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What’s Causing My Digestive Upset?

When you read about keeping a good balance of gut bacteria, its often referring to the large intestine that hosts most of the bacteria in the gut.

But, what about the health of the small intestine that is located before it? The small intestine is where the nutrient absorption happens before the waste products are sent through to the large intestine or bowel to be eliminated. So, when a bacterial imbalance happens there, it can trigger a cascade of symptoms in the body.

SIBO Explained

SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) is when bacteria or other microorganisms grow out of control in the small intestine – an area that would normally have a low bacterial count, as compared to the large intestine.

When these microorganisms colonize, they end up damaging the cells lining the small intestine creating a problem of leaky gut or increased intestinal permeability.

This then triggers impaired digestion and absorption of nutrients which exacerbates nutritional deficiencies and allows toxins, pathogens and undigested protein molecules to enter the bloodstream.

This can then cause widespread inflammation, food sensitivities, autoimmune disorders, and other immune reactions.

Common Symptoms of SIBO

  • Malabsorption and malnutrition
  • Weight loss (or gain)
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Abdominal bloating or distention
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Acid reflux or heartburn
  • Excessive gas or belching
  • Constipation and/or diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Skin issues like rashes, acne, eczema and rosacea
  • Aches & pains, especially joint pain

Contributing Factors

Bussy woman – work at home

The causes are not clearly defined but contributing factors to SIBO can include:

  • Metabolic disorders
  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Diverticulosis
  • Injury to the bowel
  • Recent abdominal surgery
  • IBS
  • Celiac disease
  • Immunosuppressants
  • Reflux medications
  • Inflammatory diet
  • Stress
  • Heavy Metal Toxicity

How Do I Know if I Have it?

SIBO is typically diagnosed using a breath test in which the patient drinks a sugar-containing drink and exhaled gases are measured.

If there are too many bacteria, excess gases (hydrogen, methane or both) will be produced. It should be noted that the reliability of this test is considered less than ideal, but it’s one of the only methods available at this time. It’s important to properly prepare for this test by limiting certain foods beforehand.

What Can I Do?

A bottle of oregano essential oil with fresh oregano leaves in the background

Most holistic health practitioners recommend reducing carbohydrates with the exception of fiber. This may include the following:

  • Herbal antibiotics (e.g. oregano oil)
  • Low FODMAP diet, Specific Carbohydrate diet or GAPS diet,
  • Stress management
  • Probiotics to repopulate and then prebiotic foods to support their growth

In more severe or persistent cases, a prescription antibiotic may be needed to get the overgrowth under control.

If you’re feeling frustrated and don’t know what the try next. Let me help you strategize so that your next step takes you towards the solution. Book a free call here.

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