Small Intestine Bowel Overgrowth

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!

Introducing Dr. Michaela Falkner, ND

Dr. Michaela Falkner is an integrative general medicine doctor with a focus on complex cases and autoimmunity. After completing her Naturopathic Doctorate from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine (SCNM) in Tempe, Arizona, she was selected as one of five national candidates to complete a prestigious family medicine residency at SCNM. During both her degree program and residency, she focused much of her education on caring for complex cases and autoimmune diseases.

After completion of her residency, Dr. Falkner moved into the Bay Area to start practice and enjoy the beautiful abundance our region offers. Her practice continues to be focused on autoimmunity and chronic illness, though she also specializes in the treatment of hormone balance for thyroid, adrenal, and sex hormone dysfunction. She has a unique literacy in digestive health and uses a multifaceted approach in healing gastrointestinal disorders, normalizing the immune system, and symptom management.

Dr. Falkner appreciates that autoimmunity is becoming more widespread in the population due to the increase in chemicals in our environment and knows that naturopathic medicine fills a niche that has yet to be addressed well by conventional treatments. She believes the core of immunity begins in the gut and often approaches autoimmunity by addressing the digestive system, along with managing symptoms, protecting from future risks, and normalizing the immune system.

As an adjunct to her autoimmune treatment protocols, Dr. Falkner specializes in Neuro-Emotional Technique (NET). NET is a form of physical medicine that helps the body to reduce the impact of stress, as well as its consequent health concerns. She finds this modality is uniquely quick and effective in reducing stress, situational and general anxiety, and phobias, among several other concerns. She often combines NET with homeopathy, herbs, and lifestyle techniques proven to reduce stress for optimal outcomes. Dr. Falkner finds trigger point injections for pain associated with stress to be quite effective in extending treatment benefit and has even developed her own neural therapy technique to interrupt patterns that negatively affect health.

Dr. Falkner has extensive experience in nutritional medicine, intravenous and intramuscular vitamin infusions. She enjoys personalizing nutrient shots and IVs to the patient’s needs and you will probably see her in the IV room and helping out with the nutrient shot clinics. She is also passionate about herbal medicine and known for her thoughtful and comprehensive individualized care.

Dr. Falkner is excited and eager to get to know the patients of Hill Park Medical Center and offers complimentary 15 minute consults as an introduction to her practice. Please call 707-861-7300 to schedule a consult with her!