Up to 80% of patients with IBS have a condition called SIBO. (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth)
SIBO refers to an abnormally large numbers of bacteria in the small intestine. These bacteria are not necessarily 'bad' bacteria, but because they are in such a large amount in your small intestine, they start to ferment, causing gas. (assuming here that gas needs no further explanation when I'm talking about gut health, we've all felt the bloat, only to be relieved by passing wind, right?)
Normally, the small intestine has low bacterial numbers. Above the small intestine, the stomach's acid (HCl) prevents overgrowth due to its acidic environment. At the end of your small intestine is a valve, called the Ileocecal valve. This valve acts as a 'doorway' to the colon.
The Migrating Motor Complex is a system of electrical waves, going through the small intestine. Imagine a Mexican wave, inside your small intestine, in order to sweep it of bacteria.
There could be disturbances in any of these 3 areas, causing an overgrowth in bacteria in your SI (small intestine) and in some situations, it's a chicken or egg question. For example: do you have heartburn because your SIBO is causing a disturbance in your SI, leading to inefficient use of your stomach acid? Or does your low stomach acid cause an increase in bacteria in your small intestine, leading to SIBO?
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Whilst SIBO could have some nasty side effects, once identified and treated correctly, you might be able to reduce your symptoms greatly. The protocol to tame those gut bugs can be difficult to navigate, and you might need additional supplemental support, so I urge you to seek help from a professional to tackle your issues.
What to watch out for when you have SIBO?
Finding out if you have SIBO is done by clinical testing, once you have an answer, you can choose to start taking action and reduce you symptoms.
Apart from the well known signs of IBS, there is a list of underlying signs.
Fat malabsorption (fatty stools)
Vitamin A, D, E and Omega 3 deficiency (as a result of the fat malabsorption)
Protein malabsorption (this is rare, but it happens)
Being underweight (due to malabsorption, the diet you eat, and symptoms such as diarrhea and nausea having an effect on your appetite)
Leaky gut syndrome
Systemic symptoms in other parts of the body than the digestive tract, such as joint pain, skin issues, brain fog, and respiratory problems
Co-existing conditions such as: Coeliac Disease, Fibromyalgia, Rosacea, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
These symptoms can have a big impact on your day to day quality of life, but there is hope! By addressing your SIBO causes and treating it accordingly, you will be able to improve your symptoms.