In the world of gut health, there are several conditions that can disrupt the delicate balance of our digestive system that can make your life miserable. SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) and Leaky Gut Syndrome are two such conditions that often cause confusion due to their similar symptoms. While they may share certain characteristics. It’s important to understand that SIBO and Leaky Gut are two distinct conditions with their own causes, symptoms, and treatments.
Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine said, “all disease starts in the gut.” We now have a greater understanding of how much our health is affected by our diet. The role our gut plays in immunity, inflammation and overall health.
What is SIBO?
Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) is a digestive condition. When the bacteria that lives in your small intestines are overgrown and the things that normally maintain balance among your gut flora aren’t working. It’s normal and healthy to have bacteria living in your small intestine, but too much can cause problems with your digestion. The wrong bacteria can overwhelm the beneficial bacteria that you need to be there, and they can upset your digestive system by feeding on products that aren’t meant for them.
How does SIBO occur?
Your amazing body maintains the balance of gut flora through a complex system of chemical and mechanical functions. For SIBO to occur, one or more of these functions must be weakened. Different conditions can inhibit these chemical functions from doing there job.
The emptying of food contents from the small intestine into the large intestine is another important cleansing mechanism. If this system is slowed or impaired, the bacteria in the small intestine have more time to breed, and the bacteria in the large intestine may begin to increase. Normally, the small intestine has relatively low levels of bacteria, but in SIBO, the bacterial population increases, leading to a range of symptoms.
This overgrowth disrupts the normal digestive process and can lead to a variety of symptoms that can significantly impact a person’s quality of life causing gas and bloating. Such as constipation or diarrhea, abdominal pain, malabsorption and other digestive complaints.
Approximately 70-80% of Irritable Bowel Syndrome can be attributed to SIBO. Over time, the bacteria can cause damage to the lining of the intestine creating leaky gut syndrome, food sensitivities and chronic inflammation.
It is important to note that SIBO is not a well-known condition, and many individuals may go undiagnosed for a long time. Therefore, increasing awareness about SIBO is crucial to ensure that individuals receive appropriate medical attention and treatment.
The causes of SIBO differ, but some common factors include a weakened immune system, low stomach acid, structural abnormalities in the digestive system, or certain medical conditions that slow down the movement of food through the digestive tract. Additionally, the use of certain medications, such as proton pump inhibitors or antibiotic use, or narcotics (drugs like codeine, fentanyl, and oxycodone), they can upset the normal balance of bacteria in your gut and can also contribute to the developing SIBO.
When it comes to symptoms, SIBO can manifest in various ways. Bloating, gas, and abdominal pain are some of the most common symptoms experienced by people with SIBO. These symptoms can be persistent and significantly impact a person’s daily life. In some cases, SIBO can also lead to more severe issues like malnutrition and weight loss, as the overgrowth of bacteria interferes with the proper absorption of nutrients.
It is important to note that the symptoms of SIBO can overlap with other digestive disorders, making it challenging to diagnose. Therefore, individuals experiencing persistent digestive issues should consult with a healthcare professional to determine the underlying cause and receive appropriate treatment.
SIBO symptoms can resemble a variety of other gastrointestinal conditions, and often another condition has contributed to SIBO. You may experience some or many of these, depending on the severity of your condition: Nausea, Indigestion, Excessive Gas, Diarrhea or Constipation, or Fatigue.
RISK FOR SIBO?
Some of the most common risk factors for bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine include a western diet that is high in refined sugars and starches, overuse of oral antibiotics, a history of food poisoning, low stomach acid, low pancreatic function and poor secretion of digestive enzymes, and bacterial overgrowth,
Age is an important risk factor for SIBO because older people are more likely to have medical conditions that cause low stomach acid or slow-moving digestion. They can also take more medication. Having stomach surgery for ulcers or obesity also can increase risk, as can radiation treatments of the abdomen.
Some of the chronic illnesses that can increase risk include:
- Celiac disease
- Colon cancer
- Chronic kidney failure
- Liver disease
It’s also important to note that SIBO has been linked to autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, skin conditions like acne and rosacea, chronic neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Dementia and Parkinson’s disease. Even seemingly unrelated conditions such as Fibromyalgia.
How Does SIBO Affect Mental Health?
I believe its very important to discuss the impact that SIBO has on our mental health. Since SIBO has also been linked to a variety of mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. One study found that patients with SIBO were more likely to suffer from depression compared to those without SIBO. Additionally, another study found that SIBO was associated with increased levels of anxiety and a decreased quality of life.
