SIBO or Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth is a clinical syndrome that is gaining broader acceptance as the true underlying factor in most, if not all, cases of IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. What does SIBO look like and how do you get it? Before explaining these things, let us have a brief overview of healthy, balanced digestion in order to better understand what goes wrong in the body to create SIBO.
The human digestive tract consists of the stomach, small intestine, colon and rectum together with a variety of glands or organs that secrete enzymes or other factors to aid the breakdown of food and absorption of nutrients.
Most people are very familiar with the function of the stomach and its importance in the early phases of digestion to break down large proteins and food items into their smaller component nutritional parts.
The small intestine, however, for the average person, is mostly known as a long tube that, if stretched out completely could “extend the length of a football field”. This description helps put into perspective the true purpose of the small intestine, which is primarily one of nutrient absorption. The very convoluted and folded length of the intestine is made for quickly and efficiently absorbing as much nutritional content from the food as possible (glucose, fatty acids, free amino acids, vitamins and minerals). Since this portion of the digestive tract is so important, the body has an intricate system of keeping the area healthy and clean. This system includes the nerves and muscles of the Migrating Motor Complex (MMC). The MMC is basically a cleansing wave of contractions that run through the small intestine about 2 -3 hours after eating a meal. This MMC helps ensure that any leftover food or bacteria have been moved into the colon.
The colon is the home of our microbiome, or that personal complex of bacteria and fungal organisms that make up our own unique digestive microflora. These bacteria help to break down indigestible fibers from food, secrete vitamins give bulk to stool and regulate immune function.
The microorganisms that live in our colon and provide all these wonderful health benefits are often the very organisms that disrupt digestion and create the symptoms associated with SIBO. How is this possible? It’s all in the location! The most common scenario that results in the development of SIBO is a simple bout of food poisoning or a stomach flu. The overall balance of the digestive tract and the MMC is disrupted by an acute infection in the bowel, be it bacterial or viral. This disruption provides an environment that allows bacteria from the colon to migrate up into the small intestine and begin colonizing the area. Once these bacteria attach themselves to the wall of the small intestine they begin secreting toxins that will turn off the MMC. Why do they do this? So the MMC cannot sweep them back into the colon. This is the beginning of all of your problems.
What happens next, for many people, is a steadily growing number of bacteria moving up the small bowel. The end result is a small intestine that does not move properly and is colonized with large numbers of bacteria that should not be living there. This upsets your immune cells, as well as the lining of the intestinal wall, resulting in inflammation and damage (Leaky Gut Syndrome). The bacteria begin consuming and fermenting the foods that we are eating resulting in the production of gas that accumulates inside the small intestine. Patients with this type of small intestine overgrowth experience many of the following symptoms: burping, bloating, distention, feeling overly full from small meals, abdominal cramping and pain, constipation and diarrhea. Sound a lot like the list of symptoms associated with IBS? Consider that you may not have an irritable bowel. You may have an infected bowel.
There are multiple types of SIBO and a multitude of ways that an initial SIBO infection can develop in the body. If you are struggling with chronic digestive problems, or have a diagnosis of IBS and abdominal bloating is one of your primary symptoms, please consider that you may be struggling with an underlying small bowel infection! Make an appointment today to see one of our Sage SIBO specialists. We can help put you on a path to stop the digestive madness and take back your health!