IBS: Too much emphasis on the wrong acronym?

Have you been told you have IBS? Up to 15% of the population have been diagnosed with IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome. This means that more than 1 out of every 10 people are dealing with abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, diarrhea, and/or constipation on an ongoing basis. IBS accounts for 1/4 to 1/2 of referrals to gastroenterologists and is the second highest cause of missed work days.

SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) is a significant, and often overlooked, underlying cause of chronic digestive symptoms, including IBS.

Up to 78% of patients that have been diagnosed with IBS have been found to have SIBO. SIBO is a condition that can produce symptoms that look very similar to those that we might attribute to IBS including gas, bloating, and changes to bowel movements. It has also been associated with more systemic conditions like non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, interstitial cystitis, rosacea, vitamin B12, and iron deficiency.

A healthy individual has trillions of microorganism that naturally inhabit their guts. Problems can begin to arise when the bacteria that normally occupy the large intestine show up in large numbers in the small intestine. As part of their life cycle and metabolism, bacteria produce gases, and while the large intestine is designed to accommodate and handle these gases, the small intestine is not, leading to symptoms.

Unlike IBS where there is no definitive diagnostic laboratory test, SIBO is diagnosed via lactulose breath test. This testing is done in the comfort of your own home, with samples collected every 20 minutes for 3 hours.

Naturopathic doctors have an arsenal of treatments and testing to help address digestive complaints. If you’ve been struggling with ongoing digestive issues or have been diagnosed with IBS, talk with your naturopathic physician about whether SIBO may be playing a role.

Dr. Alanna Rinas, ND

Integrated Health Clinic

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