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Our body has a natural symbiotic relationship with our environment. We eat food and absorb nutrients, we drink water and hydrate our cells, and we interact with people and develop relationships. A change in any of these determinants of health can shift our body into a physical, chemical, or emotional imbalance.
We also have a unique relationship with the microscopic bacteria that naturally inhabit our intestinal tract. An imbalance in this bacteria can also cause us to experience a shift in mental-emotional-physical health. One example of bacterial imbalance includes Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). This overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine crowds out the healthy gut flora and interferes with natural digestive processes such as nutrient absorption, waste elimination, and energy metabolism. As a result, SIBO can lead to nutrient deficiencies, toxin overload, low energy, and a variety of physical, mental, and emotional symptoms. Bacteria can be beneficial to healthy digestion, but only under the parameters of the right type, the right amount, and the right location.
SIBO symptoms can present in a variety of ways. The overpopulation of intestinal bacteria can cause digestive complaints such as abdominal pain, gas, bloating, nausea, constipation, or diarrhea. The shift in energy metabolism and the depletion of nutrients can contribute to headaches, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and a generalized thought that you don’t quite feel like “yourself.” Weight changes, skin breakouts, and musculoskeletal pain are also part of the SIBO symptom profile. Due to the broad range of symptoms, other diagnoses are often pursued before arriving at the correct diagnosis of SIBO.
The bacteria in the digestive tract produce hydrogen gas and methane gas. Breath tests are used to measure and analyze the gases that are produced by the bacteria. These breath tests can be used to diagnose SIBO as well as to guide treatment plans and to monitor outcomes. Stool tests can show the profile of organisms in the digestive tract, allowing for targeted treatment of the specific bacteria that contribute to the imbalance.
Treatment of SIBO often involves a strict nutrition plan and appropriate supplementation as well as promotion of healthy bowel elimination patterns and prevention of SIBO recurrence. The beauty of naturopathic medicine is the commitment to discovering the cause of an imbalance in health. The cause of SIBO may be an underlying imbalance in gut chemistry, nutrition, lifestyle patterns, and environmental factors. Structuring an appropriate treatment plan with therapeutic nutrition, supplementation, and elimination patterns may help to relieve symptoms. Determination of the original cause of SIBO overgrowth in each individual will be vital to preventing recurrence.
The intestinal lining of our gut is valuable real estate. Ideally, we want to fill that space with organisms that are beneficial for our body as a whole. Imbalance or overcrowding can compromise the structure, the function, and the integrity of that area. This is an excellent reminder for us to be mindful of our own personal “real estate” of body, mind, and spirit. True health begins when we make a conscious decision to fill our time, our space, and our mind with meaningful relationships, healthy nutrition, and mindful lifestyle practices.
PREVENTION of SIBO:
Work with professional medical providers to optimize your nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle choices.
Restore your digestive tract so that you can feel happy, healthy, and balanced.
Make space in your life for healthy choices, a healthy lifestyle, and healthy relationships.
Dr. Autumn W. Farr is a board-certified naturopathic physician with a medical practice in Bellingham, WA. She uses a unique combination of nutritional biochemistry, constitutional homeopathy, and naturopathic modalities to help people to feel their best.
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