Everyone’s SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) presentation is different, but one symptom I consistently see is the bloating. The way it makes you look pregnant or feel like your insides are about to explode.
Now there are many treatment options available to the SIBO population. Some effective, some not very. I have many theories about why that is, but one I am looking at in this article is the ongoing bloating cycle itself, what causes it, how it becomes a self-contributing factor to SIBO, and what to do about it.
What is Bloating and What Causes It?
Bloating refers to gas or fluid accumulation in the abdomen. For the SIBO patient, we are specifically concerned with the gas that is bloating the small intestine.
There are many causes of bloating, including but not limited to:
- Not chewing your food properly or thoroughly
- Eating so fast that you swallow excess air
- Food reactions such as to gluten, dairy, soy, corn, etc
- Inability to digest foods properly due to lack of enzymes
- Similarly would be fructose (fruit sugar) or lactose (milk sugar) intolerance where your body cannot break down or absorb the sugars
- Presence of bacteria that is fermenting your foods (sugars, starches and fibers) inside the intestines – classic for SIBO
- Candida overgrowth that is creating gas as a result of it feeding off of your food
- Parasitic infections
- Drinking carbonated beverages
- Brassicas (Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli) can be gas producing
- Certain sweeteners (sorbitol, xylitol, fructose or high fructose corn syrup, etc)
So Does SIBO Cause Bloating, Or Does Bloating Cause SIBO?
Well there are many causes of SIBO, and if you’re interested, you can read more about that in my article What Causes SIBO?, but let’s just assume you have it, regardless of the cause.
In a healthy body, the gastrointestinal contents should move from stomach to small intestine, through the ileocecal valve, into the colon, then out. But with bloating, the directional flow can be disturbed and the bacteria can seep upwards from the colon, through the ileocecal valve, into the small intestine, essentially going backwards up the gastrointestinal tract instead of down and out.
Here’s what happens. You eat and for whatever reason, you experience bloating, which is very common with SIBO. That can cause your ileocecal valve to prop open which allows bacteria to travel upstream from your colon into your small intestine. The small intestine should be relatively sterile, meaning that little bacteria should be growing there. But if it takes up residence and starts to multiply and overgrow in the small intestine, this, by definition, is SIBO.
Now, can I say that bloating from any source will alone cause SIBO? Probably not. But once you have SIBO, continued bloating will perpetually drive more bacteria into your small intestine and unless you figure out a way to stop the bloating cycle, you will have a really hard time getting rid of it.
How to Stop the Bloating Cycle
First of all, you have to eliminate any foods that cause you any bloating what-so-ever. This would include all grains, dairy, sugars and sweeteners, many fruits and even some vegetables. For a closer look at Dr Lisa’s diet recommendations, see this article on The EndSIBO Diet.
Closely adhering to this diet should give you relief in just a few short days. However, there may be some residual bloating. In cases like this, it is highly recommended to supplement with digestive enzymes.
Please be advised that not all digestive enzymes are created equally. Some are not well formulated, some are not strong enough to do the job, and some can actually digest the intestines themselves. So it is recommended to consult a qualified health care practitioner to guide you to specific brands and formulas that are best suited for your body.
You’ll also want to make a diligent effort to eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly, as described in these articles: Eating to Overcome SIBO and Three Free Things You Can Do To Improve Digestion.
Once you get to the point where you can stop the bloating cycle, there are a few more steps to overcoming your SIBO. You can read more in these 3 articles:
SIBO Specific Supplements
The Importance of Hydrochloric Acid for Proper Digestion
How to Overcome SIBO: A Three-Sided Approach
And while you’re at it, request your free copy of the eBook EndSIBO: A Lifestyle Guide to Overcoming SIBO so You Can Get Your Life Back! There you will find the full EndSIBO Diet, sample menus, recipes, tips for avoiding food triggers while eating out, tips for traveling, and resources for overcoming SIBO.