in 43 percent of diabetics with chronic diabetes, according to a research published in Diabetes & Metabolism.
Aging is another risk factor for bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine. The digestive system slows down as we become older. Non-hospitalized persons over the age of 61 are thought to have a 15% prevalence rate of SIBO, compared to slightly under 6% in those between the ages of 24 and 59. SIBO affects nearly 30% of disabled older persons, according to a research published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society.
Rosacea, a skin disorder that produces facial redness and rashes, has been linked to SIBO symptoms. Researchers from the University of Genoa’s Department of Internal Medicine discovered that rosacea patients had a much greater frequency of SIBO.
There’s good news for rosacea sufferers: this research found “an almost complete reduction of their cutaneous lesions and sustained this great effect for at least 9 months” once SIBO was eliminated.
As you can see, bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine is connected to, causes, or is associated with a broad range of illnesses. Moreover, SIBO symptoms seem to be linked to even those not assumed to be connected to the gastrointestinal system.
Doctors utilize a hydrogen breath test to determine the quantity of gas generated by bacteria in the small intestine to diagnose SIBO. The test determines how much hydrogen and methane are present in your body. This works because bacteria are the sole mechanism for the human body to create these gases.
To accomplish the breath test, a solution containing one of the sugars listed below is used:
The patient must follow a particular diet for two days before the test. Next, the patient drinks a fluid that contains one of the sugars mentioned before, which feeds the bacteria. Finally, the breath test determines how much hydrogen and methane the bacteria have created as a consequence. Your doctor will be able to tell whether you have SIBO based on these findings.
Complications that might occur
If SIBO is not addressed, it may lead to major health problems. Therefore, the bacterial overgrowth must be removed as soon as feasible.
One of the most serious side effects of SIBO is malnutrition, which is caused by bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine. Iron insufficiency, vitamin B12 shortage, calcium deficiency, and deficits in fat-soluble vitamins — vitamin A deficiency, vitamin D deficiency, vitamin E deficiency, and vitamin K deficiency — are all caused by inadequate absorption of essential minerals and protein carbs, and fats.
Symptoms of these inadequacies include weakness, weariness, disorientation, and harm to the central nervous system.
Most individuals are unaware that vitamin B12 insufficiency is more widespread than they think. Aside from SIBO, there are a variety of other causes that might cause a deficit. Individuals who have insufficient stomach acid or who use drugs that suppress stomach acids, such as proton pump inhibitors, H2 blockers, and various antacids, are particularly vulnerable.
These regularly prescribed drugs have been associated with SIBO, as previously stated.
According to Harvard Medical School, the symptoms of vitamin B12 insufficiency might occur gradually or suddenly. Numbness or tingling in the limbs, anemia, jaundice, cognitive impairment, memory loss, weariness, weakness, and even paranoia or hallucinations are all possible symptoms.
According to a study published in the British Journal of Haematology, megaloblastic anemia, a blood condition characterized by losing red blood cells, is linked to bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine. This is caused to vitamin B12 malabsorption.
If you have SIBO or a vitamin B12 deficit, you must treat megaloblastic anemia as soon as possible; a prolonged vitamin B12 shortage may result in lifelong nerve damage.
Take responsibility for your health and start clearing your body of small intestine bacteria if you have any of these vitamin B12 deficient symptoms in addition to any of the frequent SIBO symptoms listed above.
Antibiotics like rifaximin are often used to treat bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine (brand name Xifaxan). This not only helps to eliminate the troublesome bacteria, but it also kills the good bacteria that are important for optimal digestion. Long-term antibiotic treatments may be necessary for certain people with SIBO caused by blind loop syndrome.
SIBO is tough to treat, even with medication. SIBO patients treated with antibiotics had a high recurrence risk, according to a study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, and gastrointestinal symptoms worsen during recurrences.
According to studies, the good news is that herbal therapies are as effective as three rounds of antibiotic medication in people who do not react well to rifaximin. This research lists several herbal medicines but doesn’t detail how to use them or how much to take. The research mentions oregano oil, berberine extract, wormwood oil, lemon balm oil, and Indian barberry root extract.
