Bloating? Cramping? What the heck is SIBO?What the heck is SIBO? – Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth
Martha , a 53 year old working mother, came to see me in my office because a few hours after she ate her belly blew up like a balloon. She experienced severe bloating , gas, and cramping. “I feel like I am 5 months pregnant!” she cried. “And then it hurts so much I have to go lie down for several hours!” Because Martha was a mother of young children as well has working a full time job, these symptoms were severely cramping her style (no pun intended)!
“It starts a bit after eating, like a burning sensation, then my belly blows up and I can’t do anything all evening! I am missing out on parenting and family time, not to mention that I can’t do anything fun with my family anyway because I am always out of commission!
I ran an entire battery of functional medicine tests on Martha: Food Allergy Testing, Stool testing, and I decided to have her do the Bacterial Overgrowth of the Small Intestine breath test as well because… well I had a hunch that we were dealing with SIBO based upon her symptom picture of severe bloating after meals.
What is SIBO?
SIBO is Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. In a healthy person, the small intestine does not contain much if any bacterial as opposed to the large intestine, which has billions upon billions of live organisms. When the GI tract gets damaged from Crohns disease, Celiac, Ulcerative Colitis, chronic irritation, stress and hormone imbalance, scar tissue can form which decreases motility and causes nerve damage. This can also be exacerbated by low stomach acid , diet and lifestyle habits, and antibiotic use.
When the motility of the gut is affected by any one of the above issues, bacteria from the large intestine, or colon, can migrate into the small intestine, where it shouldn’t be, and cause abdominal bloating, cramping and gas which can all be symptoms of SIBO. If left untreated , malabsorption and vitamin deficiencies can be a consequence.
The test for SIBO is a breath test which measures the ratio of Hydrogen and Methane. If the levels increase by a certain percentage after drinking a lactulose solution over time, then that is a sign of SIBO.
Conventional Treatment vs. Naturopathic Treatment
Conventional treatment consists of a round or 2 of antibiotics. And that’s pretty much it.
Naturopathic treatment consists of identifying and eliminating triggering foods and allergies, improving stomach acid levels, killing the offending bacteria (with natural supplements), and then restoring GI motility as well as repairing nerve damage. Finally the gut flora is replenished with a good source of active probiotic and fermented foods. Many of my patients come to me having had a recurrence of SIBO after only having antibiotic treatment from their Western Medicine doc and not doing any of the restorative healing protocols. Allopathic or traditional western medicine really doesn’t have much to offer in this regard which is why so many of their patients end up seeing me in my office.
Patients who have undergone treatment experience reduced bloating, cramping, gas and less constipation.
Martha went through the 24 week protocol with me and feels great! Her bloating and gas is gone, as well as the fatigue, brainfog and embarrassment. She went back to bike riding and running half marathons and is very happy she found me to work with. She maintains her health with lots of fiber, great probiotics, leafy greens and fermented foods. She also works on improving her stress levels and avoids the food allergens and food triggers that exacerbated her health problem to begin with.
How about you? Have you tried almost everything to improve your gut health and aren’t getting good results? Have you not heard of SIBO , but the symptoms sound weirdly familiar? Too familiar?