It’s not common for lots of bacteria to live in your small intestine, but when they do, those pesky microorganisms can cause bloating, gas, diarrhea and abdominal pain.
As with many medical conditions, there’s an acronym for it: SIBO, and in some circles, SBBO, standing for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth and small bowel bacterial overgrowth.
Usually your digestive system has a steady supply of protective bacteria that guard against harmful bacteria. When the balance is upset, the small intestine sometimes reacts with symptoms similar to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). There can be a number of reasons for SIBO, though, including:
- Antibiotics in your system.
- Decreased stomach acid secretion.
- Lowered production of digestive enzymes.
- Gastrointestinal blockages.
- Radiation therapy.
- Slow transit of food through your bowels.
- An outcome of conditions such as Crohn’s disease and diabetes.
A health care practitioner will want to help you take care of SIBO once it is diagnosed. Left untreated, it can lead to malnutrition because nutrients aren’t being absorbed sufficiently.
Also, researchers are looking into possible links between SIBO and the development of irritable bowel syndrome.
Since the symptoms are similar, doctors might decide to go after SIBO in ways that might relieve IBS problems. This includes changes in diet, strategies for reducing intestinal gas, certain medications, probiotics and stress-reduction techniques such as meditation and exercise.
Recently there has been a concern about the potential for SIBO among those taking proton pump inhibitors for gastroesophageal reflux, peptic ulcers and other digestive disorders. But a study from the Mayo Clinic in Arizona says such patients are not at any greater risk.
The study, reported in the February 14, 2012 online American Journal of Gastroenterology, looked at data for glucose hydrogen breath testing (GHBT) on 1,200 subjects, half of whom were on PPI regimens, to come to its conclusion.
By the way, hydrogen breath testing is a standard procedure in checking for SIBO, as well as for lactose intolerance.