That feeling when you can barely button your pants. You feel like you look nine months pregnant. You are hungry but eating is uncomfortable. This is bloat. Your insides have blown up like a balloon. Bloating can be caused by many different conditions and situations. I want to share with you one of the causes of bloating that, when identified correctly, can be life-changing.
A Plethora of Causes
Bloating can be caused by eating too fast or not chewing your food adequately. There are digestive enzymes in your mouth, like amylase, that help you break down your food. If you eat too fast or not chew enough you don’t give these enzymes the time they need to help you digest at this early stage.
Eating foods that you are sensitive to or fermentable foods like dairy or grains can cause bloating.
Too much air consumed during gum chewing, drinking with a straw, drinking carbonated beverages, or talking while eating can cause it too.
Sugar alcohols like those found in sugar-free products are known to cause bloating. xylitol, sorbitol, and mannitol are some examples to watch out for.
One Special Cause
When you have ruled out all the possibilities above and you are still suffering from bloating and other GI symptoms you will want to rule out SIBO next. SIBO stands for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. This is when bacteria in the upper part of your intestines or small intestines (because the diameter is smaller than the lower bowel, the large intestine) overgrow. Most of the good bacteria in your gut resides in the lower/large intestines. When the good bacteria move into the small intestines and feed off of the delicious carbohydrate-rich treats we all like to eat they ferment the carbs and produce hydrogen gas. Excess hydrogen gas itself can cause bloating and sometimes diarrhea. The hydrogen gas can also feed small organisms in the gut called archaea. The archaea produce a methane gas that can cause bloating and sometimes constipation.
How to Identify SIBO
SIBO is known to cause an increase in either hydrogen or methane gas or both in the small or upper intestines. Since it’s in the upper and not lower intestines, a typical stool test will not identify it but a breath test will. After not eating many carbohydrates for a few days you start the test and then drink a high carbohydrate solution. The test then will evaluate how the carbs are being affected, either producing hydrogen gas or methane gas. Then the treatment will be determined.
Why does SIBO happen?
SIBO occurs when the movement through the gastrointestinal system is too slow. It takes an adequate amount of enzymes, healthy nerves and muscles and the right combination of neurotransmitters to move food from the mouth through the stomach then the small intestines then the large intestines before it is eliminated altogether through a bowel movement. When anything interferes with this process the bacteria doesn’t properly clear the small intestines and just sits there to cause trouble.
How to Correct SIBO
Identifying and correcting the cause is the first step and eradicating the bacteria is the second. The best way to clear out the bacteria that shouldn’t be there is to starve them. That means forgoing all those delicious cakes, cookies, and even legumes and fruit.
Some MDs and DOs will prescribe the antibiotics Xifaxan for high hydrogen-producing bacteria and Neomycin for high methane-producing bacteria. These antibiotics are less prone to disrupt your good bacteria in the lower intestines.
Natural methods do the job just as well without as much collateral damage of killing off your good bacteria. These are a combination of herbs such as garlic, berberine, coptis, thyme, and oregano to name a few. We often use the Metagenics products Candibactin AR and Candibactin BR. Although they can be found at our clinic and through our website, I recommend that you come in for an evaluation and allow me to work with you through the process.
Replenishing the good bacteria to the large intestines without adding more to the small intestines is also necessary for healing. acidophilus strains are the ones to avoid in this case and sometimes bifidobacteria as well. Soil-based and Saccharomyces boulardi (especially for diarrhea caused by antibiotics) and l.salivarius strains tend to be tolerated well and replenish the system well.
I know all of this can be overwhelming. I am here to help. If your bloating is out of control and you have not succeeded on your own in correcting it, come in for a visit.