Our small intestine is critically important for nutrient absorption. The warmth of the summer months with plenty of fresh seasonable vegetables and fruits available, provides a perfect platform for digestive health. Read on to find out how the small intestine health is linked to bad breath, rosacea, acid reflux, achy muscles and joints, diarrhea, constipation and more.
SIBO, or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, can result from inflammation, stagnant food, or lazy valves. Sometimes with food sensitivities or inflammation from disease in general, the ileocecal valve gets irritated and weak. This valve prevents large intestinal bacteria from traveling back into the small intestine. When it gets leaky, bacteria relocates from the large intestine to the small intestine.
Lack of sensitive laboratory testing can make SIBO difficult to diagnose. Invasive scopes give a good picture, but are not practical unless symptoms are severe. Clinical symptoms and medical case history are strong indicators.
Symptoms related to SIBO are nausea, flatulence, bad breath, diarrhea, constipation, alternating diarrhea and constipation (IBS), leaky gut syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, acid reflux, rosacea (red, rough patches on the face), achy muscles and joints, and heartburn.
Over half of the people with IBS have small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and about 20 percent of the time, gastrointestinal infection of any sort will result in long-term IBS.
Common prescription drugs may contribute to SIBO. Levothyroxine used for hypothyroid treatment and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) drugs used for heartburn or gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD) are know contributors to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. (PPI’s are drugs ending in “–azole” or brand names like Prevacid, Nexium, Dexilant, Prilosec.)
Celiac and Crohn’s
If you have celiac or Crohn’s disease, the small intestine is absolutely at risk. In people with celiac disease, the immune system mistakes gluten for an invader and builds resistance to it. The trouble is that gluten proteins look a lot like the proteins in the lining of the small intestine. So over time, the lining gets destroyed because the body thinks the proteins in it are bad guys. It’s like burning a healthy forest to the ground.
The proteins in the small intestine lining also look a lot like muscle layers in other parts of the body. It is possible for the immune system to not only attack small intestinal tissue when it gets sensitive to wheat, it may attack other body tissues too. This is why those with fibromyalgia, polymyalgia, cerebellar ataxia, or multiple sclerosis do so much better on a gluten-free diet.
Healing the Small Intestine
The root cause(s) must first be identified. I say causes, because often it is multi-dimensional. For example, hypothyroid patients often have issues with gluten, and have a higher risk for celiac and non-celiac wheat related disorders. If the ileocecal valve is stuck open, there is a soft tissue maneuver I do in clinic which closes it. This will stop the leaks of bacterial from the large intestine to the small intestine, but the cause of the inflammation (food sensitivity, genetic disposition) must be addressed.
Once the obstacles are removed, individual care is required to help support the body in the nutrients it may be deficient and remedies are prescribed to help heal the gut lining. Once the lining health is restored, absorption will improve and nutrients will be more easily restored. This is a multi-staged process that may take weeks to months, depending on the extent of the damage and overgrowth.
More on how gut health connects to your body, mind and soul in Amazon’s #1 best seller, Beyond Digestion. You may also book with Dr. Laura M. Brown, ND here.