I used to think bloating was a way of life.
Step 1: Eat a meal, or particular foods (like broccoli or cheese).
Step 2: Feel overly full and uncomfortable.
Step 3: Lose my appetite.
Step 4: Wait it out several hours.
Step 5: Sometimes try to help it by rubbing my stomach, drinking more water, ginger tea or popping a Tums.
Step 6: Then…back to normal.
Guess what: Bloating is not normal.
Just like eating McDonald’s Big Mac’s and drinking Coca Colas is technically not normal (our bodies were not designed to run off of these as primary fuel sources)…Or, just like needing caffeine every day at 3 pm is NOT normal (but blood sugar imbalances have made it more ‘normal’)…
Bloating is technically NOT normal…But it still happens.
So, by default, it’s become the “norm” (for approximately 1 in 4 Americans according to statistics on bloating alone).
Do YOU ever experience bloating?
If so, do you know why?
Let’s do some digging…
WHAT CAUSES BLOATING?
Bloating is a result of trapped gas in the upper GI tract (small intestine).
This “trapped gas” is most often triggered by (1.) bacteria living in your gut, (2.) undigested foods, (3.) lack of enzymes and (4.) low stomach acid.
Unlike the large intestine (colon) (where lots of bacteria live due to our food wastes preparing for elimination), a normal healthy (ideal) small intestine is sterile (squeaky clean).
Unfortunately, an increase in “bad” bacteria in the small intestine is most often a result from an overgrowth of bacteria further down the line—in the colon.
When our large intestine gets backed up with things like:
- Undigested food particles
- Foreign chemicals and substances (from artificial sweeteners to soy, sugar, phytates and lectins in grains)
- An overload of waste
- Reduced stomach acid (preventing proper digestion throughout the rest of the system)
- Structural damage on the protective valve of the large intestine (intended to keep food from refluxing back into the small intestine)
… This sets the stage for bacterial overgrowth.
Other triggers that happen daily include;
- Not chewing our food enough
- Eating on the go/in a hurry
- Lacking digestive enzymes
- Eating gut-irritating foods that are difficult to break down
- Not drinking enough water
- Not eating enough fat in our diet
- Lack of fiber (especially cooked veggies) in our diet
- Intake of sugary foods and sweets
- Medications, antibiotics and other environmental toxins
The bottom line: Bloating is trapped gas, most often caused by a bacterial ‘overgrowth’ of “bad” bacteria in the upper GI. “Bad b bacteria” is triggered by poor digestive practices and outside forces.
BEYOND BLOATING (SIBO: THE SILENT EPIDEMIC)
So now we know why bloating happens…
But if bloating (or constipatoin) are regular occurrences for you…your problem may be more than just bloating.
Enter: SIBO—Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, or chronic bacterial overgrowth
(i.e. this is an issue that won’t just go away with a spot of ginger tea).
While it’s important to note that ALL healthy guts have bacteria—both “good” and “bad.”
(“Good” bacteria help your gut do things like: Protect against other “bad” bacteria and yeast, Absorb nutrients and vitamins; And maintain the motility of digestion).
…Too much bacteria in your large intestine (and eventually your small intestine) leads to perpetual issues like:
- Bloating, constipation, and gas
- Autoimmune conditions
- Adrenal distress
- Mood swings
- Anxiety and depression (brain gut connection)
- Hormonal Imbalances
- Thyroid imbalances
- Difficult focusing
- Low energy
- Blood sugar highs and lows
- -To name a few.
From there, the cycle continues.
The Bottom Line: SIBO is bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine that doesn’t just go away over night—it consists of bacteria lingering in your gut that triggers a host of imbalances in the body (both in the gut and connected to the gut).
SO DO I HAVE SIBO (OR BACTERIAL OVERGROWTH)?
SIBO—Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth—is no easy diagnosis—as testing is still very underutilized by many practitioners and the condition is often mistaken with other conditions.
