Could Bacterial Overgrowth Be the Cause of Your IBS?


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Managing stress in your life is a great way to help get your negative emotions under control, but unfortunately, stress is only one of many IBS causes. In fact, research that has been conducted over the past few years has found that IBS may also be related to Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO).

What is SIBO? It is an overgrowth of bacteria that naturally occurs in the small intestine. The small intestine contains a small amount of bacteria that is essential to the proper functioning of the gastrointestinal tract. However, when too much bacteria exists, problems such as fat malabsorption occur. In addition, it also stops carbohydrates from being absorbed, leaving them to rot in the intestines causing a number of unpleasant and often foul-smelling symptoms including bloating, pain, gas, mucus in stools and diarrhea.

Bacterial overgrowth can lead to nutrient deficiencies, food allergies and digestive enzymes that barely function. It is a common condition that usually goes undetected for years, even when symptoms are present. Why? Most people who have chronic digestive problems and have bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation are typically diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome. Doctors rarely consider bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine as the problem.

What causes bacterial overgrowth? There are many different factors that can lead to SIBO. Some of the following conditions that could cause an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine include:

  • Reduction of motility in the small intestine – condition caused by too much dietary sugar and chronic stress. This condition can also occur from diabetes, scleroderma and hypothyroidism.

  • Structural abnormalities within the small intestine – abnormalities may be caused by small intestinal diverticula, gastric bypass surgery, and intestinal obstruction. etc.

  • Hypochlorhydria – As people age, they produce less stomach acid. Stomach acid helps to eliminate bacteria in the small intestine. Thus, if there is a decline, the acid won’t be able to eliminate enough of the bacteria.

  • Other causes – stress, prolonged use of steroids, antibiotics, antacids, birth control pills and other medications, immune deficiency, pancreatic enzyme deficiency and a diet insufficient in fiber.

    Are IBS and SIBO related?

    One study that was conducted by researches at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre in California involved 202 participants with IBS. Each participant was tested for bacterial overgrowth with a lactulose breath hydrogen test. A person with bacterial overgrowth produces high levels of methane or hydrogen gas. The lactulose hydrogen test analyses the gas in breath, and is the best test for diagnosing SIBO.

    At the end of the study it was found that of the 202 participants, 157 tested positive for SIBO. When the 157 people that were diagnosed with SIBO were treated for the condition, and the extra bacteria within their intestine were eliminated, 48% of them had an improvement in their IBS symptoms.

    Although it has been found that bacterial overgrowth and IBS can co-exist, researchers are still determining whether or not IBS symptoms are caused by SIBO. Some theories suggest that the high levels of methane or hydrogen gas that are caused by the overgrowth of bacteria produce IBS symptoms. However, the theories are yet to be proved.

    How do you treat SIBO?

    Excess bacteria are eliminated through the use of antibiotics. Unfortunately, although antibiotics can control bacteria overgrowth it isn’t a cure. Like IBS, SIBO symptoms often return when medication is ceased. Thus, antibiotic treatment is often a continuous process.

    If you think you may have SIBO, talk to your doctor about taking a lactulose hydrogen test. If you find that SIBO is related to your IBS causes, or even if it’s not, it is a good idea to look into other alternative and complimentary forms of therapy to treat your symptoms such as acupuncture aside from medications.

    By Susan Reynolds. To find out more about ibs diet and for information on Irritable Bowel Syndrome please visit Natural Irritable Bowel Syndrome Relief , where you can sign up for a free newsletter focusing on managing Irritable Bowel Syndrome naturally.

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