Today I’ve been reading up on Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, since I just got a positive result back on a patient of mine. This patient, like so many others with SIBO, has had these unremitting symptoms of bloating and gas no matter what she does. She’s young and apparently healthy so I thought she’d get better with some minor tweaks to her diet, adrenal and digestive support, and some visceral manipulation. But she’s sensitive to increasingly more and more foods and still feels terrible every time she eats. She also has eczema and anxiety. We tried all of the regular treatments that help so many people: digestive enzymes, probiotics, increased fiber, and gut healing herbs like slippery elm and aloe vera. Her anxiety improved and her energy is a little better, but her digestion is the same. So I went looking for something else to explain her symptoms.
And SIBO appears to be the key. She’s a poster child for it. She’s had her symptoms as long as she can remember and has been diagnosed with IBS before, with no treatment help. The main symptoms of SIBO are those of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). According to Dr. Alison Siebecker, ND, SIBO has been shown to exist in up to 84% of IBS patients and therefore theorized to be the underlying cause of IBS.
Symptoms are bloating and gas, abdominal pains and cramps, and constipation, diarrhea or both. People may also have heartburn, nausea, food sensitivities, headaches, joint pain, fatigue, depression, and a host of other symptoms.
Over the years, it has not been uncommon to have people show up in my office on extremely restricted diets feeling just as bad as they did before, but afraid to go back on the foods for fear of exacerbating their already unbearable symptoms. The regular treatments make it worse, as people with SIBO are often worse with probiotics, fiber, and many gut healing herbs. My current patient’s symptoms are fairly well managed because she’s 25 years old, not overly medicated, and eating a pretty good diet. I guess that’s why it took me a bit to see it. She’s not much like the patient I saw a few years ago who had a 40 year history of severe, debilitating diarrhea. She had been through many gastroenterologists and lots of drug treatments without relief. She was, as you can imagine, extremely fatigued and malnourished. I tested her for SIBO and she was thrilled to have some sort of answer after so many negative tests. After a couple of weeks on the specific carbohydrate diet, an antibiotic, and a few nutritional IVs, she looked and felt like a different person. She was motivated to keep up on the diet and was happily living diarrhea-free for the first time in 40 years! That was a pretty incredible change for her – imagine getting your life back after so many years. Wow.
If all goes well with the young woman I’m seeing now, she may be able to avoid a lifetime of chronic digestive symptoms. My hope is that she’ll look back on this in 40 years and remember her digestive issues as a thing of the distant past. It’s really up to her, and hopefully I can help guide her in the right direction.