SIBO raises the risk of gallbladder polyps

Gallbladder polyps are quite common. They usually do not cause any symptoms and are generally discovered incidentally during an upper abdominal ultrasound. Fortunately, approximately 95 percent of gallbladder polyps are benign, meaning they are not cancerous. There is potential for them to become cancerous in the future, so it’s best to be monitored and try your best to improve your health. New research has shown that people with Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) are more likely to develop gallbladder polyps; particularly women.

Research conducted at the Department of Gastroenterology, School of Medicine, South China University of Technology analysed 297 people. They all received a hydrogen methane breath test to detect SIBO. Results showed that females in particular with SIBO were significantly more likely to develop gallbladder polyps, and also having higher blood sugar in both men and women raises the risk too. If either of those conditions affect you, take this as an early warning sign to look after your gallbladder.

Why do polyps grow in the gallbladder?

High blood sugar is almost always accompanied by high blood insulin levels. Insulin is a growth promoting hormone. It raises the risk of lumps and bumps growing on the body such as polyps, fibroids, cysts, acne and cancer. Having an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine can be a problem because the bacteria can travel via the bile duct into the gallbladder, causing chronic irritation. After many years, the chronic irritation can cause a polyp to develop. Vitamin D deficiency also raises the risk of polyps because one of its main jobs is to regulate normal cell growth and division. A lot of people spend most of their time indoors and don’t receive adequate sunshine to produce enough vitamin D.

If one or more polyps have been found in your gallbladder, you should have another ultrasound in three to six months to check if they’ve increased in size. Gallbladder polyps should not have increased in size significantly after that time. If a polyp has turned cancerous, it usually becomes substantially larger in that time frame. Some doctors recommend the gallbladder be removed if a polyp is greater than 0.4 inches in size because of the risk it may turn cancerous. This is usually not necessary. It’s best to just keep monitoring it with ultrasounds and in the meantime, follow the healthy guidelines in our book, Save your Gallbladder Naturally and what to do if you have already lost it. Your gallbladder lining can get inflamed if your liver is not producing healthy bile. People with a fatty liver, inflamed liver or sluggish liver typically make poor quality bile. People with high cholesterol or insulin resistance are usually in the same scenario. Since polyps can be a precancerous condition, it is important to do everything you can, to strengthen your immune system and have a healthy liver and gallbladder.

How to know if you have SIBO

SIBO is an increased number of bacteria in the small intestine. The condition encompasses yeast overgrowth such as Candida too. 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). Having too much bacteria in the small intestine can make you feel bloated and it can cause symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome such as abdominal cramps, gas, heartburn, reflux, diarrhoea or constipation. New research has shown that many cases of irritable bowel syndrome are actually caused by SIBO. An overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine inflames the lining of the gut. This leads to leaky gut, which can be a forerunner to autoimmune disease.

Breath tests for SIBO are not always reliable. The following symptoms may indicate you have the condition:

  • Nutrient deficiencies: Particularly iron deficiency, B12 and vitamin D deficiency.
  • Muscle cramps, spasms or restless legs syndrome. Muscle cramps and spasms are usually caused by magnesium deficiency due to malabsorption. Iron deficiency and vitamin E deficiency are strongly correlated with restless legs syndrome as well.
  • Joint pain
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Fatigue
  • Multiple food sensitivities
  • Inflammation of the liver (raised liver enzymes)
  • Skin problems, including eczema, acne rosacea, rashes or itchy skin.
  • Refractory coeliac disease (coeliac disease that doesn’t resolve on a gluten free diet)
  • Strong sugar or carbohydrate cravings. The excess bacteria and yeast in the small intestine want to be fed. They need carbohydrate in order to survive, so you’re likely to have big cravings for these foods.

Natural remedies for beating SIBO

  • Rifaximin is the usual antibiotic given for SIBO. It can be very helpful, but it isn’t perfect. Some people experience significant symptom reduction while on it, but symptoms return as soon as they stop. From my experience this even occurs in people eating an exceptionally healthy diet that is free of sugar and refined carbohydrate. Some patients need repeated courses to overcome SIBO. We have found that herbal antimicrobials and diet changes are usually more effective.
  • The herbs oregano, clove, thyme and berberine are found in BactoClear capsules. They may help with the symptoms of medically diagnosed irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Changing your diet is essential. It is important to stop consuming sugar and highly refined carbohydrates like white flour, rice, breakfast cereals and pasta. Some people need to restrict fermentable carbohydrates for a period of time by going on a low FODMAP diet.
  • It is vital to improve digestive function, as people with SIBO usually don’t produce enough hydrochloric acid in their stomach and they do not produce enough digestive enzymes. These can be taken in supplement form and can help to prevent the SIBO from returning after it has been successfully treated.
  • Gut and liver health can be significantly impaired by SIBO. The bacteria cause leaky gut, and then gut wastes leak to the liver, overwhelming its detox abilities. Dr Cabot’s 15-Day Cleanse is a comprehensive 3 part program designed to heal the gut lining, improve liver health and strengthen the immune system.
  • Some people with SIBO experience significant constipation. This is sometimes due to excess levels of methane-producing bacteria in the gut, which interferes with normal intestinal peristalsis. The treatment of constipation can vary for different people. Sometimes reducing or eliminating certain plant fibre can be immensely helpful.


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