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SIBO: Let's talk about it

Updated: May 13, 2023

SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) is a condition where there is an abnormal increase of bacteria in the small intestine, causing various digestive symptoms.
Common symptoms of SIBO include abdominal pain, bloating and flatulence after eating

What is SIBO?

SIBO stands for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, which is a condition where there is an excessive growth of bacteria in the small intestine.

What Causes SIBO?

The exact cause of SIBO is not fully understood, but there are several factors that can contribute to its development. These include:

1. Impaired motility: Conditions that slow down the movement of food and waste through the small intestine, such as diabetes, scleroderma, and hypothyroidism, can lead to SIBO.

2. Anatomic abnormalities: Structural abnormalities in the small intestine, such as strictures, fistulas, and diverticula, can disrupt the normal flow of intestinal contents and promote bacterial overgrowth.

3. Immune system dysfunction: Disorders that weaken the immune system, such as HIV/AIDS, can make a person more susceptible to SIBO.

4. Use of certain medications: Certain medications that affect gut motility, such as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and opioids, can increase the risk of SIBO.

5. Altered gut microbiota: (also known as dysbiosis) Changes in the balance of bacteria in the gut, such as following a course of antibiotics or in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), can promote the growth of harmful bacteria in the small intestine.

What are the symptoms of SIBO?

The symptoms of SIBO can vary from person to person, however, common symptoms of SIBO can include:

1. Bloating and distention of the abdomen

2. Abdominal pain or discomfort, including cramping- especially after eating

3. Diarrhea or loose stools

4. Constipation or difficulty passing stools

5. Nausea or vomiting

6. Excessive gas and flatulence- especially after eating

7. Malabsorption of nutrients, which can lead to deficiencies in vitamins and minerals

8. Fatigue, weakness, or muscle pain

9. Weight loss or unintentional weight gain.

These symptoms can be non-specific and can also be associated with other gastrointestinal disorders, so it is important to see a health care provider for accurate diagnosis.

How is SIBO diagnosed?

SIBO can be diagnosed through a number of methods. The most common tests used to diagnose SIBO are:

1. Breath test: This is the most widely used test for SIBO. In this test, a patient drinks a solution containing a sugar that is fermented by bacteria in the small intestine. The patient then breathes into a machine that measures the amount of hydrogen and methane gas in their breath. Elevated levels of these gases can indicate the presence of SIBO.

2. Stool test: A stool test can be used to check for the presence of certain bacteria in the gut, including those associated with SIBO.

3. Blood tests: Blood tests can be used to check for certain antibodies or markers that may indicate the presence of SIBO.

4. Endoscopy: In some cases, an endoscopy may be performed to visualize the small intestine and take a biopsy for further analysis.

It is important to note that the diagnosis of SIBO can be challenging, as there is no definitive test, and symptoms can be non-specific. Therefore, it is recommended to see a healthcare provider with experience in diagnosing and treating SIBO.

How is SIBO treated?

Integrative medicine providers may take a holistic and individualized approach to treating SIBO, which may include a combination of conventional and complementary therapies. Some of the common treatment strategies used by integrative medicine providers for SIBO are:

1. Antibiotics

2. Dietary changes

3. Probiotics

4. Nutritional supplements

5. Stress reduction

The bottom line:

It is important to note that the treatment of SIBO should be tailored to the individual, identifying the root cause of SIBO is essential to prevent it returning after treatment.

Carol Rademeyer is a highly regarded Advanced Practice Registered Nurse with a wealth of experience in women's health. With over 25 years of professional practice and a Master of Science Degree in Midwifery from the Midwifery Institute at Philadelphia University, she is a respected expert in her field. Her rigorous academic and professional background has earned her board certification in her specialty, and she has fulfilled the requirements in Florida for Autonomous Practice as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse.

In addition to her clinical practice, Carol has also made significant contributions to the broader medical community. She has been published in several prestigious medical journals and has been a speaker at the national conference for the American College of Nurse Midwives, where she has shared her expertise and insights with her peers.

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