By naturopath Margaret Jasinska
Irritable bowel syndrome affects approximately 1 in 5 people. Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) is one of the most common causes. It can lead to symptoms like bloating, gas, reflux, constipation or diarrhoea.
In the past it was thought stress is the main cause of IBS. Stress can definitely be a big contributor, but we now know there’s more to it. Food intolerance, too many bad gut bugs and not enough good bugs, as well as bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine are usually responsible. Diet changes, as well as specific remedies to alter gut bugs can be very effective for relieving IBS. Having excess bacteria in your small intestine can cause fermentation to occur, along with inflammation to the gut lining. This can produce typical symptoms of IBS.
Testing conducted on people with IBS has found between 4 percent and 78 percent of them have SIBO. That’s an enormous range. If you have IBS, it is more likely that SIBO is causing your symptoms if you fit the following criteria:
- You are female
- You are of older age
- Diarrhoea is a dominant symptom of your IBS
- You experience bloating and flatulence
- You use a proton pump inhibitor (drug for reflux/heartburn)
- You take narcotics for pain relief
- You are low in iron
There are hydrogen and lactulose breath tests to diagnose SIBO, but they are not always reliable. If you have IBS and several of the points above apply to you, there’s a good chance you have SIBO. Treating small intestinal bacterial overgrowth can provide a huge improvement in quality of life for IBS patients.
SIBO is defined as an increased number and/or abnormal types of bacteria in the small intestine. The condition encompasses yeast overgrowth such as Candida too, but excess bacteria is more common. There is not supposed to be a lot of bacteria in your small intestine. This part of your intestine is designed for nutrient digestion and absorption. Most of the bugs in your gut are supposed to live in your colon (large intestine).
SIBO can cause symptoms of IBS, as listed above. It can also cause nutrient deficiencies, particularly of iron, magnesium, calcium and vitamin B12. SIBO can cause elevated liver enzymes and fatty liver, because the intestinal lining is compromised, allowing gut wastes to reach the liver, injuring it.