Excessive Gas?

Have you been bloated and gassy lately? No matter what you eat your stomach swells like a balloon a few hours later?

Pay attention: you might suffer from condition called SIBO – small intestine bacterial overgrowth.

Bacterial overgrowth of the small intestine (SIBO), is a digestive disorder that causes chronic bowel problems and intolerance to carbohydrates. Its main symptoms include excess gas, abdominal bloating, diarrhea and/or constipation, and abdominal pain.

Both the small intestines and colon naturally house bacteria, creating a balanced digestive system. The types and amount of bacteria that reside in the small intestine and colon are very different. The colon contains roughly 100,000 times more bacteria than the small intestines. SIBO occurs when there is an overgrowth of colon bacteria in the small intestine.

Since the main purpose of the small intestine is to digest and absorb food, any disruption in its role affects the absorption and utilization of nutrients into the body. Thus, if SIBO is left untreated for too long – various nutritional deficiencies may occur.  It can manifest as anemia, various vitamin deficiencies (vitamin D and B), weakening of the bones due to calcium malabsorbtion, etc.

SIBO is often overlooked as a cause of these digestive symptoms, because it so closely resembles other disorders. In fact, SIBO is theorized to be the underlying cause of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), since up to 84% of IBS patients have tested positive for SIBO. SIBO is associated with many other disorders as well, either as an underlying cause or as an aftereffect of the pre-existing condition. This includes parasites, pancreatic problems, and Crohn’s.

The two major factors contributing to development of SIBO include insufficient gastric acid secretion and lack of intestinal motility. Since both of these mechanisms naturally decline with age, those over 80 years old are especially susceptible. Anything that slows down motility (movement of intestinal content through the lumen) can contribute to overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine, because there is no outlet for the waste. Eating insoluble fiber will help to flush out the excess bacteria in the small intestine.

Gastric acids (hydrochloric acid of the stomach) is another important factor. It helps to break down food and activate digestive enzymes. Without the production of hydrochloric acid or pancreatic enzymes, we can’t digest and sterilize food sufficiently. To help with gastric acid secretion, supplementation with betaine hydrochloride during meals is recommended. People who chronically take gastric acid suppressing medications are at higher risk of developing SIBO.

If you think you may be suffering from SIBO, please come talk to me. Together we can determine if your condition warrants further assessment. Depending on your particular case, there are several options for treatment: specific diet, probiotics and natural or pharmaceutical antimicrobials. The longer SIBO is left untreated, the more damage can be done to your body. Although a serious condition, it is treatable once properly diagnosed.