Virtual Clinic for Women's Hormonal Health & Digestion in Ontario

SIBO

SIBO, bloating, digestion

Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth

SIBO is a very common digestive issue that leads to bloating, constipation and/or diarrhea, and possibly contributes to systemic symptoms including acne, rosacea, joint pain, migraines, etc.

Mouth-to-bum our digestive tract is all one long tube, with different specialized sections. At the top is our mouth, with hard masticating tools (our teeth) that help us mechanically breakdown food, as well as saliva that begins the digestion of carbohydrates. The food then passes through the esophagus to land in the stomach, where it is blasted with bacteria-killing acid which also helps to break down the protein. The “food” (or what’s left of it) then passes to the small intestine where all the magic happens. Here we pump in digestive enzymes from the intestinal cells themselves, the pancreas, and the liver and gallbladder inject bile to help us break down fat. So by the end of the small intestine we should no longer be able to recognize the starting food. All proteins should now be small amino acids, large carbohydrates should be small saccharides, and fat should be reduced to small micelles. All of these nutrients should be easily absorbed into the bloodstream, and the remaining fibre should be passed into the large intestine, where it nourishes our large resident population of good bacteria, which in turn provides us with some vitamins, immune regulation and ideally daily and symptom-free bowel movements 🙂

If this whole process is working well, the small intestine is a zone of low bacterial presence. This is because our digestive juices are bacteriostatic, meaning they make it uncomfortable for most bacteria to reside there. But if something goes wrong, and we’re not pumping out the enzymes as we should (often due to stress), bacteria can sneak in and colonize. What’s worse, is that this is the area where nutrients are dense, so any lucky bacteria that finds its way here is in a buffet-style heaven, which leads them to prosper, proliferate and metabolize! When the bacteria is well fed, they produce gas as they digest, and then the patient is dealing with ever mounting levels of air in their abdomen, and depending on the species of bacteria, it can contribute to symptoms of either constipation or diarrhea as well. 

SIBO Breath Test

The way we test for the presence of this bacteria is via a breath test, and I prefer using a lactulose breath test. Lactulose is a sugar that we don’t absorb well, so when we drink it, it stays in our digestive tract and feeds the bacteria there. We then collect breath samples that help us determine not only how much bacteria is in the small intestine, but also what type. Once we have this data, we can then formulate a specific treatment plan that precisely targets the offending bacterial population. 

 

If you’ve been suffering with bloating, or any other symptoms listed above, book an exploratory call with us to see if we can help.

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