While the exact mechanisms underlying the link between SIBO and mental health are not yet fully understood. Although, it is believed that the increased levels of inflammation and bacterial toxins associated with SIBO can lead to changes in brain function and behavior. Since the gut microbiome produces various neurotransmitters and hormones, such as serotonin and GABA. These play a crucial role in regulating mood and behavior.
How to Diagnosis SIBO
Symptoms of SIBO can look like those of many other conditions. And you may have some of those conditions—such as irritable bowel disorder—along with SIBO. So diagnosis SIBO can be tricky.
If a doctor suspects you have SIBO, the most common standard test, is giving you a hydrogen breath test. To take this test, you drink a sugary beverage and then breathe into a tube every 15-30 minutes over a few hours. If the test shows that you breathe out a high levels of hydrogen gas, that’s a sign you could have SIBO. The breathing test may also look for methane gas, another gas linked with the overgrowth of some organisms in the small intestines. Other methods of testing that may be used including stool analysis and a comprehensive analysis of urinary organic acids.
As a general rule, every patient’s treatment protocol will be different depending on factors that may be unique to their medical history. However, treating SIBO typically involves major dietary changes and medications such as antibiotics or herbal treatments (depending on your approach) for prolonged periods.
SIBO can make it so your body doesn’t absorb enough of certain nutrients like vitamin B12, iron, thiamine, and niacin. Supplements maybe helpful. You might get shots of vitamin B12, as well as pills containing vitamins and minerals. Along with changes in diet.
In addition to other treatments, your functional medicine team will most likely recommend changing your diet to help keep SIBO under control.
If you think one or more foods make your symptoms worse, you can try cutting that food from your diet for a short time and then adding it back to see if it makes a difference. Doctors sometimes recommend cutting way back on all carbohydrates for a short time. Such a restrictive diet won’t be safe for everyone and isn’t intended as a long-term solution, make sure to always talk to your doctor before trying it.
A low FODMAP diet, foods that can cause intestinal distress, may be helpful. The treatment protocol for SIBO may vary depending on the type of bacteria and fungi found on testing. Although treatment is challenging, it may prove to be the most important step in regaining your health!
This is a more extreme temporary diet in which you get only a liquid formula in which nutrients are already broken down or predigested. This is a way to give your digestive system a rest and is only prescribed for people with severe digestive problems. The diet is not safe for people with diabetes or other blood sugar problems because it may cause spikes in blood sugar.
In this diet, you start by cutting out a long list of foods called FODMAPs—fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. These are carbohydrate foods that feed the bacteria in your gut and are hard to digest. The list includes many healthy fruits, vegetables, and grains, ranging from apples to onions to wheat, so doctors usually suggest adding foods back one at a time to find which ones you can eat without triggering symptoms. You should work with a healthcare professionals trained in nutrition to make sure you meet all your nutritional needs at every phase of this diet.
On a personal note. This is one of the options that my functional medicine practitioner recommended. I would take an elemental drink for 2 weeks solely then transition to a low fodmap diet for 2 weeks. Or for about 6 weeks take elemental drink with one meal a day that was on the low FODMAP. Or for 3 months be on a low FODMAP diet to heal you gut.
What is Leaky Gut?
Leaky Gut Syndrome, also known as intestinal permeability, is a condition in which the lining of the intestine becomes more permeable, allowing substances like toxins, undigested food particles, and bacteria to leak into the bloodstream. This increased permeability triggers an immune response and can lead to a many health issues.
When it comes to understanding Leaky Gut Syndrome, it is important to dive deeper into the intricacies of this condition. The lining of the intestines is normally designed to act as a barrier, selectively allowing nutrients to pass through while keeping harmful substances out. However, in the case of Leaky Gut, this barrier becomes compromised, leading to a range of problems.
When the gut lining is damaged, your body can absorb larger protein molecules from your food as well as toxins that can cause inflammation in intestines and other parts of your body. Leaky gut syndrome is considered to be an underlying cause of gastrointestinal disease. Leaky gut syndrome has been associated with inflammatory bowel disease, Celiac disease, Diabetes, arthritis, chronic fatigue, asthma, fibromyalgia, and other autoimmune diseases.
Various insults can contribute to leaky gut syndrome.
The causes of Leaky Gut Syndrome can be multi-dimensional, including factors such as poor diet, chronic stress, certain medications, and imbalances in gut bacteria. A diet high in processed foods, sugar, and unhealthy fats can contribute to inflammation and damage to the gut lining.
