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What is SIBO? I’m sure most of you that have a bloated stomach have found this acronym on the Internet. It stands for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. It is the main cause of irritable bowel syndrome heartburn, nausea and can cause leaky gut.

Before I can explain what SIBO is, I need to explain how the intestines work.

The parts of the intestines are the esophagus (food pipe), stomach, small intestines (where food it is digested and absorbed), and the large intestines (waste products from food and water is reabsorbed). When you eat, the food travels quickly through the esophagus into the stomach. The stomach acid helps break down food and kills bacteria on the food you eat. The food then moves slowly into the small intestines for further digestion and absorbed nutrients into your blood. Not all foods can be processed or broken down by humans. Humans cannot break down certain carbohydrates such as cellulose which is contained in plant food. This is commonly called roughage. The large intestine, as I said before, absorbs water and put the finishing touches on the waste that will be eliminated. After you eat, approximately every 90 minutes, the small intestines produce a strong repetitive moving wave that’s often called the housekeeping wave. It’s responsible for cleaning the small intestines, pushing the left over undigested material into the large intestines.

The human intestines have more bacterial cells than the number of cells in your body. Almost all of this bacteria is in the large intestines. The reason for this is that the large intestines are the slowest moving part of your intestinal system. Therefore it’s easier for the bacteria to grow and get established. Also there are less digestive juices in the large intestines.  The small intestines normally have a lower number of bacteria because of the stomach acid and pancreatic and bile juices. The small intestines also move the food faster.

Anything that reduces the flow of food through the small intestines can cause SIBO. Mechanical blockage from scar tissue, nicotine use and food poisoning can start the process. Research has shown that food poisoning and simple stomach flu can set up your small intestines for SIBO in the future by damaging the nerves that control the housekeeping wave. Other factors such as low stomach acid, digestive juices from the pancreas and bile. If not in sufficient amounts the bacteria cannot be normally killed off. Also, with poor digestion of food, the bacteria have more food to eat and cause gas. Diets high in simple carbohydrates makes this situation worse, more gas produced leading to more bloating. Gluten also has a part to play in SIBO. Gluten is a protein however, there is simple carbohydrates in the foods we eat with gluten. The gluten itself can be an irritant to our intestines.

Unfortunately, the diet alone won’t solve the SIBO problem. This requires the use of herbal antibiotics and a special diet which is called a FODMAP diet. The food in this diet is a low fermenting food. I should’ve mentioned earlier that the bacteria ferment cellulose and simple carbohydrates. The fermentation is what causes gas. The other concern is to establish normal intestinal flow of the food, housekeeping wave.

There is a lot to consider when solving the SIBO problem. As with all medical conditions SIBO is a name/ diagnosis. The underlying cause of SIBO must be determined in order to eliminate it. Sounds like functional medicine to me.

If you need help with a bloating problem and especially if you have not been helped by other doctors, call my office for a consultation. After the consultation, I will find the cause of your bloating problem.


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