Candida was once the focus of bad gut bacteria, but now we have found another culprit – SIBO. If you have been experiencing exhaustion, anxiety and digestive problems you may be dealing with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). This nasty critter can cause horrible health problems, but thankfully we know how to boot it out.
The Role of Gut Bacteria
Balanced gut bacteria (the microbiome) perform incredibly important functions within the body. The microbiome is the foundation of our immune system making up 80% of our total immunity. Beneficial bacteria protect us against pathogens such as (bad) bacteria, viruses, parasites and yeast infections. They help the body absorb nutrients, and also produce several vitamins including B12, folate and vitamin K as well as short chain fatty acids such as butyrate, which protects the gut from cancer. Probiotics also play a major role in producing and regulating and activating essential hormones within the body as well neurotransmitters (such as serotonin) within the brain. Probiotics play a role in maintaining peristalsis, the motion used to move food along the gut.
What is SIBO?
SIBO can either be an overgrowth of normal bacteria in the small intestine, or an invasion of bacteria that doesn’t belong there such as e-coli. Often it is a combination. Researchers only stumbled upon SIBO in the last decade and have now discovered it is more prevalent than previously believed, especially in people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome or people who have taken a lot of antibiotics.
The problem with SIBO is that it can damage the lining of the small intestine and easily interfere with digestion of food and absorption of nutrients. Long term the damage to the small intestine can lead to leaky gut syndrome. Here the gut lining becomes damaged to the point of permeability to food particles, which can leak into the bloodstream. As the particles enter the blood the immune system reacts to these foreign invaders. This can lead to allergies, food sensitivities, inflammation (the foundation of Endometriosis and some forms of PCOS), and autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
- Low stomach acid – antacid medication
- Antibiotics or immunosuppressant’s
- Oral contraceptive pill
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Celiac disorder
- Bowel surgery
- Diseases such as diabetes, Crohn’s disease, liver cirrhosis, chronic pancreatitis, diverticulosis, scleroderma or renal failure
- Consistent alcohol consumption
Vegetarians and vegans have a higher risk as they tend to have inadequate stomach acid. Another factor that can trigger SIBO is Blind Loop Syndrome. This occurs when food passing through the small intestine bypasses parts of the digestive tract. The result is a breeding ground for the wrong bacteria.
Since SIBO is not yet tested for by mainstream medicine it is largely under-diagnosed. Functional Medicine doctors and some Integrative Medicine doctors have access to labs that conduct accurate gut bacteria tests. In South Africa we have Synexa Life Sciences lab run by one of SA’s top Professors of Immunology Patrick Bouic.
If you have a few of these symptoms you may have SIBO:
- Abdominal pain
- Gas, nausea, belching or vomiting
- Irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease
- Food intolerances such asgluten, casein, lactose, fructose and more
- Chronic illnesses such asfibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, neuromuscular disorders and autoimmune diseases.
- Fat malabsorption
- Weight loss
- Joint Pain
- Physical weakness
- Numbness or tingling in hands or feet
- Memory and concentration loss
Like other pathogens, SIBO has a nasty habit of pooping nasties into your system and eating up your much-needed nutrients. SIBO can feast on your iron and prevent protein, carbohydrates and fats from being properly absorbed. It can also lead to nutritional deficiencies in calcium and B vitamins especially B12 and folate. The bacteria may also decrease fat absorption, affecting essential fatty acid reserves as well as vitamin A, D, E and K levels. Overall its affect can be so severe even leading to malnutrition and damage to the central nervous symptom. SIBO also increases ones ammonia production.
Today we have access to many integrative medical practitioners that are capable of conducting the correct tests and creating a fine tuned nutritional and supplement routine to clear SIBO. Make sure your practitioner orders a bacterial gut test to view the story of your body. Below is just one example:
SIBO Elimination Protocol
- Eat small meals five or six times a day
- Cut out all refined foods, wheat, honey, dried fruit, alcohol and caffeine
- Keep grains and fruit low, but berries are great
- Eat cultured vegetables such as sauerkraut
- Only eat organic dairy and meat
- Eat lots of fish, pasture reared eggs, greens and fresh veg
- Coconut oil, aloe juice and green juicing are wonderful addition
- Take EM (Effective Microorganism) liquid probiotics and good quality digestive enzymes
- To eliminate the bacteria overgrowth alternate between high concentration oregano oil (Lifeline from Synexa Labs) and berberine extract (or barberry by Willow) every 4 days for 6 weeks, have a 2 week break and continue the same regime for 2 weeks.
We are fortunate to live in a time when science is used to identify curable problems such as SIBO and identify which powerful plants can turn the story around.