Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth-What is it?

Hi, I’m Kristy, a 45-year-old back-to-school student, earning my Master’s of Science in Nutrition.  Dr. Rose has been kind enough to invite me to write a series of guest blog posts, talking about SIBO from a patient perspective.  Dr. Rose will chime in with more information and her thoughts.

What is SIBO?

images-of-human-digestive-system

SIBO stands for small intestine bacterial overgrowth.  Bacteria from the large intestine can migrate to the small intestine where it wreaks havoc on the overall system.  Some signs of SIBO can include bloating, gassiness, constipation, diarrhea, fat malabsorption, abdominal cramping, fatigue, anxiety, leaky gut/food intolerances and acid reflux.   My symptoms of gas, constipation, and eventually diarrhea started out as minor inconveniences and worsened over a couple of years before I understood I needed to see a doctor.  I was covered by Kaiser but was worried that a MD would only prescribe medication to cover up my symptoms, or give me a diagnosis of IBS with no real solution.  I decided to see a Naturopathic Doctor (ND) as NDs are trained to treat the whole person and to ascertain the root cause of symptoms.  The ND I initially saw in Northern California first advised me to remove gluten and dairy from my diet as these are common food allergens which can cause IBS symptoms.  When my symptoms continued to get worse, she tested me for SIBO.  The SIBO test checks for hydrogen and methane gas that are specifically produced by an overgrowth of bacteria.  I tested positive for SIBO. Upon hearing my diagnosis and the prescribed diet, I was angry, frustrated and sad.  I considered myself a gourmand, the person who loves beautiful food, adores cooking with and for other people and cherishes communities who come together to share food around a table.  The trial of giving up dairy and gluten had been very challenging for me but it was only a taste of was yet to come.  

My ND recommended that I immediately start the introduction portion of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD).  As a student on a very limited budget, I kept in contact with my doctor via email but didn’t have regular appointments until I moved to Portland for graduate school and found Dr. Rose and my GI doctor.  Looking back, I wish I had done more research on SIBO treatments and also seen a ND or nutrition counselor regularly in the beginning as having SIBO had many physical, social and mental implications for me. (Click HERE to learn more about associated symptoms)  I got frustrated navigating my symptoms, cried at more than one restaurant when I couldn’t find anything to eat or was served something other than what I had specifically asked for, worried about malabsorption, had issues concentrating and experienced anxiety and isolation.  I now understand these are all SIBO related but I wish I had found Dr. Rose sooner as she’s played an integral role in educating and supporting me on the road to healing.  

Stay tuned for another blog post by Kristy Regan about her path to wellness!

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