The most common symptoms of SIBO to watch out for include:
- Abdominal pain/discomfort
- Bloating and abdominal distention
- Constipation (methane dominant SIBO)
- Low stomach acid (GERD, bloating shortly after eating)
- Irritable bowel syndrome (can be both cause and effect)
- Gas and belching
- Continual “return” of yeast infections and Candida
- GI discomfort when eating carbs and sugars (hydrogen dominant SIBO)
- In more severe cases, there may be weight loss and symptoms related to vitamin deficiencies.
However, if you DON’T have one of these, it doesn’t mean you’re in the “clear.”
If gut symptoms don’t seem to improve—no matter how “clean” you eat, or how many probiotics you take, or how much “gut healing” you do, it may be warranted to do some digging into SIBO testing and treatment.
In a clinical setting, SIBO is diagnosed with a breath test that detects the production of both hydrogen and methane gas in your small intestine.
Since SIBO is associated with an OVERPRODUCTION of either or both of these gases, test results will indicate if your body has increased sensitivities as you breathe into the test tube.
The standard test takes about 3-hours and can be conducted from the comfort of your own home—as your practitioner will send you the test kit there.
If testing is not in the cards though, it is commonly accepted simply treating for SIBO (if clinical signs indicate that you may have it) is better than not treating for SIBO.
The thought behind this theory is that: IF SIBO is present, than a targeted gut healing protocol will do more good, than harm. And if SIBO is NOT present, then the gut healing protocol will see little to no change in symptoms.
If, and when, you have SIBO, anti-microbial supplements and botanicals can be a missing link to the equation. These. along with a high-quality probiotic, basic digestive principles and a strategic nutrition plan, and you may finally be able to say “good-bye” to bloating, IBS or the “leaky gut” you’ve been trying to fix.
Consulting a practitioner is the recommended line of defense for customizing your SIBO-healing protocol, and a protocol may look something like this:
- Practice Basic Digestive Principles. These include:
- Eat real food—Meat and fish. Healthy fats. Veggies. Lots of water. Some fruit and real-food starches and even a little white rice. (Note: Contrary to popular belief, a low FODMAP diet is NOT recommended during SIBO treatment to help encourage the irradiation of SIBO with the anti-microbial approach. Some old schools of thought is that you need to “starve” the bacteria in your gut of sugars found in foods like sweet potatoes, apples and other real-food carbs, however, when you incorporate a moderate amount—1-3 servings—of starchier carbs into your diet, along with anti-microbial treatment, it allows the supplements to go to work and kill off the bad bacteria that have come out to play).
Breathing before you eat
- Slowing down
- Drinking half your bodyweight in ounces of water each day
- Chewing your food
- Starting your day off with warm lemon water & end it with Ginger Tea
- Avoiding artificial ingredients
3. Take a Probiotic. Good bacteria to support overpowering that bad bacteria. I recommend this one.
4. Find the Anti-Microbial that works for you. An antimicrobial is a formulated substance that kills or inhibits the growth of microorganisms but causes little or no damage to the host. In nutritional therapy, many antimicrobials contain healing components like oregano, sage, berberine, rhizome and other natural (gut healing) botanicals. In my practice, I have seen great improvements using a combination of Biotics’ FC-Cidal and Dysbiocide with each meal, or Metagenics CandiBactin-AR and CandiBactin-BR with each meal.
5. Try Atrantil. If your SIBO is a more “hydrogen-based” type, this amazing new supplement—developed specifically for the irradiation of SIBO (and bloating) by Dr. Ken Brown, a GI specialist in Dallas, Texas—could be a part of your equation. Take 2 with each meal, three times per day, for 30-60 days to see if symptoms improve.
That’s a basic overview. Under the guidance of a nutritionist or functional medicine practitioner, following a SIBO-biased protocol, can often do wonders for the individual who “can’t seem to heal their gut” (no matter what they try).
Schedule a consult with Dr. Lauryn to find out how she can help you heal your gut.