SIBO, IBS and Why You Need to Be Aware of Both Conditions
The key to unlocking IBS treatment may hinge on understanding bacterial imbalances related to SIBO.
For many people IBS is the combination of three of the most uncomfortable letters you can arrange together. The condition can be painful, embarrassing and extremely isolating. However, while you may be surprised to know that Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is an issue shared by millions - 25 and 45 million people in the United States alone, in fact. That’s a significant number. It means that you probably know someone (or lots of someone’s) who are afflicted with this disorder. However, due to the nature of the condition and the stigma around it, very few people are willing to discuss the issue openly in an effort to share knowledge.
With than in mind, I would love to take this opportunity to offer some insight into the condition. Most commonly, IBS has been attributed to stress, but it has been determined that while stress can worsen/trigger symptoms due to the connection between the brain and the gut, it is not a cause of IBS.
Studies show that over 50 percent of patients diagnosed with IBS actually have an underlying imbalance called SIBO, or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. In fact, the connection between SIBO and IBS has become a hot topic in the medical community over the last couple of years, as we continue to discover links between the two conditions. Here’s why: the small and large intestines are full of bacteria, which we need to stay healthy. But when there is too much of the wrong kind of bacteria in the wrong place, symptoms such as those of IBS often arise.
SIBO occurs when the bacteria from the large intestine migrate and overgrow in the small intestine. When there is too much of these bacteria in the small bowel, they can damage and compete with your own body’s small intestinal cells to absorb the nutrients from the food you are eating. When this happens, the bacteria end up producing large amounts of methane and hydrogen gas. If that’s a bit too much doctor mumbo jumbo for you, here’s the bottom line. If your body produces too much gas as a result of increased bacteria in the small bowel, this can cause symptoms conducive to IBS, including:
- Irritable bowel movements
- Diarrhea, constipation, passing excess gas, heartburn, bloating and abdominal pain
- Symptoms of malabsorption, including weight loss, anemia or fatty stools
- Associated conditions like fatigue, reflux, skin disorders, obesity or specific food intolerances/sensitivities
Traditionally, breath tests have been used as the standard method of diagnosing SIBO. This method calls for exhaustive dietary restriction and cumbersome collection protocols for patients, often making the accuracy of this test questionable. Because SIBO is a notoriously challenging disorder to diagnose, due in part to the fact that its signs and symptoms can be confused with many other conditions, a simple confirmatory blood test would be optimal. Fortunately, Cyrex Laboratories, a clinical laboratory specializing in functional immunology and autoimmunity, recently unveiled their new Array 22 – Irritable Bowel/SIBO Screen, paving the way for a more accurate test of these disorders by assessing IgG, IgA and IgM antibodies to bacterial cytotoxins and cytoskeletal proteins. Array 22 features key lab markers related to IBS/SIBO and the specific intestinal barrier damage they cause.
If you have any of the above-mentioned signs or symptoms, testing is recommended and may help identify triggers. Make an appointment with your regular health care provider to discuss your issues, symptoms and determine if testing might help you gain additional insight into the condition and its causes. There are antibiotic and herbal remedies along with diet protocols for the treatment of SIBO.
No one should feel like IBS is something they are just stuck with. The key is to ascertain information regarding the underlying causes of your condition so that you might treat the source of the problem. A SIBO connection isn’t a given when dealing with IBS, but if you’ve never been tested—the greater than 50 percent statistic I referenced earlier should be all the incentive you need to get checked out. It might just be the best holiday present you could ask for this year. In good health!
By Dr. Chad Larson, NMD, DC, CCN, CSCS, Advisor and Consultant on Clinical Consulting Team for Cyrex Laboratories.