Weight loss is often a welcome development for people who are obese or even for those desperately trying to lose weight but it is also one of the major symptoms of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and should not be overlooked or taken lightly. This is because SIBO causes major damage to the small intestine which plays a vital role in the absorption of nutrients into the body.
Undergoing a SIBO test is one sure way to check out excess growth of bacteria in your system, poor fat absorption, and other challenges being experienced. Additional blood testing or imaging tests may be recommended by the gastroenterologist to search for structural irregularity in the intestine.
Small intestinal bacteria overgrowth (SIBO) is caused by an unusual rise in the entire bacterial population located in the small intestine. Also called blind loop syndrome, it occurs when an event such as surgery or disease reduces the movement of food and waste products in the alimentary canal thereby creating an atmosphere for bacteria to thrive excessively. This excess bacterium further causes malnutrition, diarrhea, and weight loss.
Common Causes of SIBO
SIBO is mostly caused by surgery that alters the gastrointestinal tract but a few diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, scleroderma, hypothyroidism, Crohn’s disease and HIV can worsen the condition or put one at greater risk. Some of these other causes are:
Complexities from Abdominal Operation
This includes gastrectomy to manage stomach cancer and peptic ulcers or gastric bypass for overweight. Scarring from an operation, stricture, radiation damage, and fistulas.
Structural Challenges Around the Small Intestine
Intestinal adhesions and bulging pouches of tissue that is visible through the surface of the small intestine.
Severe Medical Conditions
Some diseases such as celiac disease, radiation enteritis, Crohn’s disease, diabetes, and scleroderma slow down the movement of food and waste through the bowel.
Complications Caused by SIBO
When this condition is unattended to or not properly treated, several complications could arise causing more damage to the health and general well-being of the person. Some of the complexities that could arise are:
With time, the damage done to the intestine due to irregular bacterial growth causes poor absorption of calcium which in turn leads to bone disease like osteoporosis.
Poor absorption of carbohydrates, proteins, and Fats
Bacterial products are likely to harm the mucosa which results in reduced assimilation of carbohydrates and protein. The excess micro-organisms, also break down the bile salts which are needed to digest fat thereby causing incomplete digestion and diarrhea.
Due to the unfinished assimilation of fats, the body is unable to completely absorb the vitamins it requires. The microbes in the small bowel synthesize and use the vitamins needed for the running of the nervous system and the manufacturing of blood cells.
Weakness and Fatigue
The destruction caused to the central nervous system as a result of B-12 deficiency leads to numbness in the hands and feet, weakness, tingling, fatigue, and in extreme cases mental confusion. This condition is often irreversible.
The inability of the body to properly assimilate calcium may cause the formation of kidney stones.
Malnutrition and Weight Loss
With the number of micro-organisms present, there is competition for available food, and where this is not enough, the bacteria begin to use the nutrients present in the body. If you need help with the treatment of weight loss, you can check here to find some tips.
How to Carry Out SIBO Testing
There are two major ways to test for bacterial overgrowth in the body. They include:
This method is simple, widely available, and is capable of identifying too many bacteria situated in the small intestine which can cause the discharge of methane and hydrogen gases. It demands one to fast overnight before taking the test and then a special sweet drink containing glucose or lactulose will be taken by the patient.
After this, the patient breaths into a series of tubes occasionally for 2 to 3 hours after taking the drink.This test can easily be carried out at home and is available in the standard breath test and the glucose breath test. Although it has its pros, it is often subject to misinterpretation but It is considered the best option in clinical practice for diagnosing SIBO.
Small Intestine Aspiration and Quantitative Culture
This involves passing a long, flexible tube to the small intestine by pushing it down the throat and through the upper digestive organs to obtain a fluid sample. The intestinal fluid sample is then tested in the laboratory for bacteria growth.
This method is presently the gold standard for testing bacterial overgrowth but it has a high cost and the possibility of the sample getting contaminated is high therefore it is mostly used only in research settings.
How to Treat SIBO
Since this condition often arises from structural challenges and other illnesses, surgery is often required to treat it but other common treatments that do not require an operation are:
One of the most popular ways to treat an overgrowth of bacteria sometimes even without any testing is with the use of antibiotics. This is because it reduces the number of abnormal micro-organisms to a large extent but it does not treat the underlying issue thereby requiring long-term treatment to prevent it from returning.
Antibiotics are known to cleanse out both normal and abnormal intestinal bacteria sometimes posing a new challenge but switching among various medicines such as rifaximin, ciprofloxacin and metronidazole can curtail this problem.
Restoring deficiencies caused by lack of nutrients is a vital part of recovering from SIBO especially in those who suffer extreme weight loss and malnutrition. They will need a large amount of calcium, vitamin B-12, oral vitamins, and even iron supplements intravenously injected into their body. They will also require a lactose-free diet due to their inability to digest lactose. This treatment will not only reduce intestinal distress but aid weight gain.
Diet alone is not enough to get rid of the bacteria although a change in diet has been found to provide relief to some symptoms. The suitability of the diet largely depends on the type of microbe causing the overgrowth. Changes such as eating a balanced, nutritious meal in small quantities also provide better comfort.
Some of the common diets are the SIBO specific diet, FODMAP diet, Cedar’s Sinai diet, and the Bi-Phasic diet. Substituting with an elemental diet for a while is equally effective even though some people express concerns about weight loss and energy, studies have shown that it can be a successful treatment for this condition.
There are a wide variety of natural antimicrobials that are plant-based and are equally as effective against SIBO as antibiotics. The type of SIBO determines the choice of antimicrobial to use. Consult with a gastroenterologist to choose an appropriate program.
If left untreated, SIBO can lead to malnutrition and even dehydration so it is important to immediately consult a gastroenterologist for a full evaluation and start treatment once there are symptoms. A long-term treatment plan should equally be developed to avoid the likelihood of it recurring.