Natural Health

Have You Been Misdiagnosed? Could Your Digestive Problems Be SIBO?

Disclaimer: The following information has not been approved by the FDA. This information should not be interpreted as medical advice and is not a substitute for a visit with a medical care professional. Always speak to your doctor about any health concerns. 

The American Nutrition Association reports that 70 million people suffer every day from some form of digestive issue. This number seems pretty accurate to the Healthy Place team. Digestive problems are one of our top three customer complaints. Many of these customers have had digestive issues for years and are still struggling to only manage their symptoms. Could they have been misdiagnosed? Could their digestive problems really be SIBO? Could there be hope of doing more than controlling symptoms? 

What Qualifies as a Digestive Disorder?

What digestive issues fall under the umbrella of digestive disorders? Doctors commonly diagnose patients with these disorders:  

    • Heartburn
    • Acid Reflux
    • GERD
    • IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
    • Indigestion
    • Constipation
    • Diarrhea
    • Abdominal Pain

Less commonly diagnosed disorders include:  

    • Crohn’s Disease
    • Celiac Disease
    • Leaky Gut Syndrome

Recently have researchers recognized another digestive disorder – SIBO.

WHAT IS SIBO?

SIBO is an acronym for “small intestinal bacterial overgrowth”. It is defined as an excessive quantity of bacteria in the small intestine.

Wait! Are you thinking of everything you have heard and read about the gut microbiota and the need for prebiotics and probiotics? Hold on…

The digestive tract IS home to trillions of bacteria, but the small intestine should have relatively low levels of bacteria – the highest concentrations are meant to be in the colon.

The role of the small intestine is digestion. Food, mixed with digestive juices, moves through this, the longest section of the digestive tract. It is where nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream. If excessive bacteria are present, digestion of food and nutrient absorption is affected. In fact, these bacteria can uptake certain B vitamins before our body has a chance to absorb them. They also consume amino acids and protein, leaving our body deficient in these nutrients. SIBO may also damage the structure of the small intestine – leading to leaky gut syndrome.

Most health practitioners know relatively little about SIBO. This is something I experienced first hand while seeking medical help for digestive problems over a three year period. I had done enough research to suspect SIBO, but when I asked doctors to do the test, they would stare blankly and ask, “SIBO? What’s that?” You can probably guess that when I finally found a doctor with expertise in digestive complaints, my test it was positive. Did I feel vindicated? No, just sad at all the time lost with a misdiagnosis.

CAUSES OF SIBO

There are multiple causes of SIBO, many of them complex, but a number of risk factors have been identified.

    • Low stomach acid
    • IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
    • Disorders of the digestive system:  Celiac, Crohn’s, diverticulosis
    • Diabetes: particularly prevalent when diabetes is not properly controlled.
    • Antibiotic use
    • Prior bowel surgery
    • Blind loop syndrome: a condition where the small intestine forms a loop, resulting in slowed bowel motility. When food moves more slowly through the digestive tract, bacteria increases.
    • Aging:  research has found that adults over the age of 61 have a higher rate of SIBO than younger adults.
    • Medication: particularly proton pump inhibitors, oral contraceptive pills, and immunosuppressant medications
    • Alcohol use
    • Chronic Lyme Disease: due to long-term treatment with antibiotics, both herbal and prescription

SYMPTOMS OF SIBO

SIBO continues to be both underdiagnosed and misdiagnosed. Research estimates that as many as 80% of people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) have been misdiagnosed and actually have SIBO.  Researchers believe these are the patients that have had little improvement in their IBS symptoms.

This PubMed article states: “Patients with SIBO vary in presentation, from being only mildly symptomatic to suffering from chronic diarrhea, weight loss, and malabsorption.”

The most common symptoms of SIBO are:

    • Abdominal pain and discomfort
    • Bloating
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Constipation
    • Weight Loss
    • Gas and belching

These symptoms may also be present:

    • Joint pain
    • Fatigue
    • Rashes, acne, eczema
    • Asthma
    • Depression
    • Rosacea

a DIAGNOSIS

I would like to emphasize that people with ongoing digestive issues should seek the help of a health care provider that has knowledge of SIBO – even if you already have a diagnosis of another digestive disorder. As stated above SIBO is commonly misdiagnosed as IBS.