Chronic stress, can also take a toll on the gut, as stress hormones can disrupt the delicate balance of the digestive system. Two of the most damaging are an overgrowth of bacteria and gluten. If you are looking for natural remedies to combat your stress look here.
There are many other causes to leaky gut syndrome such as imbalance in gut microbiome, small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), Celiac disease, inflammation response, food allergies, fungal infections, toxicants, mold, chronic alcohol consumption, strenuous exercise, or aging.
Common symptoms associated with leaky gut syndrome include:
- Brain fog
- Food allergies or sensitivities
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Hormonal imbalance
- Anxiety, depression
- Acne, eczema, rosacea
- Joint pain
Although the origin of leaky gut syndrome occurs in the gastrointestinal tract, the proximity of the GI tract to the immune system causes immune dysregulation and inflammation that can contribute to systemic symptoms.
Conditions Associated with Leaky Gut
- Celiac disease
- Autoimmune conditions- rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus, type I diabetes
- Cancer – glioma, hepatocellular carcinoma
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS)
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease – Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Food allergies, skin conditions, and more are linked to leaky gut as well. However, more research is needed to fully understand the connections.
Diagnosis for Leaky Gut
Diagnosing Leaky Gut Syndrome can be challenging, as there is no specific medical test available. However, healthcare professionals may use a combination of symptom assessment, medical history, and laboratory tests to evaluate the presence of Leaky Gut Syndrome.
Treatment for Leaky Gut
Once diagnosed, the treatment of Leaky Gut typically involves a comprehensive approach that focuses on healing the gut lining, reducing inflammation, and restoring a healthy gut microbiome. Lifestyle changes and dietary changes play a pivotal role in the healing process. With an emphasis on eliminating inflammatory foods and including gut-supportive nutrients.
Nutritional supplementation, such as probiotics, digestive enzymes, along with PB Restore ProBiome complex can also aid in restoring a healthy gut environment. Stress management techniques such as meditation, Adaptiv and Copaiba softgels, and deep breathing exercises, can help reduce the impact of chronic stress on the gut.
It is important to note that the journey to healing Leaky Gut Syndrome is not a quick fix since you are taking care of the root cause. It requires patience, commitment, and a holistic approach. By addressing the underlying causes and supporting your gut’s natural healing processes, individuals can take great strides towards restoring their gut health and overall well-being.
How Does Leaky Gut Syndrome Affect Mental Health?
Leaky gut syndrome has been linked to a variety of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and cognitive decline. One study found that patients with leaky gut syndrome were more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety compared to those without the condition. Another study found that leaky gut syndrome was associated with impaired cognitive function, including memory and attention deficits.
The exact mechanisms underlying the link between leaky gut syndrome and mental health are not yet fully understood. However, it is believed that the increased inflammation and immune response associated with leaky gut can lead to changes in brain function and behavior. Additionally, the gut microbiome produces various neurotransmitters and hormones, such as serotonin and dopamine, which play a crucial role in regulating mood and behavior.
Leaky Gut Syndrome vs. SIBO: Are They the Same Thing?
Both SIBO and Leaky Gut Syndrome can result from an imbalance or dysfunction in the gastrointestinal tract. Additionally, they share some common symptoms, such as bloating, abdominal pain, and digestive issues.
However, there is some overlap between the two conditions. Both Leaky Gut syndrome and SIBO can lead to an increased immune response and inflammation. However, this can have a negative impact on mental health. Additionally, both conditions are associated with an imbalanced gut microbiome, which can affect the production of neurotransmitters and hormones that regulate mood and behavior.
While SIBO focuses on an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine. Leaky Gut Syndrome primarily involves damage to the intestinal lining and increased permeability. The underlying causes and treatment protocols also differ between the two conditions.
Understanding these differences is important for proper diagnosis and selecting the appropriate treatment approach. While leaky gut syndrome and SIBO share some similarities, they are not the same condition.
Leaky gut syndrome refers to a damaged intestinal lining that allows toxins and bacteria to leak into the bloodstream. While SIBO refers to an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine. Although, one study examined the correlation between SIBO and leaky gut syndrome. The researchers found leaky gut syndrome was significantly increased in the group with SIBO.
In conclusion, while SIBO and Leaky Gut Syndrome share some similarities, they are distinct conditions with different causes, symptoms, and treatment approaches. It is essential to work closely with a healthcare professional in order to assess your symptoms accurately and develop an effective treatment plan to improve your digestive health.