Getting to the Bottom of SIBO

According to research, bacterial cells outnumber our human cells 10 to 1 and virtually control every aspect of our physiology, which sounds rather frightening. However, rest assured that microbiome bacteria, taken care of, are in fact now proven to be our greatest allies when it comes to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and improving our overall health. 

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth is characterised by gas, bloating, flatulence, general discomfort and sometimes diarrhoea or constipation, as well as brain fog and muscle pain. SIBO is a condition where you basically have too much of a good thing in the wrong place. 

Dr Jill Carnahan, a functional medicine expert and board-certified family medicine practitioner from Chicago, is a 14-year breast cancer and Crohn’s disease survivor. Through her own journey, Dr Jill discovered a strong connection between the microbiome, Crohn’s disease, SIBO and colitis (inflammatory bowel disease).

Research shows that the microbiome in the right context, with the right neighbours and the right ecology, are no longer toxic but instead can be very beneficial bacteria to a human host. So rather than killing off all bacteria that is deemed as virulent, the new approach is to find ways to enhance the health of the microbiome by feeding the good bacteria.

Microbes ‘speak’ to our immune system and train if from when we are young, constantly deciding what is dangerous for us and what is not. Drugs, toxins and chemicals interfere with this microbe communication and create a dysfunctional immune response. They also cause a barrier dysfunction between our cells, creating permeability in our intestinal lining which leads to leaky gut syndrome as well as inflammation should Lipopolysaccharides (LPS), bacterial toxins, leak into places where they shouldn’t be. 

Interestingly, rosacea (adult acne) and interstitial cystitis are both associated with SIBO and if you have a fibromyalgia diagnosis with bloating, this could also be caused by bacterial overgrowth and an imbalance in the microbiome. 

Diagnosing Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth

Step 1: We are all born with the genetics that predisposes us which is an important part of the puzzle. You should thus be tested for genetics that may relate to gut and autoimmune disease.

Step 2: It is important that your health practitioner identifies the triggers. Tests such as a stool test to check pancreatic function and inflammatory markers, environmental tests on hair, blood and urine to look for toxins such as heavy metals, breath testing to highlight microbiome bacterial imbalances and overgrowth of bacteria in the small bowel, as well as food intolerance and sensitivity tests, are all important in pinpointing triggers.  

Step 3: Your stress levels and lifestyle stress need to be assessed as stress plays a big role in how your immune system operates. Fear and emotional issues such as anxiety and depression are very often tied to gut issues because our gut, which is sometimes referred to as our body’s ‘second brain’, often manifests symptoms based on how we are feeling. 

Treatment for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth

An intervention diet is a good place to start when treating SIBO and other related gut issues. Something that is organic, gluten-free, dairy-free and genetically modified (GMO) free. It’s important to note that GMOs are the most harmful foods for the gut, as the pesticides and chemicals they have been treated with actually ‘punch holes’ in our intestines which increases intestine permeability. Foods that are most affected by GMO are grains such as soy, wheat and corn.

Consider implementing a Paleo-type diet consisting of high fats (olive oil, flax oil and coconut oil), moderate protein and low carbs. Incorporate lots of leafy greens, a plethora of vegetables, nuts and seeds as well as fruit (berries and apples). Broths and animal fat are other good food choices for healing your gut but it’s best to avoid high-glycaemic fruit such as pineapples, mangos and bananas. 

The addition of herbs such as Biocidin and nutrients such as Vitamin A and D will work to balance the microbiome and gut bacteria, heal the gut, as well as assist in eradicating the pathogens. Also, add fish oil supplements to increase your fatty acid intake. Only in severe cases of intestinal overgrowth should one consider using antibiotics.

While fermented foods are generally very good for gut healing and the microbiome, beware, as they are high in histamine, so not everyone reacts well to them as they produce histamine in the gut through bacteria or yeast. If you find fermented foods are not your friend, it’s best to leave them out of your diet initially.

We’ve all heard that Probiotics are great for our gut, encouraging the good bacteria, but probiotics and prebiotics should be used with caution by people with SIBO. This is because you may already have an excess of lactic acid producing bacteria in your small bowel and probiotics such as Lactobacillus can actually make you feel worse as it compounds the problem of bacterial overgrowth. SIBO sufferers generally do better on a spore former like bacillus coagulans, which is also resistant to antibiotics.

Activating your inner meaning and purpose also plays an important role in healing, with love and gratitude being the most powerful healing emotions. Tapping into the joy of life, even if it’s something as simple as enjoying the beauty of a sunset, will greatly benefit your journey to improved health.

As a Doctor of Naturopathy and Homoeopathy, finding a holistic approach to healing is what Dr Alain Sanua does best. Talk to him today about diagnosis and solutions for small intestine bacterial overgrowth.


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