Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) is far more common than people think and often confused with IBS and gut lining damage when its prime causes are lack of acidity and gut motility.
Symptoms of SIBO include bloating, gas, a sudden change to either diarrhoea or constipation and back again, and sometimes even pain – all rather like IBS (1).
But please be clear – SIBO is all about having bacteria in the wrong place at the wrong time. You should not really have large numbers of bacteria in your small intestine. To have SIBO, the bacteria don’t have to be bad, they can all be commensal, or good. They just shouldn’t be there.
And it’s not just bacteria (2). You can have archaea – a single cell organism, older than bacteria!
The problem is that these inhabitants compete for your nourishment. So instead of the small intestine digesting your food and releasing the nourishment into your bloodstream, the bacteria or archaea get in first! They ferment the food producing gas – bacteria produce hydrogen and hydrogen sulphide; the archaea produce methane. Bloating, wind and even pain follow; the same symptoms as IBS. You can then develop diarrhoea from the hydrogen, and constipation from the methane. Your digestion suffers, as does the perfect absorption of minerals and vitamins. Lowered B-12 can be a classic symptom. And fatigue, weakness and irritability.
Hashimoto’s is a good example. Because the bacteria should not be in high numbers in your small intestine, your immune system may also become involved and now you have a real problem. Any irregular features or structures will be attacked, but the immune system is a whole-body defence, so it will attack similar features elsewhere. And it looks like the Thyroid gland may offer similarities.
Doctors – if they even identify SIBO – want to use antibiotics. They are a complete waste of time. You do not have an infection. All the antibiotics will do is wipe out your good bacteria (and bad)
It is also unlikely therefore that taking mass-market probiotics will help. Nor is a diet of probiotic and prebiotic foods likely to cure.
SIBO is all about ‘motility’
Firstly, it is known that SIBO can be linked to low stomach acid. In a healthy individual, your stomach can go as low as pH 3. Your gut will be somewhere between 3 and 7. If it goes north of 7 you will have an alkaline gut, and you certainly don’t want that! Alkalinity in the gut damages the growth and replication of healthy commensal bacteria – for example the Lactic Acid bacteria, instead encouraging the development of pathogens. And the movements can all slow down.
So the first thing you should do is put your gut acidity up – a first-thing-in-the-morning water with lemon juice, and apple cider vinegar, avoid sodium bicarbonate, eat more protein and less carbs, and take Butyrate to rebuild the gut wall. Butyrate is great for your health. It is a short chain fatty acid; a super molecule produced by about 60 or more helpful bacteria.
Yes, you should add certain Lactic Acid bacteria into the mix. A good choice would be Saccharomyces boulardii or Streptococcus thermophilus, neither of which grow in the small intestine.
They will however increase the acidity. While LABs were 95% of our bacteria a few months after natural birth and breast feeding, as we approach 50, so poor diet, drugs, antibiotics, stress and the rest push our gut microbiome towards pH 7. With disastrous consequences.
But the second issue is the Enteric Nervous System (ENS), or rather its poor performance. Often called the ‘Brain in the Gut’, the ENS links the brain to the gut and vice versa. The ENS is pivotal for gut movement – the passage of food down the gut. It works independently of the other nervous system areas. And in SIBO, it is not working very well.
The ENS controls your gut muscle wall impulses. It will work, even when a person is paralised or in a coma when other systems have shut down. The contractions occur about every 90 minutes and push your food down the gut. Of course these impulses are improved by lubrication – extra virgin olive oil and fish oils being a good place to start – and exercise (yes, sit ups!), and they are worsened by factors such as genuine constipation and a parasite.
There are two parts to the ENS – The myenteric plexus control the speed and intensity of contractions in the gut. Something you are not aware of.
Then there’s the submucosal plexus which controls localised events, secretions and absorption.
The ENS is one of the reasons we get ‘Butterflies in the stomach’. It is affected by our mood and particularly anxiety and stress.
So the start point to address SIBO is to make your gut more acid naturally, to lubricate and exercise, and to detox your brain – take positive steps (not drugs) to calm your brain with such therapies as EFT, Meditation or prayer.
Go to: Hashimoto’s Disease
- Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth: Comprehensive Review of Diagnosis, Prevention, and Treatment Methods; Cureus, 2020 June 12(6); Ted George O. Achufusi et al – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7386065/
- Time Magazine – https://time.com/6155603/sibo-small-intestinal-bacterial-overgrowth/