SIBO: The mystery disease wrecking your gut

Illness can cause discomfort, gas pains, diarrhea

BALTIMORE, Md. (Ivanhoe Newswire) - SIBO is the four letter word that very few people have heard of, but it could be the cause of some severe digestive issues. It stands for small intestine bacterial overgrowth. Recognizing SIBO may be tricky, but it’s the first step toward much better health.

For more than ten years, 57-year-old Colleen Cook struggled with painful and embarrassing digestive problems.

Cook described, “I started getting abdominal discomfort, really bad gas pains, and bad diarrhea. Constantly.”

Ironically, Cook’s condition started after a surgery designed to dramatically improve her health.

“I’ve always been morbidly obese since birth, really, but I was finally able to get gastric bypass back in ’02,” Cook told Ivanhoe.

Cook lost 175 pounds, but then couldn’t leave home without looking for the nearest bathroom. Matilda Hagan, M.D., an inflammatory bowel disease specialist at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland said gastric bypass patients may be prone to bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine.

Dr. Hagan said, “Anyone who’s had certain intestinal surgeries can create pouches and or lose the valve between the large and small intestine. Every 20 minutes or so, we have them blow into a little tube and collect gas that essentially reflects the bacteria breaking down the sugar.”

Dr. Hagan said antibiotics are used to treat most cases of SIBO. Cook knows she’ll always be prone to SIBO, but for now, it’s under control.

“It is what it is, but it can be better,” said Cook.

Dr. Hagan said SIBO may be underdiagnosed because the symptoms, such as gas, bloating and diarrhea, mimic other conditions, like irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease. IBS and Crohn’s patients are also at higher risk for developing SIBO. Adding probiotics to the diet may help in some cases.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising and Field Producer; Milvionne Chery, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor and Videographer.

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