SIBO is an acronym for “excessive proliferation of bacteria in the small intestine”. Normally, this part of the intestine is poorly colonized by bacteria.
With this excessive growth of bacteria, the food ferments, and this leads to uncomfortable symptoms, like gas and bloating, this is why we also speak of “fart disease”. We can also have stomach aches, and transit disorders.
SIBO was identified at the end of the 70s, but it is mainly spoken in Anglo-Saxon countries. In France, it is still unknown and yet the disorder is quite common.
SIBO and irritable bowel syndrome share many digestive symptoms – bloating, flatulence, transit disorders – but irritable bowel syndrome and SIBO are different. Intestinal fermentation seems more important in the case of SIBO. And SIBO can cause general symptoms, like fatigue and weight loss, because it disrupts the function of the small intestine to absorb nutrients. Carbohydrates, proteins, lipids can then be poorly absorbed, and in severe forms, this can lead to vitamin and iron deficiencies.
Between 1.5 and 2.5 million people could be affected, but this is only an estimate. It is difficult to know the exact number of cases because diagnostic tests are unreliable and SIBO can be confused with other digestive problems.
Causes of SIBO
SIBO can come from an abnormal rise of bacteria present in the colon or from a dysfunction of the stomach whose acids normally neutralize the bacteria before they reach the small intestine. Many factors can promote SIBOsuch as certain anatomical abnormalities of the small intestine, drugs that reduce gastric acidity, taken over a long period, inflammatory bowel diseases, or even bariatric surgery.
Beware of silly treatments
As SIBO results in excessive bacterial proliferation, the basic treatment is taking antibiotics that the doctor usually prescribes for one or two weeks. Antibiotics will attack unwanted bacteria. Be careful, we can see on social networks, on naturopathic sites, all kinds of more or less eccentric treatments: pure celery juice, food supplements, fecal transplantation… all this does not work.
Most patients get better after antibiotic treatment. In general, it is also recommended to modify your diet, for example to follow a low carbohydrate diet, on which the bacteria feed, in order to limit their proliferation. This consists of temporarily eliminating bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, pulses, sugary foods, with the exception of fruits and vegetables. Concretely, we only eat meat, fish, eggs, fruits and vegetables, yogurts and vegetable oils.
If the disorders return after a few months, the same treatment is then recommended.