You can ask your current health care provider to provide a SIBO test. I have found that naturopaths and functional medicine practitioners are more likely to have had experience diagnosing and successfully leading a patient through SIBO treatment. They will base your diagnosis on symptoms and a simple diagnostic test!

A SIMPLE TEST

A SIBO test is simple and noninvasive. It is done in the privacy of your own home and mailed to the lab in the provided packaging. It involves dietary restrictions for several days prior to testing and a 12 hour fast before beginning (dinner to breakfast the next morning works great).

    • A baseline breath sample is obtained by blowing into a test tube with a straw (you then quickly put a lid on the tube).
    • A packet containing test sugars is mixed with water and consumed.
    • Every 20 minutes for five hours another test tube breath sample is collected.
    • The test tubes and paperwork are packed in the box provided and mailed to the lab.

Super simple! Results in 2-3 weeks.

NOTE:  There are two types of SIBO:  methane and hydrogen. Make sure to request a lab test that checks for both forms! Methane SIBO is much more difficult to eradicate and you may need multiple treatments to completely eliminate it.

HOW TO TREAT 

SIBO can be difficult to treat. There are a wide range of opinions on the best strategies for treatment. Finding an experienced health care provider who can guide you through treatment based on their patient experiences is optimal!

Here are a few things you might expect during treatment.

  • Dietary Restrictions:  Doctors vary in their recommendations, but typically you will be advised to go on a low-FODMAP diet during treatment (2-4 weeks), gradually reintroduce these foods over the next month. FODMAPS are fermentable carbohydrates that help to feed beneficial bacteria in the large intestine. In SIBO patients, they are also feeding the bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine. Dietary restrictions may sound daunting, but most people with SIBO are more than willing to sacrifice to get better!
  • Treatment:  Antibiotics or herbal antimicrobials are the common treatments for SIBO. Studies vary regarding the better treatment. Both have pros and cons. Your healthcare provider should tailor your treatment plan to meet your needs and preferences.
  • Retest:  After you have completed treatment and another SIBO test is done to measure success. Some patients choose to forgo this test and move ahead based solely on absence of symptoms. Many doctors recommend retesting to ensure that the treatment was successful, rather than waiting for a reemergence of symptoms.

LIFE AFTER SIBO?

My SIBO treatment hasn’t been an easy road. I am still battling methane SIBO. But my quality of life has improved, and I now know what the problem REALLY is. I am moving forward instead of just “treading water”.

If this article sounds like something you are experiencing, I urge you to seek out an health care provider that is knowledgeable and experienced in treating SIBO.

Hundreds of customers visit our stores looking for supplements to “control” their digestive symptoms. They have no hope of recovery or healing because they have been told it is impossible. The Healthy Place team has been trained to help you find supplements that address your health concerns. We believe there is hope and we love to cheer for our customers that have regained their health – a remarkably common occurrence with our customers!

Stop in one of our stores and talk to a member of our team. We want to help you “find your healthy place”!

PLEASE NOTE:  If you are experiencing ongoing digestive problems that are not improving or resolving, you should do more than try to control the symptoms yourself. There are serious conditions and diseases that require medical intervention. A health care provider will be able to help you determine the seriousness of your condition.

Two articles that helped me:

https://chriskresser.com/sibo-what-causes-it-and-why-its-so-hard-to-treat/

https://chriskresser.com/why-diet-alone-is-not-enough-to-treat-sibo/


*Disclaimer: All information and recommendations given on this site, in email correspondence, newsletters or other materials provided by The Healthy Place is for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice nor be viewed as a substitute for a face-to-face consultation with a healthcare provider. Consult a licensed healthcare practitioner before modifying, stopping, or starting the use of any medications, health programs, diets, and/or supplements, as well as regarding any health concerns you may have. Our statements and information have not been evaluated or approved by the Food and Drug Administration. As with any health-related program, product, or service, your risks and results may vary. We expressly disclaim responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or damage caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the information provided to you here.”


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