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Category Archive Gut health

What Is SIBO and How Do I Know If I Have It?

There may be something lurking within the gut, when and where it is least expected.

We’re probably already in tune with keeping the large intestine healthy, balanced and well-populated with good bacteria (got probiotics?).

But, what about the health of the small intestine that is located before it in the digestive tract?

The truth is, this is where the serious business of nutrient absorption happens before the waste products are sent through to the large intestine or bowel to be expelled.

As you can imagine, there’s quite a slippery slope that ensues when the flora in this critical stretch of digestive highway goes out of balance.

What is SIBO and what are the symptoms?

At its most basic level, SIBO or Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth is when bacteria or other microorganisms, good or bad, grow out of control in the small intestine – an area that would normally have a low bacterial count, as compared to the large intestine.

Microorganisms setting up shop in this area (colonisation) end up damaging the cells lining the small intestine. This is otherwise known as leaky gut or an increase in intestinal permeability.

This, in turn, impairs the digestive process and overall absorption of nutrients which can exacerbate nutritional deficiencies, allow toxins, infections and undigested protein molecules to enter the bloodstream that then cause widespread inflammation, food sensitivities, autoimmune disorders, and other immune reactions.

The most common symptoms of SIBO are:

  • Malabsorption issues and malnutrition
  • Weight loss (or gain)
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Abdominal bloating or distention
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Acid reflux or heartburn (GERD)
  • Excessive gas or burping
  • Constipation and/or diarrhoea
  • Fatigue
  • Skin issues like rashes, acne, eczema and rosacea
  • Aches & pains, especially joint pain

As mentioned, one of the biggest concerns with SIBO is that you’re not absorbing essential nutrients, like protein, carbohydrates and fats properly. This can cause deficiencies of iron, vitamin B12, calcium, and the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.

What causes SIBO?

According to experts, the causes are not clearly defined but contributing factors to being diagnosed with SIBO can include:

  • Ageing
  • Metabolic disorders including diabetes
  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Diverticulosis
  • Food poisoning
  • Injury to the bowel
  • Recent abdominal surgery

Coeliac disease is also associated with an increased risk for developing SIBO, and can be of a particular concern, as it disturbs gut motility leading to poor functioning of the small intestine.

Another common condition associated with SIBO is Irritable Bowel Syndrome. As a matter fact, studies have found that SIBO occurs simultaneously in more than half of all cases of IBS. It has even been reported that successful elimination of bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine resolves symptoms of IBS too.

The use of certain medications, including immunosuppressant medications, and proton pump inhibitors (acid reflux medications) as well as heavy metal toxicity, low stomach acid, inflammatory diets, and yep, you guessed it, stress are all thought to be contributors as well.

How can you test for SIBO?

It is typically diagnosed using a breath test in which the patient drinks a lactulose sugar-containing drink and exhaled gases are measured.

If there are too many bacteria, excess gases (hydrogen, methane or both) will be produced. It should be noted that the reliability of this test is considered less than ideal, but is the only test available at the moment. You can find out more information about the SIBO breath test HERE.

What’s the treatment for SIBO?

Most nutritionists advise to adhere strictly to the “SIBO diet” for at least 4 weeks – which may include any (or all) of the following protocols:

  • Herbal antibiotics, including oregano oil
  • A low FODMAP/SCD, biphasic, GAPS and/or AIP diet; unfortunately, this includes avoiding garlic & onions
  • Supporting the migrating motor complex with foods and prokinetic supplements
  • Stress management; yes, this can help heal your gut!
  • Repopulating the good bacteria using probiotics, and then feed with prebiotics.

To learn more about the options for treating SIBO, contact Nutritionist Kate for a free 15 minute fatigue breakthrough call.

References

World Journal of Gastroenterology: “Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth Syndrome”

World Journal of Gastroenterology: “Irritable Bowel Syndrome and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth: meaningful association or unnecessary hype?”

Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology: “Gastrointestinal motility disturbances in celiac disease”

SIBO-friendly Beef Bone Broth Recipe – Slow Cooker Version

Ingredients:

* no onions, leeks or garlic

2lbs beef marrow bones, thawed, grass-fed preferably

3 large carrots, unpeeled

1/2 medium celery root (not stalks)

Combination of fresh “antibacterial” herbs: few sprigs of each – rosemary, oregano & thyme

2 bay leaves

1Tbs apple cider vinegar, unpasteurized

¼ – ½ tsp himalayan pink salt

Water to desired dilution

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees C
  2. Wash and chop veggies into large pieces – large enough that they won’t turn to mush.
  3. Place your bones onto a baking sheet and place into the oven. Cook for 30 minutes.
  4. Tie your herb sprigs into a bundle with cooking-safe string.
  5. Once your bones have roasted, pull them out of the oven and put them directly into a slow cooker. Add the veggies and the herb bundle into the cooker with the bones.
  6. Fill a 6-quart slow cooker with fresh water up to about ¾ inch under the rim. Add the bay leaves, apple cyder vinegar and salt.
  7. Cook in your pot on low; you should have a gentle, rolling boil after an hour or so.
  8. Remove the herbs after about 4 hours, otherwise your broth may look strange from the colours seeping out!
  9. Remove the veggies once they’re very soft, but not yet mushy.
  10. Let the bones cook for a total of 12-48 hours. Strain the broth, let cool a bit, and store in glass jars for up to ONE WEEK in your fridge. You can also freeze the broth if you don’t use it right away.
  11. The appearance of a gel-like substance (natural gelatin) is normal and desired – enjoy the gut-friendly goodness!

