Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (cont.)

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What conditions cause increased production of gas?

There are three situations in which abnormally increased amounts of gas are produced in the colon.

  1. Malabsorption of sugars and carbohydrates. Reduced digestion or absorption by the small intestine allows increased amounts of sugar and carbohydrate to reach the colon where greater amounts of gas are produced. The most common example of malabsorption leading to increased production of gas is lactose (milk sugar) intolerance. Lactose intolerance is due to a genetic lack of an enzyme in the lining of the small intestine that digests lactose, the sugar in milk. Other causes of malabsorption that can lead to excessive production of gas include: (1) genetically-determined malabsorption of other sugars such as sucrose, sorbitol, and fructose; (2) diseases of the pancreas that result in inadequate production of pancreatic enzymes that are necessary for digesting sugars and carbohydrates in the small intestine; and (3) diseases of the lining of the small intestine (for example, celiac disease) that reduce the sugar and carbohydrate-digesting enzymes in the lining and reduce absorption of sugars and carbohydrates in the body.

  2. Rapid intestinal transit. Normal digestion and absorption of sugars and carbohydrates requires time. If food passes through the small intestine too rapidly, there is not enough time for digestion and absorption to be completed, and more sugar and carbohydrate reach the colon. The best example of rapid intestinal transit is in individuals who have had a large portion of their small intestine removed surgically. There are also a small number of individuals with intact small intestine who, for unexplained reasons, have abnormally rapid transit through the small intestine.

  3. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). In patients with SIBO, large numbers of gas-producing bacteria (normally present in the colon) are present in the small intestine. The abundant bacteria in the small intestine compete with the small intestine for the digestion of sugars and carbohydrates, but unlike the small intestine, the bacteria produce large amounts of gas.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/10/2014

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