Is SIBO to Blame for Your IBS Symptoms?

ESTIMATED READING TIME 4 MINUTES

small intestine bacterial overgrowth and IBS

Do you suffer from ongoing digestive issues you can’t get to the bottom of no matter how hard you try? Have you considered it may be SIBO?

More properly called small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, it’s thought to affect up to 80% of the 3 million people in the UK suffering from IBS.

 

To support IBS Awareness Month, read on to find out about SIBO and some natural approaches to overcome your symptoms. 

Do You Suffer from SIBO?

If you’re affected by SIBO, you might experience bloating, burping and wind, along with pain and loose bowels. Symptoms tend to occur soon after eating certain foods, and the bloating is often worse towards the end of the day. SIBO can also cause constipation, nausea, fatigue, low mood and brain fog.

A lot of these symptoms occur with IBS, too, and they can fluctuate and be very varied, meaning it can be tricky to pin down a cause.

SIBO and Your Microbiome

Living inside your gut are trillions of bacteria called your microbiome. They play an incredibly important role in helping you digest food, as well as controlling inflammation and assisting your immune system.

The bacteria are largely resident in your large intestine, towards the end of your digestive system. Your small intestine ideally doesn’t play host to very many bacteria at all, and they’re different species to those found in your large intestine. Sometimes, however, bacteria from your large intestine end up in your small intestine where they don’t usually live. The presence of these bacteria causes the symptoms of SIBO when they feed on fibre in your food, producing gases including hydrogen and methane.

Over time, SIBO can lead to chronic inflammation and damage to the lining of your small intestine. Eventually, this causes the small intestine to become more permeable than it should be, setting the stage for food intolerances to develop. It can lead to immune system issues, including auto-immune diseases, too. You may have problems absorbing nutrients from food, particularly fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin E and vitamin A because the small intestine is where most of your nutrients should be absorbed.

Why Does SIBO Develop?

If food travels slowly along your small intestine, this creates a wonderful breeding ground for the bacteria you don’t want to be there. Between meals and when you’re asleep, a pattern of electrical impulses stimulates waves of muscular activity in the wall of your small intestine, propelling food and bacteria along. If this doesn’t happen very efficiently, bacteria have the opportunity to flourish and start to feed on your food.

One other factor can be a weak valve, called the ileocecal valve, between the small and the large intestines. This valve prevents food – and bacteria – travelling back from your large intestine into your small intestine.

Past courses of antibiotics can predispose you to SIBO, as can having low levels of stomach acid. Long term stress and antacid medications both reduce the amount of stomach acid produced, and less is made with age. Drinking alcohol can encourage SIBO, too.

Fodmap foods for treating SIBO

FODMAPs

Foods causing problems for people affected by SIBO are known as high-FODMAP foods. FODMAP refers to the type of fibre in the food, called fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. The bacteria that have migrated into the small intestine love to ferment these types of fibre. 

High-FODMAP foods include garlic, onions, cabbage, artichoke, asparagus, chickpeas, beans, lentils, apples and some grains – but there are many other foods containing FODMAPs.

Overcoming SIBO

Although you might think the answer to SIBO would be to remove high-FODMAP foods from your diet, this is not a long-term solution because it’s a very restrictive way of eating. Remember, the foods are not at fault, it’s the underlying bacterial problem causing your symptoms. In the short term, it might be necessary to avoid high-FODMAP foods, meanwhile restoring the correct functioning of your gut so you can eat a variety of foods again without ill effects. This means removing the bacteria from your small intestine, after which high-FODMAP foods can be carefully reintroduced.

A simple test analysing your breath can determine whether you have SIBO, and this test can not only reveal if you have excess bacteria in your small intestine, but also whether they are the types of bacteria releasing hydrogen or methane.

If you do have SIBO, your practitioner will provide you with a personalised diet, supplements and herbs to eradicate errant bacteria and restore intestinal function. You’ll be provided with lifestyle solutions including stress-management techniques and eating patterns to encourage healthier bowel transit time.

Many people suffer for years with the symptoms of SIBO and have tried many approaches with few results. Don’t let gut issues affect your life – book a consultation today to regain good gut health.

Our practitioners that specialise in SIBO

Lottie Strutt

Functional Medicine Trained Nutritional Therapist

Karen Preece Smith - Nutritional Therapist

Karen Preece-Smith

Functional Medicine Trained Nutritional Therapist

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