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The small intestine is a tube-shaped organ between the stomach and the large intestines. It’s function is to digest food and absorb nutrients. The small intestine is divided into three parts: the duodenum, the first part is where iron and minerals are absorbed; the middle section is the jejunum where carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and vitamins are absorbed; and the ileum is the lower part where bile acids, Vitamin D, Calcium and Vitamin B12 are absorbed.

Small intestine bacterial overgrowth is an abnormal amount of bacteria in the small intestine together with a constellation of gastrointestinal symptoms. Usually the small intestine contains only a small amount of bacteria. When the bacteria become too numerous, the bacteria can use up nutrients needed by the body creating nutrient deficiencies, low energy levels and poor immune function. Bacterial overgrowth can also damage the lining of the small intestines which can impact the ability to absorb nutrients from food.

SIBO is often a complication of other health conditions such as:

  • Digestive system disorders, including Crohn’s disease and celiac disease
  • Diseases that can lead to movement problems in the small intestines including diabetes and scleroderma.
  • Diverticulosis of the small intestine
  • Short bowel syndrome, a group of problems related to poor absorption of nutrients
  • A weakened immune system such as AIDS and HIV
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Some surgical procedures that affect the small bowel including gastric bypass surgery
  • Food intolerances or allergies
  • Certain medications, such as narcotics, GERD medications, antacids, and antibiotics
  • Alcohol use
  • Aging

The most common symptoms of SIBO include abdominal pain, bloating, feeling uncomfortable after eating, excessive flatulence, and changes in bowel habits. Other possible symptoms can include fatigue, headaches, nausea, and a reduced appetite.

SIBO can be difficult to diagnose due to the wide range of symptoms it causes. Common tests used for diagnosis include a complete blood count, blood chemistry tests, and tests to evaluate vitamins in the blood. Special breath tests that measure hydrogen or methane gas in the breath after ingesting a glucose solution are often used. Imaging tests like x-ray, CT or MRI to evaluate physical intestinal problems and small intestine endoscopy.

The goal of treatment is to address the cause of bacterial overgrowth. Treatment of SIBO typically involves antibiotics with the aim of providing symptom relief by destroying bacteria in the small intestine. Additionally, treatment may include a combination of dietary changes, herbs, probiotics, enzymes to help breakdown food, drugs to accelerate movement of the intestines, IV fluids, parenteral nutrition if malnourished, and a lactose – free diet. It is important to work your clinician at Gastroenterology Associates of Brooklyn to determine what works for you.

Contact Gastroenterology Associates of Brooklyn to schedule an appointment to receive an accurate diagnosis and all your treatment options.