Your bloating, gas, constipation, or diarrhea could be SIBO
If you have gas, bloating, diarrhea, or constipation — or all of the above — then you may have SIBO.
SIBO stands for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, a condition in which bacteria from the large intestine move into the small intestine where they do not belong.
These bacteria feed off the sugars and carbohydrates you consume, causing them to produce large amounts of gas. This leads not only bloating, belching, and flatulence, but also constipation or diarrhea depending on the type of gas produced.
Too much of these bacteria in the small intestine also inflame the lining of the intestinal tract, damaging it and causing leaky gut, or intestinal permeability. Intestinal permeability allows undigested foods, bacteria, yeast, and other foreign invaders into the bloodstream. This eventually sets the stage for inflammation, autoimmunity, and chronic disease to develop.
There are many tests and protocols in place for SIBO. Lab tests have many false negatives, so listen to your symptoms. Managing SIBO often requires a diet that restricts most everything but meats and a limited variety vegetables. Treatment protocols involving supplements and/or medications exist to treat SIBO, and sometimes it’s a matter of trial and error to land on an approach that works.
However, if you don’t want a relapse, you need to ask why you have SIBO in the first place.
Common causes include:
Poor diet and excess sugar
Low stomach acid
Repeated antibiotic use
Problems with brain function or health
Poor brain function is a very common but often overlooked cause of SIBO. The gut and the brain maintain close communication with one another, which means poor brain function causes gut problems such as SIBO. This explains why people who sustain head injuries often go on to develop gut problems.
When brain function is poor, the digestive tract is not able to produce sufficient digestive juices and hormones. Motility — movement of food through the intestines — slows down so that food sits longer in the intestines. This leads to bacterial overgrowth. The valve between the small and large intestine does not stay shut, allowing bacteria from the colon to escape into the small intestine. These are examples of how poor brain function leads to SIBO.
This is why we often see SIBO along with childhood brain development disorders, brain injuries, brain inflammation, brain degeneration, and brain aging.
In fact, the elderly are particularly vulnerable to malnutrition as a result of SIBO. So are children born with autism and other brain development disorders. Fortunately, simple exercises for the vagus nerve, which connects the brain to the gut, help improve digestion and prevent relapses of SIBO.
For more information about SIBO, contact my office.
About Dr. Josh Redd — Utah, Arizona, New Mexico functional medicine
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