I know how tough it is to enjoy life and your family, or even be productive at your job, while dealing with chronic gastrointestinal issues. Symptoms such as diarrhea or constipation, bloating after meals, a “food baby” by day's end, indigestion, gas pains, and belching are distressing.
Many of these symptoms get blown off as “aging”, just something you ate yesterday that did not agree with your system, or a passing virus. Despite that, these can actually be signs of a serious imbalance in your gut! Are you, a friend, or a family member struggling with any of these symptoms? Let’s discuss a common culprit behind them.
Is it SIBO?
The distressing symptoms mentioned above may be due to SIBO, something I experienced years ago on my own healing journey. SIBO stands for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, which is a condition where there are excess bacteria in the small intestine, a part of your GI tract that normally has very few bacteria and a low pH.
When certain conditions occur, such as impaired gut motility or higher than optimal pH, bacteria can grow in the small intestine and cause tremendously unpleasant symptoms.
What conditions contribute to SIBO?
SIBO can occur as a complication of other conditions and medications, such as:
Achlorhydria [when the stomach is unable to produce enough stomach acid for optimal digestion and protection]
Intraabdominal adhesions after radiation or abdominal surgery
History of surgeries which changed the structure of your small intestine
Use of narcotic medications, anti-spasmodic meds for irritable bowel syndrome [dicyclomine and hyoscyamine, for instance], proton pump inhibitors, and antibiotics
Use of alcohol
How does SIBO cause symptoms?
Digestion and nutrient absorption are the primary functions of the small intestine.
When bacteria are present in the small intestine, they ferment the food you eat before your body is able to digest and absorb the nutrients. There is also associated gut inflammation which further impairs gut function. This can lead to a whole host of symptoms and long-term consequences to your health.
What are the symptoms of SIBO?
You're probably wondering, "What are some of the signs I may have SIBO?"
My patients typically complain of some combination of abdominal bloating and cramping after meals, belching, gas, nausea, diarrhea or constipation, and fatigue. Some, but not all, have unintended weight loss.
There are many other things I find during my functional history and exam, like evidence of chronic nutrient deficiencies and rosacea.
I frequently find SIBO in my patients with hypothyroidism, osteoporosis, and autonomic dysfunction, among others. The connection has to do with malnutrition! Your organs and cells can’t function properly if your body isn’t digesting and absorbing nutrients.
SIBO is a self-perpetuating loop that can be difficult to reverse for this reason: your body doesn’t have the nutrients needed to heal, and it can’t get the nutrients because the digestive and absorptive surfaces of the gut aren’t healthy.
Could it be something else?
There are many different conditions that can cause the GI symptoms I mentioned, and it takes a doctor who is good at detective work to help sort things out.
If you are having tummy troubles and struggling to uncover and treat your root cause, be it SIBO or something else, you deserve to connect with a functional medicine doctor. Leaving the cause of your symptoms untreated leads to more issues down the road.
In my practice, each patient receives an extensive review of history, symptoms, diet, and environmental factors to guide lab testing and treatment.