Digestive issues are so common these days, and they’re one of the main reasons clients seek out our services. When clients come to us with gas, bloating, cramping, constipation or diarrhea (oh my!), and belching/burping, (particularly after eating certain types of food) our antennae is often raised to look into SIBO as a possible underlying cause. SIBO, an acronym for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, is a mouthful! Besides that, it’s also a relatively common digestive diagnosis—and one we see in our practice routinely.
First of all, what is SIBO?
Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth is a condition where essentially some of the bacteria that should mainly be housed in the colon, or large intestine, migrates and proliferates in the small intestine, causing unnatural fermentation which leads to the symptoms listed above. Besides being uncomfortable, SIBO actually causes damage to the cells lining the walls of the small intestine (known as the mucosa), and can prevent proper digestion of food and therefore the digestion of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.
These bacteria can eat up some of our nutrients including B vitamins and amino acids, which can lead to fatigue, depression/anxiety, mild protein deficiency and even an increase in ammonia production (which certain bacteria produces). We produce ammonia naturally as a byproduct of normal metabolism, but a buildup can lead to severe health complications including vertigo, mental health changes, lethargy, and in extreme cases, even coma/death. This bacteria can also decrease fat absorption as they also affect bile acids, which can lead to nutritional deficiencies of our fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D, E and K.
Sometimes it can even lead to a condition called leaky gut, where larger protein molecules “leak” from the intestinal tract into the bloodstream, causing immune reactions and uncomfortable symptoms like digestive problems, food sensitivities or allergies, migraines, brain fog, skin breakouts and more.
What causes SIBO?
There are several factors that can cause disruptions in the GI tract. The top three include:
- Low stomach acid (this is needed to kill off bad bacteria, toxins and pathogens)
- Slow motility in the small intestine (bacteria can hang out for longer than necessary, supporting overgrowth)
- Dysbiosis (an imbalance of the beneficial and overgrowth bacteria, ie. too little “good” bacteria or too much “bad” bacteria)
What can I do if I have it?
There are some food, lifestyle and supplemental support to help unravel SIBO. For instance, there’s a big gut-brain connection, so stress management is a big component in correcting gut issues. Killing off some of the “bad” bacteria can be done through antimicrobial herbs, which our nutritionists will guide you on. There are also some special dietary guidelines that can reduce and manage symptoms of bloating, gas, constipation and more. Once your SIBO is under control, you can potentially bring back some of these foods more comfortably.
A few things you can get started on today to support your gut and reduce symptoms immediately:
- Practice stress management—i.e. walks in nature, meditation, gentle yoga.
- Avoid eating between meals.
- Aim to wait at least 12 hours overnight before eating your first meal of the day.
- Support your vagus nerve with exercises (you can check them out online), do castor oil packs (questions about this? Ask us!), try humming in the car, and more.
- Add in some neutraceuticals, herbs and supplements like ginger, 5-HTP, and bitters with meals to stimulate a healthy digestion.
Finally, give us a call to keep your gut in good shape! We know it’s overwhelming when this is all new information. Putting it all together and making sense of it, step by step, is our specialty. Let us help you weed through the information and get your gut on the right path to healing. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at 925.280.4442.