By Dr. Michaela Falkner, ND
Small Intestine Bowel Overgrowth is a common and often overlooked cause to chronic digestive health concerns.
Small Intestine Bowel Overgrowth (referred to as SIBO) is an accumulation of normally occurring bacteria in the small intestine, not necessarily in high numbers, but in a region that they don’t belong. Often mistaken for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), SIBO is the cause of 60% of incorrectly diagnosed cases of IBS. It is generally less responsive to changes in stress and mood than traditional IBS, so while many patients report pretty good results from stress reduction techniques, they still have persistent symptoms.
The research on SIBO is still new, but we know that SIBO tends to result from a few different factors including stagnant bowels and lack of proper movement, lack of sufficient stomach acid, and a few more structural issues. SIBO can also be an indicator or accompany many underlying conditions such as autoimmune diseases, adhesions from surgery, post infections, and many others.
The small intestine is supposed to have relatively few bacteria in it, but due to the above causes, bacteria will set up shop and start digesting our food for us in the small intestine as opposed to the large intestine. This causes an abundance of gas that becomes trappped temporarily in the small intestine until it can move onto the large intestine. This is where many of the symptoms of SIBO originate.
So what does SIBO look like? Common symptoms are bloating (especially after eating healthy foods that are high in fiber and prebiotics), reflux, gas, fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, or combination diarrhea-constipation. This bloating is further exacerbated by carbohydrates and sugar. A keynote symptom I often see in patients is that the “healthier” they eat (salads, veggies, etc), the worse the gas and bloating.
Does this sound like you? Have you tried pro-biotics and your gut issues worsened? Have you attempted to eat a better diet only to feel much worse? Do you commonly go to bed looking a few months pregnant, but wake up with a flat stomach in the morning and feel great fasted? SIBO even interferes with your absorption of vitamins and minerals, leading to hair loss, fatigue, depression, and low iron stores.
The best way we can diagnose SIBO is through a breath test. A special diet and fast is followed, then a patient blows into a little bag to establish a baseline. The patient then drinks a lactulose solution and breaths into the bag multiple times over 2-3 hours. The samples are then sent in and analyzed for methane and hydrogen gas. By looking at how much those gases increase over the 2-3 hour timespan can help your doctor determine if you likely have SIBO or not.
If you have been diagnosed with SIBO, there are various things we at Hill Park Medical Center can do to support you. We can provide nutrient IVs to boost energy and immune function to support you while you are undergoing treatment. SIBO often causes difficulty in absorbing key nutrients like B12, iron, and magnesium, which can leave us feeling depleted, so a quick IV can help add those nutrients back into your body.
We have developed our own Hill Park Medical Center SIBO herbal compound that has been shown to be effective to eradicate the bacteria residing in your gut while supporting healthy movement of the bowels. Some of the herbs we commonly use are garlic, oregano, goldenseal, and caprylic acid. We then accompany these herbs with different factors that help “reteach” the bowels to move appropriately such as B6, 5HTP, ginger, and our bitters formula. There are also various diets to explore, including FODMAP, SCD, and elemental diets. This overall approach serves to correct the root cause of the concern and decrease chances of recurrence.
Our doctors have extensive firsthand experience with SIBO and know that there is no one way to correct it. Let us help you to find your solution to the discomforting symptoms, including embarrassing gas and bloating that you might be experiencing! Make an appointment to get started!