Your small intestine plays a vital function in the processing and digestion of food, so if an issue develops in this area, it can cause a number of gastrointestinal symptoms. One such problem that can develop is SIBO, which stands for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Bacteria in your digestive symptom perform a crucial role in the digestive process, but if too much bacteria ends up settling in your small intestine, you may end up with SIBO. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at why small intestinal bacterial overgrowth develops and how the condition can be treated.
SIBO Causes And Symptoms
As we noted above, SIBO occurs when too much bacteria ends up developing in your small intestine, but why can a bacterial overgrowth occur? The most common reason for bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine is as a result of a slowing of the passage of food along the digestive tract. Trauma from surgery or another health condition can affect the digestive process and slow down the movement of waste throughout your digestive tract.
If food doesn’t move appropriately along the digestive tract, it can create a breeding ground for bacteria. When food lingers too long in the small intestine, excess bacteria can form and SIBO symptoms can develop. Digestion can slow as a result of your body responding to the physical shock of gastrointestinal tract surgery, as a result of scar tissue formation that can impact how food moves through the small intestine, or because of complications from health conditions like Celiac’s disease, Crohn’s disease, diabetes and scleroderma.
Symptoms of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth include:
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Loss of appetite
- Unexpected weight loss due to malnutrition
Diagnosing And Treating SIBO
If you’re dealing with any of the above symptoms, especially if you underwent GI surgery or have another medical condition that could affect your body’s ability to pass food through your small intestine, set up a consultation with your primary care physician or a gastrointestinal specialist. That’s because although symptoms may not be terribly uncomfortable, the presence of this bacteria buildup can cause problems for your body if it can’t absorb nutrients like it needs to. Among other things, poor nutrient absorption can lead to vitamin deficiency, osteoporosis and kidney stones.
At your appointment, your gastrointestinal specialist will talk with you about your symptoms and review your medical history. They may also check for bloating or discomfort by gently pressing on your abdominal area. However, in order to officially diagnose SIBO, they’ll need to collect a sample. Sometimes you can submit to a breath test that measures the amount of hydrogen or methane that you breathe out, but an endoscopic culture is considered the standard procedure to determine exactly what’s going on in your digestive system.
Treatment will depend on your underlying cause, so if a problem like scar tissue or a fistula (intestinal abnormality) is causing the digestive issue, a minimally invasive corrective procedure could be recommended. However, if doctors believe the problem can be managed nonoperatively, that will be the typical route.
The two most common non-operative treatments are antibiotics and dietary adjustments, and oftentimes they are used in combination with one another. Medications can help to resolve the bacterial overgrowth, while dietary improvements can help keep it from returning.
In many cases, SIBO can be effectively treated with some simple measures and some dietary adjustments, but it also helps to have a specialist on your side to guide you along a treatment path. If you are dealing with digestive issues and believe that you could benefit from a GI consult, reach out to Dr. Bhatti and the team at Bhatti GI Consultants today at 952-368-3800.