Currently a bit of a buzz-word, excessive bacteria living in the small intestine is known as Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, more commonly referred to in its acronym form, SIBO. Why is this so important? Because the longest section of the digestive tract is the small intestine, and this is where the food we eat engages with our digestive juices, and our bodies absorb any available nutrients into our bloodstream.
With SIBO however, nutrient absorption is significantly hindered, especially iron and fat-soluble vitamins. Once the food reaches the lower part of the small intestine, the bacteria that have overgrown (not the body) actually consumes these nutrients, leading to relative nutrient deficiencies and uncomfortable digestive symptoms. The end result is chronic anemia, low vitamin D levels, and impaired fat metabolism.
What causes this small intestine bacterial overgrowth?
A vast array of conditions trigger this overgrowth, including poor production of stomach acid, previous bouts of food poisoning, impaired digestive function, and a disordered microbiome, to name a few. Additionally, the use of certain medications, recent abdominal surgery, and of particular concern, celiac disease, are also associated with an increased risk for developing SIBO.
Similar to IBS, the most common SIBO symptoms include:
- Poor appetite
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Generalized abdominal discomfort
Malnutrition is one of the more major concerns with SIBO because the inability to absorb important nutrients can leave the body with insufficient building material to maintain optimal health.
What are some effective treatments for SIBO?
Manage nutritional deficiencies by maintaining a healthy diet. One effective method is to take in lesser amounts of food, eating more frequently throughout the day. This allows for easier digestion over time, and lessens the unpleasant and sometimes painful symptoms that can occur. Reduce or eliminate foods that have high fiber content, instead focusing on foods that are easier and quicker to absorb. Most importantly, include herbs or other nutritional supplements as directed by your healthcare professional that will help resolve the bacterial overgrowth, returning the microbes to their normal state.
Eating probiotic-rich foods such as kefir and sauerkraut along with a daily probiotic supplement can be helpful in repairing the lining of the intestines and getting rid of related inflammation. Stress reduction techniques like aromatherapy and acupuncture have proven effective, too. You’ve got options for starting your healing process, so do more research, eat less during each meal, and try to identify the underlying cause for your body in particular.