Is Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth Affecting You?

In a healthy state, the small intestine has a low bacterial count. An overgrowth creates a condition called SIBO. Mild to severe digestive discomfort including gas, bloating and pain results.  Bacteria is swept through the small intestine into the colon by a type of peristalsis.  This is called the migrating motor complex (MMC) and is often impaired in SIBO.  The ileocecal also plays a role.  When this valve is compromised, good bacteria from the colon move up and take up residence where they don’t belong.  

Onset of SIBO can occur after food poisoning, minor surgery or opiate use. Usually there are a number of risk factors leading to the infection. These include chronic stress, hypothyroidism, diabetes and overuse of antibiotics or proton pump inhibitors.

This is not a new disease. Research of SIBO began in 1960’s. Originally it was studied for its role in sclerodoma. Obstruction from appendicitis, endometriosis, cancer or IBD (irritable bowel disease) can coincide with onset as well.

SIBO often results in anemia, anxiety, irritable bowel (IBS) and restless leg syndrome to name a few of the associated conditions. Let’s look at how SIBO works against the body’s normal function.

IBS, Leaky Gut and Reflux

Up to 84% of IBS is caused by bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine (SIBO). 1,2. The bacteria compete for the food we eat. They destroy the mucous membrane. Leaky gut, food reactions, brain fog and acid reflux can develop. Systemic symptoms can include headaches, skin conditions, respiratory and cognitive issues.

Like acid reflux, one of the biggest contributing factors to SIBO is carbohydrate malabsorption. Too many acellular or processed carbohydrates create inter abdominal pressure. In acid reflux this pushes the stomach acid upwards and compromises the esophageal sphincter. Acid is suppressed and more bacteria get in. Bacteria produce gas as a byproduct of digesting the host’s food. The host is starved of nutrients, in pain and the absorptive tissues are destroyed. Because these bacteria thrive on carbs, a lower carb or paleo type diet decreases symptoms.

SIBO and Mood

Anxiety is commonly associated with SIBO due to the gut-brain axis.3 An increases in inflammatory cytokines affects the brain. You may have heard of the endotoxin LPS (lipopolysaccharide) which plays a role.

The cytokine model of depression is now widely accepted. Inflammation that results from gut infections contributes to depression and other mood disorders.

Nutrient Malaborption

When bacteria take over they destroy the brush border enzymes that break down and absorb our food. The resulting in malabsorption can be serious. Iron and B12 deficiencies lead to a number of health concerns including restless legs, neuropathy, insomnia, fatigue and the list goes on. Folate will not be low if SIBO is present.

Fat will end up in stool instead of being absorbed by the body. Protein loss results in edema. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies lead to poor functioning overall.

Remember that testing and treatment are available. The second cause of lost work in North America is due to a syndrome that conventional medicine spends billions on but doesn’t effectively treat in most cases. Patients often are told that their gut issues are in their head. Gastroenterologists, for the most part, do not know how to guide people to a better quality of life. Treatment can take time.

Part of the problem is that these bacteria are very old species and antibiotic resistant. Research shows botanical treatment is known to be more effective than the expensive pharmaceutical that is used to treat SIBO. In fact, a new pharmaceutical is now available. It is made of three botanicals and is a tenth of the cost. It was researched and developed by a gastroenterologist in Texas. We are working at making it available in Canada.

1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=12591062
2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3949258/
3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3601973/