Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)?
The digestive system is about 30ft in length from entrance to exit and consists of the following major sections in order from top down: The mouth, throat, stomach, small intestine (duodenum) and large intestine (colon). As I have mentioned many times previously, the digestive tract is home to a complex community of bacteria (approximately 100 trillion), which should not only in balance for health and well being, but also should have the largest number of bacteria residing in the colon.
Sometimes, the small intestine gets overgrown with bacteria due to conditions such as low stomach acid, pancreatitis, diabetes, diverticulitis and coeliac disease, along with the use of certain medications (including immunosuppressants and proton pump inhibitors). This is called ‘Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth’ or SIBO. These bacterial overgrowths produce either hydrogen and/or methane gas. SIBO can therefore be tested for using a breath test that measures levels of these gases.
The small intestine has the surface area of a tennis court and is crucial to the efficient absorption of nutrients from the diet. SIBO disrupts the ability of the small intestine to efficiently absorb nutrients (the bacteria end up competing for the nutrients that the body is trying to absorb) often resulting in a broad range of micronutrient deficiencies (including iron, calcium, and vitamins B12, A, D, E and K) and symptoms including nausea, bloating, vomiting, diarrhoea, malnutrition, weight loss, joint pain, fatigue, acne, eczema, asthma, depression and rosacea. The malabsorption of nutrients is likely to eventually impact every major system in the body, if left unchecked.
SIBO is typically treated with antibiotics, but reoccurrence rates are high and beneficial bacteria essential for digestive function will also be damaged. Research suggests however that certain herbal and lifestyle interventions are just as effective at treating SIBO.
In clinic, as I have mentioned many times before, it is always a multifactorial approach that delivers the best results. So this typically involves a combination of changing how much and how often you eat, what you are eating, adding in certain strains of probiotics, targeted supplementation, the use of herbs and essential oils and managing stress levels using techniques such as meditation, mindfulness, yoga, tai chi, deep breathing and autogenics.