So, what’s the best way to deal with SIBO and its symptoms? First and foremost, determine whether or not there is an underlying reason. The next stage is to begin correcting the nutritional inadequacies. A balanced diet, nutritional supplements, and lifestyle adjustments are required to rebalance the body.
My first piece of advice for overcoming SIBO is to eat lesser portions at meals. Instead of three substantial meals each day, divide your meals into 5–6 smaller servings. Smaller meals help you digest food more rapidly, which is important for conquering SIBO. Overeating is one of the worst things for SIBO since it causes food to remain in the stomach for prolonged periods of time and may also harm gastric juice production. Because stomach acid kills bacteria in the upper GI tract, low stomach acid production is one of the major causes of SIBO.
Next, one of the most important things you can do right now to assist in eliminating small intestine bacterial overgrowth is to begin taking probiotic supplements and eating probiotic-rich foods immediately. Probiotics had a greater success rate than metronidazole for people with SIBO, according to a pilot study conducted by experts at the Center for Medical Education and Clinical Research in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Half of the participants in this trial got Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus plantarum, Streptococcus faecalis, and Bifidobacterium brevis for five days, while the other half received antibiotics for five days. All of the subjects ate the same diet, which restricted dairy, legumes, leafy green vegetables, and alcohol use.
What were the outcomes? Only 52% of those who received antibiotics reported clinical improvement, but 82 percent of those who received probiotics reported clinical improvement.
It’s critical to adjust your diet in addition to taking probiotics and addressing vitamin deficits.
Start by following a two-week FODMAP elimination diet to clear your small intestine of bacteria overgrowth. What exactly are FODMAPS? They’re foods that aren’t entirely absorbed by the body and ferment in the intestines. The fermentation fed the bacteria, making it more difficult to combat SIBO and SIBO symptoms.
Foods to avoid during the first phase:
- Fructose may be found in various foods, including fruit and fruit juices, honey, processed cereals, baked products, high-fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, and processed sweets.
- Lactose is found in traditional dairy products and processed dairy products with additional lactose.
- Wheat, garlic, onion, asparagus, leeks, artichokes, broccoli, and cabbage all contain fructans.
- Legumes, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and soy are all high in galactans.
- Polyols are sugar-free gum, mints, and certain pharmaceuticals, including sorbitol, isomalt, lactitol, maltitol, xylitol, and erythritol.
For this period, it’s critical to keep to a complete exclusion of the items on the “avoid” list.
When reading the list, it may seem that there isn’t much left to eat; nevertheless, the SIBO diet includes lots of delicious and healthful items.
Phase 1 foods to eat include:
- Tuna and salmon captured in the wild
- Beef and lamb raised on grass
- Poultry and eggs from pastured chickens
- Hard cheeses that are still raw
- Coconut or almond milk
- Greens with plenty of leaves
- Melons such as cantaloupe and honeydew
- Nut butter with sprouts
The SIBO diet aims to heal the intestinal lining, reduce inflammation, eliminate bacterial overgrowth, and consume a meal rich in important nutrients that your body has been unable to absorb. Keep a supply of foods from the enjoy list available throughout the elimination phase; if you lapse and ingest any FODMAPS, it’s recommended that you restart the two weeks.
Clean proteins, such as wild-caught tuna and salmon, grass-fed beef and lamb, and free-range chicken and eggs, are simple to digest and provide necessary minerals and energy to your body. In addition, while certain fruits, such as tomatoes, bananas, grapes, blueberries, strawberries, cantaloupe, honeydew melons, and pineapple, are restricted during the FODMAPS elimination, you may still eat them.
As your body recovers from SIBO, consuming fresh pineapple, which is high in bromelain, daily may help reduce inflammation and aid digestion. Bromelain provides incredible health advantages, especially for those who suffer from digestive problems, allergies, asthma, or joint discomfort.
