Food such as fibre, travels though the intestinal tract to the large intestine. Here it is used by bacteria to promote a healthy environment.
This bacteria is part of the normal digestive system and has many important roles in keeping your cells and immune system healthy, and keeping bad bacteria away.
Typically in the gastrointestinal tract, there are few bacteria in the small intestine when compared to the VOLUME of bacteria that is present in the large intestine.
Our body’s natural defense prevents us from having too much bacteria in the small intestine.
but, sometimes certain factors can alter the amount of bacteria in the small intestine allowing it to overgrow. This is known as SIBO (‘pronounced see-bow’) or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.
Ingested food can be fermented by the bacteria in the small intestine. When this happens gases are produced as well as other products, which can cause a range of symptoms.
Common symptoms include bloating, Belching, flatulence, abdominal cramps, acid reflux, fatigue, or intestinal gurgling.
Incomplete digestion of food in the small intestine may affect bowel frequency and consistency and cause symptoms such as diarrhea, urgency, loose stools, constipation, or mixed bowel habit. It can also affect the absorption of nutrients and lead to vitamin deficiencies. Some people may experience weight loss or weight gain.
Bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine can also affect the lining of the intestinal tract allowing unwanted particles and toxins to pass through the weakened epithelial cell junctions and into the blood stream. This may trigger inflammatory responses such as skin issues, joint pain or tenderness, fibromyalgia, or other secondary symptoms linked to intestinal permeability – sometimes referred to as ‘leaky gut’.
So how does all this relate to IBS?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome, also known as IBS, is one of the most common and debilitating gastrointestinal disorders affecting 10-15% of the population. It is a group of symptoms which consistently occur together. The most common of these are stomach cramps, bloating, discomfort, diarrhoea, and constipation.
As a functional Gastrointestinal disorder it comes in multiple forms:
● IBS-C refers to IBS with constipation, and it is one of the more common types.
● IBS-D is also called IBS with diarrhoea.
● IBS-M includes mixed bowel habits, for example alternating pattern of diarrhoea and constipation.
● Post-Infectious IBS occurs after a Gastrointestinal infection.
So……. the patients with SIBO suffer almost the same symptoms as the patients with IBS do. In fact, some studies have shown that in up to 80% of those clinically diagnosed with IBS, SIBO was present.
Treatment has also shown to improve symptoms; this is typically with an antibiotic that is not absorbed and works in the small intestine to reduce the bacteria levels to what they should be.
We don’t have any specific test for IBS except the exclusion criteria of ruling out all other possible diseases through testing and taking a thorough medical history from patients, but we do have a specific test for SIBO.
Since the symptoms of IBS tends to overlap, and the fact that SIBO treatment incredibly improves IBS symptoms simultaneously, hydrogen and methane breath testing to look for SIBO, holds its own importance.
Testing is non-invasive. You can get tested for SIBO in one of our clinic locations; Testing can also be performed at home with our easy to use ‘at home testing kit’. Testing kits are posted back to Gastrolife for analysis.
Visit https://gastrolife.ie/terminology/small-intestinal-bacterial-overgrowth-sibo-test/ for more information on SIBO testing.