Are you experiencing gastrointestinal issues, but nothing you do seems to fix it? Have weeks passed by and you still have this lingering health problem that doesn’t seem to be going away. Have you done stool testing and feel like you made headway but you are not fully healed? It’s possible that you may be struggling with Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO).
By being a high-performance athlete, full-time student, stay at home mom or even a high achieving business CEO, your body is likely helping you through long days and late nights, hard practices, and stressful moments. Your body has enough on its plate, it doesn’t need to be struggling with any extra factors, like SIBO.
That’s why I’m here. I want to give you some information on SIBO in case this resonates with you. There’s a chance it does since SIBO is prevalent in up to 20% of healthy people. A functional medicine approach to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth can not only treat it, but also get to the root cause.
You might have heard of SIBO, but do you know what it actually stands for? It stands for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Your microbiome, consisting of both beneficial and harmful bacteria, usually resides in the large intestine. However, people who have SIBO, have an overgrowth of bacteria that travels into the small intestine. This area usually doesn’t have these large amounts of bacteria, so it causes issues like bloating, gas, constipation/diarrhea, or abdominal discomfort.
The bacteria then feed on the food that is undigested in your small intestine. These bacteria especially love sugar, simple and complex carbohydrates, starches, and alcohol. However, the small intestine is where nutrients get absorbed, so when fermentation occurs there, it causes the gas build-up, bloating, and pain that you may be experiencing. Not only will you experience those symptoms, but you might not be absorbing certain nutrients.
The type of bacteria that travel into the small intestine can play a role in the symptoms you may experience. If a certain bacteria that breaks down and metabolizes carbohydrates gets into the small intestine, it can cause gas and bloating. Whereas if bacteria that helps break down bile salts gets into the small intestine, it can cause fat malabsorption. Other bacteria overgrowth can cause damage to the mucosa and reduce absorption function as well.
Some symptoms of SIBO are:
However, the effects of SIBO can extend further than just the gut. It can even cause:
Predisposes individuals to food sensitivities
Because the symptoms of SIBO are so diverse, it’s sometimes hard to pinpoint what’s causing it. That’s why testing is so important. The good thing about functional medicine is that we test, we don’t guess. And the gold standard for SIBO testing is using a breath test.
Overuse of antibiotics and proton-pump inhibitors
Suppressed immune system
Chronic infections from Lyme disease or other tick borne infections
Surgeries and scar tissue including C-sections
Ileocecal Valve dysfunction
Inflammatory Bowel Diseases
Sometimes when just the SIBO is treated, it still doesn’t treat the true root problem. That’s why it’s so important to keep digging to find the real underlying issue that may be causing these other issues in your body.
When too much bacteria is in the small intestine (SIBO), it can cause symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Many people who have IBS, actually have SIBO as well.
Candida is an overgrowth of a fungus that can occur in the large or small intestine. (check out my blog on Candida to learn more about this common gut issue as well). When this overgrowth is in the small intestine, it’s referred to as SIFO (small intestine fungal overgrowth).
In short, some patients may be struggling with one of these conditions or a combination of them. Depending on which one(s) you have, treatment may differ.
While I first take into account my client’s history and symptoms, testing is also necessary. Because symptoms of SIBO are so diverse and overlap with many other health issues, it’s vital to narrow down the root cause of your symptoms because treatment can be very different depending on what’s causing them. While it is imperative that a stool test is performed, the breath test is most accurate for a true SIBO diagnosis.
If you have SIBO, you’ll have increased hydrogen and/or methane levels in your digestive system resulting from the bacteria build up. The breath test measures these levels. You’ll need to breathe into a special balloon or small glass tubes over several hours to collect these gases to be analyzed. Oftentimes providers will also use a provoking liquid such as lactulose.
Many gut issues can be significantly reduced by just changing lifestyle factors alone. Eating a well-rounded diet that is best for your specific body, reducing stress, and avoiding toxins can do wonders. When my patients come to me and we discover that they are struggling with SIBO, I put them on the 5R Protocol to treat it and of course do SIBO specific treatment to what we find on the test.
This protocol focuses on five parts to restore your natural gut balance, including:
Remove– the bacteria- this can be done using prescriptions like xifaxan as well as antimicrobial herbs. It is also important to remove food sensitivities.
Replace– harmful bacteria with beneficial ones. Eat an abundance of organic fruits and vegetables, and possibly supplement with vitamins and minerals
Repopulate– probiotics may be used. However, with SIBO, your normal probiotics should only be used once the bacteria is eliminated from the small intestine. If not, you could be feeding that bacteria and worsening your symptoms. Instead, soil-based (or spore) probiotics are recommended.
Repair– any damage to gut lining and mucosa, and fix any inflammation damage.
Rebalance– keeping your gut microbiome in balance is key to helping SIBO stay away for the long haul. Participating in positive lifestyle behaviors (adequate sleep, healthy diet, eliminating toxins, and moderate exercise) is key to keeping your gut healthy and avoiding gut issues.
If you need access to a stool test, a gut health expert, and personalized protocols, the Get Your Gut Right program might be the right fit for you. This is a comprehensive health reset program that also focuses on nutrition, detox pathways, the nervous system, clean environment, and more. Click HERE to learn more.
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