Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth - Symptoms

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How does small intestinal bacterial overgrowth cause symptoms?

When bacteria digest food in the intestine, they produce gas. The gas can accumulate in the abdomen giving rise to abdominal bloating or distension. Distension can cause abdominal pain. The increased amounts of gas are passed as flatus (flatulence or farts). The bacteria also probably convert foods including sugar and carbohydrates into substances that are irritating or toxic to the cells of the inner lining of the small intestine and colon. These irritating substances produce diarrhea (by causing secretion of water into the intestine). There also is some evidence that the production of one type of gas by the bacteria methane causes constipation.

Bacteria in the small intestine, when present in large numbers, can compete with the human host for the food that is eaten. This can lead to malnutrition with vitamin and mineral deficiencies. In advanced cases of SIBO, the bacteria use up enough food that there are insufficient calories for the host, thereby leading to weight loss.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: JDThompson, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: October 08

The first onset of my symptoms of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth was 10 years ago when I had days of watery diarrhea that was often interrupted by days of constipation. Eventually, I had watery diarrhea mixed with blood and mucus. The abdominal pain and bloating became severe. But these events occurred once a year for three years then no symptoms for five years. Each of the three years I had developed diverticulitis, and Crohn's disease was ruled out. Treatment has been two weeks of Flagyl and Bactrim, until this last event I was given Cipro. Yogurt was encouraged daily. I am miserable when I have these symptoms and this last episode is not going away as usual. This condition is not considered a medical emergency but it sure disrupts life!

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Comment from: Dee, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: December 05

I'm in hospital at the moment, I have diffuse scleroderma and recently developed all the symptoms of bloating, belching, flatulence, recurring diarrhea, vomiting and leakage every week for the past 7 weeks. My general practitioner has now put me on rifampicin and I'm waiting for a CAT scan! I'm really hopeful this will work for me, I'm following a celiac diet and cutting out lactose and sugar and it is helping.

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