While its normal and indeed essential to health to have large populations of bacteria living in our colon, its not normal to have such large populations living further upstream in the small intestine. When gut bacteria do manage to take hold and form larger-than-normal colonies in the small intestines, it results in Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, often referred to as SIBO, or just plain “overgrowth.” SIBO is associated with all manners of digestive misery including abdominal bloating and distension, discomfort/tightness soon after eating, excess belching, excess flatulence, nausea and diarrhea though some people predisposed to constipation can experience this, too. In some cases, symptoms become so severe that people are unable to work, travel and go about their normal lives.
The symptoms of SIBO largely result from the fermentation festival that bacterial colonies stage in the small bowel once they settle in there. Since bacteria typically feast on carbohydrates and produce gas and other irritating metabolic byproducts as …
In healthy people, the small intestine contains low levels of friendly bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, especially in the upper part of the small intestine where our own critical digestion takes place. SIBO involves the invasion of the small intestine with much greater numbers of bacteria from the large intestine. The official definition of SIBO is “the presence of an abnormally high number of bacteria (more than 100,000 bacteria per milliliter) in the upper part of the small intestine”. At this level, the normally harmless bacteria that live in our gut can become harmful. They produce toxins, enzymes, and intestinal gases, including hydrogen, methane, and carbon dioxide that can disrupt digestion, cause intense physical discomfort and even damage the small intestine.
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