SIBO: Small Intestinal Bacteria Overgrowth
This condition could be a major and often overlooked cause of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. There have been many books written but the main ones are A New IBS Solution by Dr Mark Pimentel and
SIBO is, as the name suggests, an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine, an organ that should be relatively free from bacteria.
The bacteria could have made it's way in there from the large intestine or through introduction during an infection or bout of gastroenteritis.
As I am not a scientist, nor qualified in any way to talk about this disease with any sort of authority, I am going to tell you all about my personal experiences of it. If you can relate, that's a shame, but maybe you can glean some info about what to do from my writing.
I believe my SIBO has happened during many years of exactly the right conditions. During the year 2008 I was put on a course of two antibiotics that lasted approximately five weeks. Antibiotics are non-selective and will kill every bacteria it meets throughout the body. It is very good for killing bad bacteria and ridding the body of infections, but will also kill off all the good bacteria. Since I was on them for five weeks (I am now heart broken by this!) they had plenty of time to wipe my large intestine clean of the millions of good bacteria that are essential to good human health. Without them, any bad bacteria entering my body has had nothing to counter attack it, and so they made themselves at home. In the years since I suffered bouts of diarrhoea and general gastrointestinal distress and took the over the counter drug Imodium near daily. I remember visiting my boyfriends flat for the first time and I was so nervous I might have had to use the loo I took eight tablets in one day and many more the following. I was so uncomfortable and ill back then. I regret so many things! Imodium is an anti-motility drug. Motility is the motion of the bowels to keep everything moving, a natural 'scrunching' of the bowel walls to push matter through. Our food and bacteria will get ushered on it's way out of the bowel and into the colon where it will finally exit! This is an essential function. Without this motion, bacteria can happily hang around and breed. I believe that these two factors (the antibiotics and the anti-motility drugs) have worked together to create the perfect environment for an overgrowth of bacteria in my small intestine.
Bacteria in the small intestine can cause all sorts of havoc. It will ferment food in the small intestine causing gas, bloating and, in me, diarrhoea. The bloating can be painful and in my case, the diarrhoea can be life changing. I became afraid to go anywhere and would always be mindful of when I could use a bathroom. I've had some bloody close calls!
So what can you do?
Well the first stage in treating SIBO is to remove the overgrowth.
My nutritionist put me on a strict diet excluding all sugars, refined carbohydrates, dairy, grains and processed foods. This will remove the SIBO's food source and therefore starve them out of the body. I ate a selection of vegetables and meats and bone broths in order to give my digestion a break, promote gut healing and starve the bad guys! This was extremely hard. I was on this strictly for 100 days, introducing a few more vegetables along the way according to how fermentable they are (these are called FODMAPs)
I had to remind myself daily why I was sticking to such a 'small' list of foods. Knowing that erring from the established food list would give my overgrowth a new lease of life kept me on the straight and narrow. But it was very hard to travel anywhere or leave my kitchen in general. However, after 100 days the pay off was worth it! I felt amazing to move onto the second stage of my treatment which was anti-microbial. Alongside pills and supplements, designed to kill the bacteria and any biofilm they had chosen to hide behind to survive, I ate naturally anti-microbial foods such as lots of fresh garlic, oregano and other herbs.
The third and hopefully final stage of treatment would be to reintroduce good strains of bacteria into the body in order to repopulate the gut and rebalance the gut flora. I am currently on this stage. I am taking a powerful probiotic in a small dose as it has been a long time since my body has had any and it could cause a flare up in symptoms whilst the gut gets used to it's new inhabitants!
Isn't it all fascinating? Did you know you get your first dose of probiotics from your mothers birth canal? There have been many articles linking mental health to gut health and even probiotics in the mainstream press.
For more about SIBO, listen to this amazing episode of the Balanced Bites Podcast with Dr Alison Siebecker.
I have listened to it exactly 8 million times and have fallen in love with Dr Siebecker! She is currently in the process of publishing a book all about SIBO and I can't wait to buy it
This is also a great resource: SIBOinfo.com
This is also a great resource: SIBOinfo.com