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When the digestive system is dysfunctional there can be several underlying causes that can contribute to the imbalance. A condition called SIBO may be a factor. SIBO stands for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. In general, bacteria should be limited in existence in the small intestine because it is the site where absorption of our nutrients occurs. An abundance of bacteria in this location causes food to be digested by the bacteria instead, creating symptoms and disruption of a healthy GI system.

Symptoms of SIBO include:

  • bloating
  • flatulence, belching
  • abdominal pain, discomfort, or cramps
  • constipation, diarrhea or a mixture of the two
  • heartburn
  • nausea
  • malabsorption: anemia
  • general symptoms that SIBO can cause: headache, joint/muscle pain, fatigue, rosacea, fibromyalgia

There are different theories as to how SIBO occurs in the first place.  Having a food poisoning event can set the scene for this to occur as well as a history of antacids (particularly proton pump inhibitors).  A dysfunctional ileocecal valve, allowing bacteria to enter back into the small intestine from the large intestine may be another factor. Hypothyroidism, lyme or other conditions that are known to slow motility (regularity) may also set the stage for SIBO to take place.

Your symptoms and history can clue your doctor into thinking that this may be an issue for you but testing is of value as there can be an overlap of other underlying issues so a diagnosis of the condition allows for faster treatment and results.  To test for SIBO a breath test needs to be completed. The test kit is taken home and done after drinking a lactulose solution following a 24-hour prior specific diet and morning fast. The test is a breath test so you will be instructed to breathe into test tubes over a period of time.  The breath will release hydrogen and methane the two gasses analyzed for the presence of SIBO if it is there.

Treatments vary based on the individual and any other underlying issues that may be addressed at the same time.