The Gut-Brain Connection

The gut-brain connection. If there was ever a call for “digestive health,” this is it!

Yes, it’s true. The gut is considered the “second brain.”

There is no denying it any more.

And because of the new scientific discoveries about the vagus nerve, the enteric nervous system, and the amazing influence your gut microbes can have, it’s no wonder what you eat feeds not only your body but can directly affect your brain.

I find it amazing (but not too surprising).

What exactly is the gut-brain connection?

Well, the gut-brain connection is very complex, and to be honest, we’re still learning lots about it!

There seem to be multiple things working together. Things like:

  • The vagus nerve that links the gut directly to the brain;
  • The “enteric nervous system” (A.K.A. “second brain) that helps the complex intricacies of digestion flow with little to no involvement from the actual brain;
  • The massive amount of neurotransmitters produced by the gut;
  • The huge part of the immune system that is in the gut, but can travel throughout the body; and,
  • The interactions and messages sent by the gut microbes.

This is complex. And amazing, if you ask me.

I’ll briefly touch on these areas, and end off with a delicious recipe (of course!)

The vagus nerve

There is a nerve that runs directly from the gut to the brain.

And after reading this so far, you’ll probably get a sense of which direction 90% of the transmission is…

Not from your brain to your gut (which is what we used to think), but from your gut up to your brain!

The enteric nervous system and neurotransmitters

Would you believe me if I told you that the gut has more nerves than your spinal cord?

I knew you would!

And that’s why it’s referred to as the “second brain.”

And, if you think about it, controlling the complex process of digestion (i.e. digestive enzymes, absorption of nutrients, the flow of food, etc.) should probably be done pretty “smartly”…don’t you think?

And guess how these nerves speak to each other, and to other cells? By chemical messengers called “neurotransmitters.”

In fact, many of the neurotransmitters that have a strong effect on our mood are made in the gut! e.g. a whopping 95% of serotonin is made in your gut, not in your brain!

The immune system of the gut

Because eating and drinking is a huge portal where disease-causing critters can get into your body, it makes total sense that much of our defence system would be located there too, right? 70% of our immune system is in our gut!

And you know that the immune cells can move throughout the entire body and cause inflammation just about anywhere, right?

Well, if they’re “activated” by something in the gut, they can potentially wreak havoc anywhere in the body. Including the potential to cause inflammation in the brain.

Gut microbes

Your friendly neighbourhood gut residents. You have billions of those little guys happily living in your gut. And they do amazing things like help you digest certain foods, make certain vitamins, and even help regulate inflammation!

But more and more evidence is showing that changes in your gut microbiota can impact your mood, and even other, more serious, mental health issues.

How do these all work together for brain health?

The honest answer to how these things all work together and make the gut-brain connection is that we really don’t know just yet. More and more studies are being done to learn more.

But one thing is becoming clear. A healthy gut goes hand-in-hand with a healthy brain!

So, how do you feed your brain?

Of course, a variety of minimally-processed, nutrient-dense foods is required, because no nutrients work alone.

But two things that you many consider eating more of are fibre and omega-3 fats. Fibre (in fruits, veggies, nuts & seeds) help to feed your awesome gut microbes. And omega-3 fats (in fatty fish, walnuts, algae, and seeds like flax, chia, and hemp) are well-know inflammation-lowering brain boosters.

If you’re struggling with brain fog, fatigue and low mood and would like to know more about foods to feed your brain, click HERE to book a free 15 minute fatigue breakthrough call!

Recipe (Gut food fibre, Brain food omega-3): Blueberry Hemp Overnight Oats

Serves 2

Ingredients

1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)

1 cup oats (gluten-free)

1 cup almond milk

1 tablespoon chia seeds

2 tablespoons hemp seeds

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1 banana, sliced

¼ cup chopped walnuts

Instructions

  1. Blend blueberries in the food processor until smooth.
  2. Mix blueberries, oats, almond milk, chia seeds, hemp seeds in a bowl with a lid. Let set in fridge overnight.
  3. Split into two bowls and top with cinnamon, banana, and walnuts.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Your gut microbes love to eat the fiber in the blueberries, oats, seeds, and nuts. Meanwhile, your brain loves the omega-3 fats in the seeds and nuts.

References:

http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy_aging/healthy_body/the-brain-gut-connection
http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-probiotics
http://www.precisionnutrition.com/fix-gut-fix-health
http://neurotrition.ca/blog/your-gut-bugs-what-they-eat-and-7-ways-feed-them