If you are treating your leaky gut by following the 4 Rs and you’re not seeing much progress, it could be that you’re dealing with SIBO – small intestine bacterial overgrowth. SIBO (pronounced SEE-bo) is one of the causes of leaky gut, but the two vary a bit when it comes to treatment.
The most common symptoms of SIBO are abdominal pain or discomfort, bloating/distention, diarrhea and/or constipation, and extreme burping and passing gas. It tends to be under-diagnosed since it shares so many symptoms with other gastrointestinal disorders.
A Bit Of Background
The small intestine is a big part of the digestive tract. More than 20 feet long, it takes up most of the space in the abdomen. Above it, the stomach’s job is to mix chewed up food with acid, and really start to break down the pieces of food.
After churning it up for a while, this mixture is sent to the small intestine where it’s broken down even further, and nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream. Several nutrients are also manufactured here.
After all that acid treatment, there is really very little bacteria in the small intestine and only specific varieties. Or at least, this is how it’s supposed to be. The main bacteria colonies that are so important to good health are a little further down in the colon (large intestine).
There is a one-way valve between the small and large gut – the ileocecal valve (ICV) – designed to keep things moving forward. If the ICV gets damaged or even just stuck, digested material can go back into the small intestine. At this point, the normal colon bacteria, simply trying to do their job to keep us healthy, has been added to the mix.
But remember, bacteria, even the good kind, doesn’t belong in the small intestine. Its presence can set off an inflammatory cascade with far-reaching effects. Other digestive issues of course, like GERD, leaky gut, IBS… but also hormone production, mood, and brain function can be affected.
Obviously, this is not something you’d want to happen.
There are many reasons why SIBO occurs but some of the main reasons include:
1) Drugs – and it doesn’t necessarily have to involved long-term use! Examples include proton pump inhibitors and antibiotics.
2) Moderate alcohol intake
3) Poor immune function
5) Persistent stress
6) Poor Migrating Motor Complex function (coordinated movement of the intestines)
7) Poor digestion (low stomach acid, pancreatic output or bile issues)
8) Poor Eating Hygiene (not taking time to chew before swallowing)
Whatever the cause, bacteria that is normally considered beneficial relocates to where it doesn’t belong. Instead of helping, it becomes a troublemaker.
If you suspect you have SIBO, the most common lab test used is a breath test.
Once you’re diagnosed, some choose to treat SIBO with antibiotics, herbal antimicrobial products, a combination of the 2 and also addressing the root cause of SIBO. Gut healing is also a must. This may involve using gut supporting supplements, nutrients and dietary changes.
Most practitioners seem to agree that inflammatory foods must be removed from the diet. No starches, sugar, or alcohol. No grains. No small intestine colonizing probiotics and no prebiotics. Most dairy products and legumes are a no-no. And sometimes, even fruits must be avoided.
If you suspect you may have SIBO, consider a consultation at Awaken and we will address the root cause of your digestive discomfort.