What is SIBO?

SIBO stands for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. Normally, bacteria are found in the trillions in the large intestine, where they perform various symbiotic functions for the human body. SIBO is a condition where bacterial overgrowth occurs in the absorptive area of the body the small intestine. It is estimated that up to 80% of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) sufferers have SIBO.

Symptoms of SIBO can include:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Alternating constipation and diarrhoea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Bloating and/or wind
  • Burping and Acid Reflux/GORD
  • Food sensitivities
  • Joint pain
  • Skin rashes
  • Iron and B12 deficiency
  • Respiratory symptoms such as asthma

SIBO can occur when

The ileocecal valve (which connects the large and the small intestine) is dysfunctional, allowing large intestinal bacteria to migrate upwards into the small intestine, where they wreak havoc.

The normal cleansing wave of the small intestine is disrupted, or stopped. This cleansing wave is called the Migrating Motor Complex (MMC), and occurs approximately every 90 minutes, typically between meals. The function of the MMC is to wash out accumulated bacteria and propel them toward the colon. The MMC is not related to the peristaltic waves of the large intestines.

The result is bacteria are allowed to grow and proliferate throughout the small intestine (a little over 6 meters in length).

How can SIBO be tested?

SIBO can be tested with a simple, non-invasive breath test. After a 24 hours preparatory diet, a pleasant-tasting substrate, called lactulose, is swallowed. Lactulose is not absorbed in the small intestine and therefore it acts as a food source for bacteria, if they are abnormally present, in the small intestine.

The bacteria ferment the testing substance and produce hydrogen and/or methane. These are diffused into the blood stream and exhaled via the breath. Breath samples are collected every 20 minutes for 3 hours while performing the test, which can be done in the comfort of your home.

Once the test has been sent to the specialist laboratory and the results have been assessed by your practitioner, they will see you for a comprehensive appointment to discuss your results in detail and give you a treatment plan to address the identified underlying problems which are causing your health symptoms.

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