SIBO causes inflammation in your whole body
Small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) causes a host of problems. As explained in the previous post, your small intestine should have a relatively low content of aerobic, gram-positive bacteria, such as lactobacillus. This is the bacteria that you find in yogurt and fermented foods.
There should not be many anaerobic, gram-negative bacteria in your small intestine. These bacteria have a cell wall that contains an endotoxin called Lipopolysaccharide (LPS), and they secrete this LPS into your small intestine. LPS is toxic, and can trigger strong immune reactions.
So, your immune system reacts to LPS, and produces chemicals called cytokines, which cause rampant inflammation in your small intestine. As a result, LPS damages the lining of your small intestine, and makes your lining more permeable. By the way, intestinal permeability is commonly known as leaky gut. When your gut is “leaky,” then inflammatory cytokines and LPS can pass through your gut lining into your bloodstream, and create more inflammation throughout your body. Furthermore, inflammatory reactions affect multiple body systems:
- Arterial inflammation can show up as high LDL cholesterol.
- Brain inflammation correlates with Parkinson’s, and Autism Spectrum.
- Bladder inflammation can cause interstitial cystitis (IC).
- Runaway inflammation can trigger autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Rheumatoid Arthritis, among many others.
- Inflammatory pain syndromes include fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis.
- Skin inflammation can result in acne or rosacea.
SIBO causes nutrient deficiencies
SIBO causes malabsorption, and deficiency of specific nutrients:
- Vitamin A deficiency can cause night blindness.
- Low vitamin D can result in low bone density.
- Poor iron absorption may cause anemia.
- Vitamin B12 deficiency has serious results including neuropathy, numbness in extremities, and anemia.
Bacteria require iron, in order to produce their sticky, gluey biofilms that they hide in. (Plaque is an example of bacterial biofilm formation in the mouth). SIBO type bacteria use a lot of your iron, which can cause anemia. If you have low iron, despite taking iron supplements or eating liver regularly, this is a red flag for SIBO!
Low iron levels may be one of the reasons that SIBO is associated with poor thyroid function, as your thyroid requires iron to function.
Food intolerances from SIBO
So, SIBO causes leaky gut, and leaky gut means undigested proteins pass between your intestinal cells into your bloodstream. Your immune system tags these proteins as foreign invaders. This process creates food intolerances, meaning when you eat these foods, your immune system attacks the proteins, and causes inflammation. If you have food intolerances, especially a lot of them, it’s a sign that something isn’t right in your gut.
Often, when you clear up SIBO, and heal up your gut lining, you can tolerate foods you couldn’t tolerate before. An example is the highly fermentable “FODMAP” carbohydrates, which include onions, fructose, and lactose in milk products. However, any food intolerance can clear up once SIBO is treated, and your healthy gut lining is restored. Leaky gut, and food intolerances, are often simply symptoms caused by SIBO.
SIBO and gut symptoms
Lastly, SIBO causes gastrointestinal symptoms, but not for everyone. This makes it tricky, since you may have nutrient deficiencies, food intolerances, inflammation, or autoimmunity, however your digestion may seem fine. People with SIBO who do have gut issues, often suffer from:
Belching and reflux
Bacterial fermentation causes gas and fluid to go up, consequently causing belching or acid reflux.
Stagnation of gases that the bacteria produce can cause significant bloating, to the point of feeling like you have a “pregnant belly.”
The bacteria affects bile from the liver and gallbladder, hence can cause urgency, loose stools, and explosive diarrhea.
Fermentation gases can go down instead of up, and cause gas that is sometimes odorous.
In the next post in this series I’ll describe how to determine if you do indeed have SIBO, and then if so, how to treat it.
Please post your comments and questions below!