Do you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)?
What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a group of intestinal symptoms that are usually found together (meaning there is usually more than one.) The symptoms vary from person to person and women seem to be more susceptible to having varying symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Medically, the underlying cause of Irritable Bowel Syndrome is still unknown, although certain factors have been found to ‘trigger’ attacks in susceptible individuals.
- Infection - food poisoning, viral or parasitic;
- Food intolerances - Gluten can be a huge trigger so it is important to be tested for Coeliac Disease;
- Low stomach acid - our stomachs need to have a pH of 1.5 to 3.5 (acidic) to create digestive enzymes, such as pepsin which is the main one to break down food. Between 3.5 to 5.5 (low stomach acid - hypochlorhydria) which causes bloating, burping or flatulence and greater than 5.5 is alkaline.
- General diet - diets high in sugar (this includes soft drinks and alcohol) along with processed foods aren't good for any one especially when you have digestive issues. Following a low fibre diet can cause further problems for people with constipation. Fructose or sorbitol can increase symptoms of diarrhoea;
- Food intolerances - some people find that milk or dairy upset their digestive system along with gluten which is known to cause bloating and brain fog. There are many other food intolerances that can affect your digestive health, such as, histamines, salicylates and oxalates which are the main ones;
- Emotional stress - anxiety and chronic stress can affect nerves in your digestive tract (such as the vagus nerve) leading to IBS symptoms; and
- Long term use of medications - can lead to both constipation or diarrhoea. Laxatives weaken the bowel lining causing a 'sluggish' bowel. Gastro-stop, Imodium works to slow bowel transit time along with firming the stool and should not be used long term. These medications also affect our good gut bacteria.
Signs and Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- The main one is abdominal cramping. This can happen during or after meals and is relieved once you have opened your bowels;
- Gas and bloating - after meals;
- Constipation - less than 3 bowel motions per week;
- Diarrhoea - watery or soft (like a cow pat) stools with urgency or frequent explosive bowels;
- Combination of both constipation and diarrhoea;
- Mucous in your stool;
- Food intolerances;
- Anxiety; and
Foods that can cause a flare up
- Gluten containing grains;
- Bad carbohydrates (processed foods); and
- Diets high in sugar.
What is Irritable Bowel Disease?
Irritable bowel disease (IBD) is an inflammatory condition that is seen throughout the digestive tract. The two common conditions are Ulcerated Colitis and Crohn's Disease. These are diagnosed via a blood test or a stool test.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)
Both Irritable Bowel Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome are conditions that are associated with Small Bacterial Over Growth (SIBO).
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a problem associated with the large intestine and SIBO results from the bacteria from the large intestine overgrowing and spreading to the small intestine.
Studies have found that up to 84% of Irritable Bowel Syndrome patients exhibited bacterial overgrowth based on the lactulose breath test. This test is used to confirm whether or not you have SIBO and can be ordered through clinic. Irritable Bowel Syndrome has many presenting symptoms that are the same as SIBO.
- Combination of both;
- Abdominal cramping;
- Sluggish liver;
- Food sensitivities or intolerances.
How can Naturopathy help?
Naturopathy looks a why this is happening to you. Naturopathy works on the body as a whole so that we do not treat one specific area. There can be many reasons why you have these digestive issues and finding your root cause is where working with a qualified Naturopath can assist you and your body to heal naturally.
As a Naturopath and SIBO Practitioner, I have suffered from SIBO for most of my life - I started my life journey as a very colicky baby and my symptoms got worse as I got older. This is one of the main reasons as to why I studied to become a Naturopath as I had seen so many other medical professionals and I felt that I wasn't getting any answers from them as to why I felt so unwell.
In my late teens to early twenties, I did find some amazing Naturopaths that worked with me to heal my digestive system along with treating my nervous system and immune system to clear my symptoms.
I had noticed that my SIBO had returned last year and was thankful that I was able to spend time (during lockdown) to work on my treatment and clear my SIBO once again. I do believe this had flared up due to stress and being Perimenopausal as Perimenopause can cause your Irritable Bowel Syndrome or SIBO to flare back up again due to hormonal imbalances (I have spoken about this in my previous blog on Perimenopause.)
I am extremely interested in helping other women along with men and children to heal their digestive system as so many people either 'put up with' or 'band aid' their symptoms or think that bloating (for example) after meals is 'normal'.
I work with my clients to treat the underlying (root) causes of their digestive issues. I use up-to-date information in both herbal and nutritional medicine along with following a dietary program to support digestive healing and restoring the good bacteria in your microbiome.
Lets face it, everyone is different so it is a very individualised treatment plan which is why you really need someone that understands Irritable Bowel Syndrome and SIBO.
I recommend that my clients order their SIBO breath test kit (usually the basic lactulose test) during their initial consultation. This test kit is then sent directly to your home where you do the preparation diet (over one day - diarrhoea or two days - constipation). The preparation diet is really easy to do and then you perform the breath test the following day.
Once you have submitted your breath samples, you then send your test via express post (satchel is included in your kit) to be tested at SIBO Test Australia. Your results are sent back to me within seven to ten days. I look at your test results and give you the detailed results at your follow up consultation.
We really need to do this test as your symptoms could be SIBO (there's a certain range to look for) or they could be more large intestinal issues (this shows differently in your results) and this is a separate form of treatment.
