BLOATING, GAS, PAIN, IRRITABLE BOWELS………could it be SIBO?
SIBO or Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth is a condition where we see bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine, the area that does most of our absorption of nutrients, from what we eat and drink. A healthy small intestine normally has small numbers of bacteria, especially when you compare it to the large intestine, which has huge numbers and variety of bacteria. Our bowel or large intestine, which helps excrete our waste actually has 10 times the number of bacteria, than we have cells in our body. So really the bacteria in our bowel outnumber us 10 to 1. Luckily they are super tiny compared to our cells, so they all fit inside of us.
In SIBO there is an overgrowth of bacteria that are naturally found in our body in other areas. These can be bacteria that migrate from another place like the bowel, where they perform very important functions. But once they start to reside in the small intestine they start to cause trouble. Symptoms can include gas, bloating, tummy cramping, fatigue, nausea, nutrient deficiencies, constipation, diarrhoea, reflux and joint pain.
These symptoms are very similar to other digestive conditions and this is why it can take many years for some people to get a diagnosis. It is now thought from studies done in Australia that up to 60% of cases of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) may actually be caused by SIBO. Patients with Coeliac disease and Non coeliac-gluten sensitivity that don’t feel completely better once commencing a gluten free diet, could look at SIBO testing. Other conditions that SIBO has been linked to are Fibromyalgia, Gastroenteritis, Diabetes, IBD (Inflammatory bowel disease), Hypothyroidism, Scleroderma, Diverticulitis, Liver disease and Chronic constipation. It has also been linked with the long term use of some medications like antibiotics, morphine and proton pump inhibitors which are used for acid reflux.
Once SIBO is suspected, it can be tested for with a breath test. It is not widely known about by GP’s and other health professionals, but one day this will change. I have met gastroenterologists who are aware of SIBO and conducts testing to rule it out for patients with symptoms of IBS. In Adelaide they would refer you to the Women’s and Children’s Hospital for testing. While other health professionals for example nutritionists or naturopaths like me, can order the testing for you via testing laboratories. I highly recommend going through a health professional, as they can recommend a laboratory that uses a proven test, interpret the results for you and assist you with all phases of treatment.
There are many areas that must be addressed in SIBO treatment and it is always important to find and treat the cause, if one can be found. This will give you the best possible outcome and help to prevent a relapse.
This is why I believe it to be very difficult to treat and manage on your own. You will need the support, treatment and guidance that only a qualified health practitioner can provide.
Yours for great health,
Danielle Elliott, Naturopath