Did you know - if your stomach gets bloated or gassy after meals, it may be a sign of intestinal inflammation? You may even have a gut infection such as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, or SIBO.
SIBO is one of the common diseases of the digestive system. Thankfully, this digestive problem is just an infection and can typically be remedied rather easily.
These are typical signs of a SIBO infection:
- Gas and bloating
- Abdominal pain or cramping
- Constipation (much less common than diarrhea)
- Diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease
- Food intolerances such as gluten, casein, lactose, fructose and more
- Chronic illnesses such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, neuromuscular disorders and autoimmune diseases.
- Deficiency of vitamin B12 as well as other vitamins and minerals
- Poor fat absorption
SIBO happens because of too much bacterial growth in the small intestine.
Unlike the colon or large bowel, which is rich with bacteria, the small intestine usually has much fewer bacteria in it. When it does get overrun with bacteria - for example, in people who consume too much sugar, alcohol and refined carbs - symptoms such as nausea, bloating, vomiting, diarrhea, malnutrition, weight loss and poor absorption develop.
That’s because certain strains of bacteria feed on refined carbs and break them down into short-chain fatty acids in the small intestine, creating gas and causing bloating. Yet another type of bacteria breaks down bile salts, which are needed for fat breakdown. Without them, fat is poorly absorbed. A third type of bacteria can produce toxins that damage the lining of the small intestine - preventing your body from absorbing vital nutrients it needs to function properly.
So - what exactly causes SIBO?
As it is being digested, food is physically being moved from the stomach to the small intestine and to the colon. In a healthy gut, bacteria also get passed along with the food. Any damage to nerves or muscles in the gut can result in leftover bacteria in the small intestine, increasing risk for SIBO.
For example, diabetes mellitus and scleroderma can affect gut muscles. Physical obstructions in the gut, like scarring from surgeries or Crohn’s disease, can also cause abnormal buildup of bacteria in the small intestine.
Diverticuli, tiny pouches that form in the wall of the small intestine, can collect bacteria instead of passing it on to the colon. Medications such as antibiotics, acid-blocking drugs and steroids can also disrupt normal gut flora.
If you feel that you persistently have any of the symptoms of SIBO, check with your physician. Of course, an easy way to restore your normal balance of gut bacteria and prevent diseases of the digestive system like SIBO is to cut down on sugar, refined carbs and alcohol in your diet.