If you suffer from gas and bloating shortly after eating a meal, you may be suffering from small intestinal bacterial overgrowth syndrome, or SIBO. While it's normal for bacteria to be present in your small intestine, they can cause serious problems if their numbers grow out of control. They'll digest the food in your small intestine and produce gas as a waste byproduct, which is what results in chronic bloating. If you think you may have SIBO, read on to learn more about what causes it and what you can do to help alleviate your symptoms.
What Causes SIBO?
SIBO can occur when food doesn't move quickly enough through your small intestine. When the food you eat lingers in your small intestine, it gives the bacteria there more time to eat it and reproduce. When food moves slowly through your digestive tract, it's referred to as poor gut motility.
There are several possible causes of poor gut motility. One is aging since your gut motility naturally declines with age. Using opioid medications for pain can also slow down the rate at which food moves through your small intestine. Another possible cause is a partial obstruction in your small intestine that slows down the food moving through it.
You can also develop SIBO if your immune system isn't working well. Your immune system tries to prevent the bacteria in your small intestine from reproducing out of control. If you're taking immunosuppressive medication or if you have a condition that weakens your immune system, your immune system may not be able to effectively limit the number of bacteria in your small intestine.
What Are the Symptoms of SIBO?
The most common symptom of SIBO is bloating since the gas produced by the bacteria will build up in your small intestine and cause it to stress. This excess gas can also result in chronic diarrhea. In severe cases of SIBO, you may begin to lose weight or develop a nutrient deficiency. Your small intestine is where you absorb the nutrients from the food you eat, and you won't absorb them if the bacteria eat them first.
How Does a Gastroenterologist Diagnose SIBO?
The easiest way to diagnose SIBO is through a hydrogen breath test. This test uses a medical device to measure the amount of hydrogen in your breath. You'll fast overnight and drink a mixture of water and lactulose in the doctor's office, which will provide food to the bacteria in your small intestine. When they start digesting the lactulose, they'll make hydrogen gas as a byproduct, and you'll exhale some of this gas when you breathe out. If the device measures a high amount of hydrogen in your breath, you may have SIBO.
If your hydrogen breath test is negative and your gastroenterologist still suspects that you have SIBO, they may recommend an upper endoscopy. During this procedure, a camera will be inserted through your mouth and guided into your small intestine. The gastroenterologist will collect a sample of the fluid in your small intestine and culture it in order to estimate the amount of bacteria in it, which will allow them to determine if you have an excessively high amount of bacteria in your small intestine.
How Can You Treat SIBO?
Your gastroenterologist will most likely prescribe antibiotics to treat your SIBO. Antibiotics will quickly reduce the amount of bacteria in your small intestine, which helps alleviate SIBO symptoms. In addition to taking antibiotics, you'll also have to make changes to your diet in order to reduce the chances of your symptoms coming back.
Bacteria are great at digesting simple carbohydrates like sugars and starches, and they're also good at digesting the lactose found in dairy products. If you limit foods containing simple carbohydrates and lactose in your diet, then you'll have a better chance of keeping your SIBO symptoms at bay.
If you suffer from chronic bloating and think that you may have SIBO, schedule an appointment with a gastroenterologist in your area. Treating SIBO is important since it can eventually result in malnutrition as the bacteria compete for the nutrients in the food that you eat. With a hydrogen breath test or upper endoscopy, your gastroenterologist will be able to test if you have SIBO and recommend the right antibiotics to help alleviate your symptoms.
Contact a local doctor's clinic if you are experiencing bloating issues.