Studies indicate that up to 80% of people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) have SIBO.
WHAT IS SIBO?
SIBO is the presence of abnormally high amounts of bacteria in your gut that produce a gas that causes symptoms including but not limited to bloating, flatulence, abdominal pain, nausea, dyspepsia, fatigue, diarrhea, and constipation.
There are 3 types of SIBO:
Hydrogen SIBO is an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine including E. Coli and Klebsiella that causes either diarrhea or constipation.
SIBO Sulfide is an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine that produce sulfur gas and presents most commonly with diarrhea. Levels of hydrogen sulfide, as measured by a breath test, correlate with the severity of diarrhea.
IMO is an overgrowth of methane-producing archaea in the small and/or large intestines and presents most commonly with constipation. This condition was previously called “methane SIBO,” but methanogens are not bacteria (the “B” in SIBO) but are archaea, a group of single-celled organisms. The level of methane measured by a breath test correlates with the severity of constipation.
WHY DOES SIBO
The most important thing to remember is that SIBO has A ROOT CAUSE. The GI tract has the largest microbial population in the human body, with over 35 trillion bacteria. Most of the bacteria are in the colon and there is a homeostasis with a general population of “good bacteria”. This homeostasis is kept in check by many factors including stomach acidity, motility and secretions in the 19 feet of small intestine, and the ileocecal valve (ICV) as a mechanical barrier preventing backwards movement of the bacteria from the colon. Root cause analysis usually finds a problem with one of these factors including abnormalities in anatomy, motility, pH, medications and immune function and inflammation -and there can be multiple!
WHAT DOES SIBO DO
TO YOUR BODY?
SIBO has significant consequences including multiple gut symptoms, malabsorption, vitamin deficiencies and brain fog. So you wake up with a flat stomach and by nighttime you’re 9 months pregnant. In SIBO, E. coli, and Klebsiella are usually overgrown. These bacteria may be in the wrong place (too upstream in your gut) and therefore prematurely ferment dietary carbohydrates and produce short-chain organic acids and gas causing bloating and diarrhea and excessive gas after eating, usually hours after eating once the food clears the stomach and gets into the small intestine. So you wake up with a flat stomach and by nighttime you’re 9 months pregnant.
Some of the effects include:
- Carbohydrate Malabsorption: Damage to the gut brush border can reduce carbohydrate enzymes called disaccharidases, causing malabsorption of carbohydrates and further worsening symptoms.
- Fat Malabsorption: SIBO also leads to fat malabsorption and diarrhea by deconjugation of bile salts which in turn impairs normal fat digestion leading to impaired fat absorption, diarrhea and steatorrhea. The free bile acids formed in this reaction leads to toxic injury to mucosa. Fat malabsorption due to SIBO could lead to deficiencies in fat soluble vitamins of A, D and E and less likely vitamin K because it is produced by bacterial metabolism.
- Vitamin B12 Deficiency: Gram-negative bacteria compete with your own body to use B12 from food so that you have none left to absorb for yourself! On the other hand, folate is generated by bacterial metabolism and is absorbed in abundance by the host so seeing a high folate is typical in SIBO. Other deficiencies include vitamin D and iron.
- Brain Fog: Recently, d-lactic acid production from bacterial metabolism in the human gut has been associated with metabolic changes and brain fog, especially in patients taking probiotics while having SIBO. This is why it is often not recommended to take probiotics while having active SIBO but instead to treat it and then rebuild and restore the microbiome first through probiotics in food, and then to consider probiotic supplements.
- There can be many other consequences of SIBO- especially in the presence of increased intestinal permeability (“leaky gut”) which pretty much goes hand in hand with any type of dysbiosis including SIBO and therefore systemic symptoms like skin manifestations, hair loss and rashes can all occur.
HOW TO DIAGNOSE SIBO?
The gold standard is the sterile small intestinal aspirate done during endoscopy that is done by Dr. Ivanina of “gutlove” and SIFO culture is performed at the same time.
The most common way to diagnose SIBO is through breath test- with either lactulose or glucose substrate/ Lactulose usually over-diagnoses so you don’t miss any SIBO and glucose usually under diagnoses but is more accurate.
Also to note- the only current way to diagnose SIBO Sulfide is through the Trio Smart breath test that is available in Dr. Ivanina’s office.
HOW TO TREAT SIBO
Root cause analysis: Make sure you get a full workup for underlying causes of SIBO including lab testing, stool testing, endoscopic evaluation, and possibly other important testing such as IBS SMART after an infection (you sometimes don’t even realize you had an infection! example- one or two days of diarrhea that you brushed off to “something you ate”), and smart pill- a pill that measures stomach, small bowel and colonic transit as well as stomach acid!
Induction with antibiotics or antimicrobials: Hydrogen SIBO is usually responsive to one antibiotic while IMO necessitates dual antibiotic therapy to target hard to reach/treat methanogens. If antibiotics haven’t worked or have failed, there are natural herbal antimicrobials you can discuss with Dr. Ivanina. Elemental diet is reserved for extreme cases when everything else fails.
Maintenance with prokinetics: Most cases of SIBO have a motility component, for example a disordered migrating motor complex (MMC) in the small bowel after infection and/or inflammation. The MMC is your housekeeper wave that keeps your small intestine clean and SIBO free- it is KEY to optimize this function with prokinetic medications/herbs and time restricted feeding (fasting periods).
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