Bananas, like pineapple, aid in promoting digestive health and increasing energy levels. They’re high in potassium and manganese, which the body needs while recovering from SIBO. Also on the menu are carrots, cucumbers, leafy greens, squash, quinoa, and sprouted nut butter. Don’t get stuck in a rut by simply eating particular meals during this initial period; try to consume as many different things as possible.
Phase 2 GAPS Diet:
It’s time to switch to the GAPS diet and program after two weeks of avoiding FODMAPS. The GAPS diet aids in the healing of leaky gut syndrome, the rebalancing of bacteria in the digestive system, and the prevention of toxins entering the circulation. This dietary plan also aids in the reduction of food sensitivities, the improvement of neurological function, the strengthening of the immune system, the reduction of anxiety and sadness, and the healing of IBS.
There are a few items on this diet that you must continue to avoid. All grains, refined sugars, high-starch foods, processed meals, non-organic meats, and dairy products should be avoided. Your body is still recovering from SIBO, so mending your digestive tract and restoring balance to your body are top considerations.
It’s crucial to read the whole GAPS diet plan and regimen since certain key points must be remembered.
Important Guidelines for the GAPS Diet
- Each meal should include one cup of bone broth.
- When cooking, use coconut oil or ghee.
- Fruit should be consumed in between meals rather than with them.
- Slowly introduce probiotic-rich meals (cultured vegetables, kombucha, natto, etc.)
- Consume only raw dairy fermented for 24 hours or more, rather than store-bought yogurt.
- Each meal should include one tablespoon of fermented vegetable juice. (Sauerkraut juice is easy to get by)
Don’t be put off by the GAPS diet’s procedures and recommendations. You’ll get into the flow of things quickly, and your SIBO-affected digestive system will continue to mend.
Whenever possible, use organic coconut oil at this step. Medium-chain triglycerides are simpler to digest for persons with blind loop syndrome, according to the Mayo Clinic. In addition, coconut oil’s medium-chain fatty acids are one of the reasons I feel it is one of the healthiest fats on the planet.
SIBO dietary supplements
These are the supplements that are most typically recommended for SIBO symptoms and therapy and resolve SIBO-related nutritional deficits. Because supplement research for conquering SIBO is still in its early stages, keep track of RDA amounts for each.
SIBO and Essential Oils
Essential oils, in addition to dietary adjustments and supplementation, have been demonstrated to aid patients with SIBO symptoms. For example, Peppermint oil was proven to relieve some gastrointestinal symptoms, including IBS and others, in a case report published in the Alternative Medicine Review.
The use of enteric-coated peppermint oil in treating IBS, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia was emphasized in this paper. However, Peppermint oil helped a single patient with SIBO, and experts believe further study is required.
Oregano oil, tarragon oil, frankincense oil, clove oil, and other essential oils may be helpful in the treatment of SIBO symptoms. Use only food-grade, high-quality essential oils. Before a meal, a drop or two in a glass of water will help minimize bloating and gas, as well as other digestive issues.
Changes in Lifestyle
A few lifestyle adjustments may also aid in the repair of your digestive system and the eradication of SIBO symptoms. Eat smaller meals three to five hours apart in phases 1 and 2 of the SIBO diet. Each meal must be chewed thoroughly; remember, digestion begins in the mouth! To keep adequately hydrated, drink lots of freshwater throughout the day.
Managing stress is also crucial throughout the healing process. Yoga, barre, tai chi, regular exercise, and acupuncture may all help you manage stress and remain on track with your SIBO diet.
It’s critical to allow your body time to heal while combating the bacterial overgrowth in your small intestine while treating SIBO symptoms. You may start the healing process and be well on your way to removing the bacteria causing your SIBO symptoms by eliminating FODMAPS from your diet for two weeks and then shifting to the GAPS diet and treatment.
Frequently Asked Question
How long can you have SIBO and not know it?
A: It is common for individuals to have SIBO without realizing it, but this typically only lasts a few days. After 3-4 weeks of suffering from symptoms, you will likely develop full-blown IBS with accompanying diarrhea and other gastrointestinal issues.
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