Other tests that I do order for my clients (if we aren't seeing any specific changes and results) are Comprehensive Stool Testing which includes parasite testings; Organic Acid Test which is quiet detailed as its a urine test which allows us to look at your digestive health, neurotransmitters, pathogens, oxalate levels, energy pathways, candida overgrowth, vitamin and mineral levels along with amino acids (and a whole lot more.) There's GI Mapping as well.
There is also a separate Irritable Bowel Syndrome test that has just been approved to use in Australia and we can order this through my clinic as well.
Dietary changes are necessary as we need to reduce fermentable starches and fibres to starve the bacteria that are in the small intestine, as they thrive on these foods. It is important to begin to repair the intestinal lining and improve digestion (reduce and repair). Once there are improvements it is important to continue to remove the remaining bacterial overgrowth as (they like to hide!)
The dietary program that I recommend has two phases - Phase 1 - Reduce and Repair - (four to six weeks) and Phase 2 - Remove and Restore - (four to six weeks). Sometimes depending on how you are going we may need to extend either Phase 1 or Phase 2. I usually look at how long the client has been unwell for and tailor my treatment plan to incorporate this - the general rule of (Naturopathic) thumb is - one month for every year that you have been unwell, for example six years = six months of treatment.
Some of the other diets that 'treat' your condition
Low FODMAPS - Some people follow the low FODMAPs diet as this was designed by Monash University, especially for people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and whilst it is a great tool to relieve symptoms it does not clear the underlying cause and should only be followed for a short period of time as it is very restrictive and we really need to add back 'whole foods' once your Naturopathic treatment has been completed.
I will admit that I am not a huge fan of the low FODMAPs diet as there are far too many processed foods included that feed the bad bacteria. This is a type of 'band-aid' fix as it is not treating the underlying cause.
Self treating through diet - some of my clients have tried so many different diets that they have really mucked up their digestive system as they have reduced so many foods and food groups that they can only tolerate eating five foods daily. I can totally understand why they have done this as I had tried a lot of different diets over the years. I'm glad that I hadn't got to the stage of only being able to eat a certain number of foods.
Keto Diet - is another diet that relieves your symptoms and you feel great for a period of time. You really need to be working with a Naturopath or Nutritionist that has studied the Keto Diet as there are so many varying forms out on the internet with 'experts' in Facebook groups or on Instagram that shouldn't really give professional advice.
Vegetarian or Vegan diets - these can relieve symptoms and you feel amazing soon after beginning this diet/lifestyle. I treat many clients who are vegetarian, pescatarian or vegan and have great results with these clients. There is also a vegetarian/vegan version of the dietary program that I recommend for my clients.
I really love a plant based diet as there are so many health benefits to this. I'll do another blog on the health benefits soon.
What are Herbal Antibiotics?
These are a vast range of herbs that work in synergy as antibiotics, antimicrobials, antivirals and antifungals. These include Oregano, Garlic, Thyme, Myrrh, Neem, Calendula and herbs that contain Berberine. These herbs are needed to clear the bad bacteria from your small intestine along with supporting our liver and digestion. This is one of the main reasons as to why I recommend testing for SIBO due to:-
- If you are methane dominant (constipation) then there are different herbs to treat your condition.
- If you are hydrogen dominant (diarrhoea) there are different herbs that I use to treat your condition.
- If you are a combination of both methane and hydrogen we use a mixture of herbs that relate to that condition.
- If you have fungal overgrowth such as Candida Albicans commonly known as thrush, we use different herbs for that condition.
- If you have large intestinal issues then once again, we use different herbs for those conditions.
Medical professionals will recommend antibiotics to treat both SIBO and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I have noticed that they have used a varying combination of antibiotics that are available here in Australia but unfortunately they do not clear your SIBO or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Like most antibiotics they clear the good bacteria as well which isn't what someone with digestive dysfunction needs.
The herbal antibiotics work as well and if not better than Rifaxamin (antibiotic) and/or Neomycin (antibiotic). These two antibiotics clear the bad guys and leave the good guys in your digestive system and are used in the USA for the specific treatment of SIBO but they are extremely expensive and are not readily available here in Australia. The really good news is there is a lot of research out there on the benefits of using the herbal antibiotics to treat SIBO as it is just as effective (if not more so) than using the above named pharmaceuticals.
Treatment of both SIBO and Irritable Bowel Syndrome take a combination of both dietary changes and herbal intervention.
What happens next?
Healing your Irritable Bowel Syndrome and/or your SIBO requires a 'holistic' treatment approach. Lets get you started .........
- Book your consultation where we order your breath test;
- Do your prep diet before doing your breath test;
- Set your morning aside (3 hours) to do your breath test;
- Send your breath sample back to SIBO test Australia;
- I receive your breath test results;
- At your follow up consultation we discuss your results and treatment plan;
- You begin your treatment as I have explained above;
- Once treatment is completed we can either re-test for SIBO or we can move on to my Repair Rebalance and Restore Wellness Program;
- Included in this program is the Hair 600 Food and Product Compatibility Testing - I did this after my SIBO treatment and was so excited that I could eat such a huge range of foods again! This is what I recommend my clients to do as their next stage of treatment.
- Our end goal is to introduce as many whole foods back into your diet as possible. This allows your digestive system to feed and grow the good guys (prebiotics) so that you have a healthy microbiome with a vast number of probiotics as well.
If you have any questions in regards to the above information, please let me know. I am here to assist you and support you to find digestive freedom.
Yours in health,
Katrina Froome - Naturopath xxx