Have you ever heard of a medical condition called small bowel bacterial overgrowth syndrome? Scroll down to find out more on the causes, symptoms and treatment of this medical condition.
Small bowel bacterial overgrowth (SBBO), as the name suggests, is a medical condition associated with the small intestine. The small bowel is a part of the gastrointestinal tract that connects the stomach to the colon. It performs the vital function of breaking down food into smaller particles, and also facilitates the assimilation of the nutrients.
Both the small intestine as well as the large intestine contain certain strains of bacteria. When these bacteria are present in abnormally large numbers in the small bowel, one is diagnosed with this syndrome. This condition could be caused due to a wide range of reasons. Given below is some information on the causes, symptoms and treatment of this condition.
Causes and Symptoms of SBBO
The small bowel plays an important role in the digestion of food. The food is broken down into smaller particles through a process called peristalsis. Peristalsis refers to the wave like muscle contractions that help push food particles through the digestive tract. Once the process of digestion is complete by the small bowel, and the nutrients have been assimilated, the waste material is propelled through wave like muscle contractions towards the large intestine.
The process of peristalsis also helps in sweeping the bacteria from the small intestine to the colon. This helps in controlling the number of bacteria in the small bowel. If the small bowel is affected by a motility disorder, bacteria may not be swept away into the colon. They may start growing within the small intestine. Bacteria could also travel from the large intestine to the small intestine if any abnormal connection exists between the small bowel and colon.
If the small bowel becomes perforated, one may become highly susceptible to bacterial overgrowth. Bacteria present in the abdominal cavity, could travel into the small bowel through a hole in the intestine. Such intestinal perforations could develop due to trauma by surgical instruments during an abdominal surgery. Trauma to the bowel could also occur during diagnostic procedures such as edema or colonoscopy.
The body has its own mechanism of dealing with bacteria. Whenever the immune system detects the presence of pathogens, it releases specific antibodies, that help in destroying the disease causing agent. Immunoglobulin A (IgA), is one such antibody that provides protection against infections of the mucus membranes lining the digestive tract. If a person is suffering from selective IgA deficiency, he/she is definitely at an increased risk of developing small bowel bacterial overgrowth syndrome.
Certain medical conditions could also make one susceptible to bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine. These include diabetes, diverticulosis, inflammatory bowel disease, intestinal obstruction and scleroderma. While diabetes and scleroderma are associated with abnormal muscle activity in the small intestine, diverticulosis refers to the formation of small pockets of tissue. These pockets may bulge out from weak spots in the small bowel.
Such a sac is referred to as a diverticulum. Though this condition is more commonly seen to affect the large intestine, diverticulosis could sometimes affect the small bowel. Bacteria can sometimes, multiply within the sacs, and such an overgrowth of bacteria may lead to a variety of distressing symptoms. The symptoms that are most commonly experienced by affected individuals include abdominal pain, feeling of fullness, intestinal pain, distended stomach, excessive gas, diarrhea, bloating or cramps.
Treatment of SBBO
Now that you have some idea about the causes and symptoms of bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine, let’s move on to the treatment options. If a person has been exhibiting abdominal discomfort along with the aforementioned symptoms, doctors may conduct a few diagnostic tests to formulate a diagnosis. Complete blood count, blood chemistry tests, fecal fat test, hydrogen breath test, X-ray or ultrasound are some of the tests that may help the doctors ascertain the underlying cause of bacterial overgrowth.
Since this condition affects the functioning of the small intestine, it could adversely affect the absorption of nutrients, and may lead to malnutrition. It could even lead to dehydration or nutritional deficiencies. Fat malabsorption is another possible complication, which consequently leads to diarrhea. It is therefore, essential that drugs should be used in order to destroy these bacteria. An early diagnosis and treatment of this condition can help in averting such complications.
As is the case with most bacterial infections, the treatment involves the use of antibiotics. Levofloxacin, ciprofloxacin or rifaximin are some of the antibiotics that may be prescribed. Doctors may also recommend the use of probiotics. Probiotics are friendly bacteria that normally reside in the gastrointestinal tract of healthy individuals. Since these can be destroyed due to prolonged use of antibiotics, doctors may recommend a short course of antibiotics along with a long course of probiotics.
The treatment options that may be considered for this condition would also vary depending on the underlying cause. Treating the underlying cause, would naturally help in prevention of a recurrence. If the patient is suffering from a motility disorder, and the process of peristalsis is not occurring properly, motility speeding drugs may also be prescribed. One may also benefit by including various types of foods that will help in treating small intestine obstructions. One must also stay well-hydrated at all times.
Since various serious medical conditions could make one susceptible to SBBO, recurring episodes of abdominal discomfort must never be ignored. If you have been frequently experiencing these symptoms, you must seek medical assistance immediately. Drug therapy along with certain lifestyle related changes would certainly help in treating small bowel bacterial overgrowth syndrome. Following a healthy diet can help one keep gastrointestinal diseases at bay, and will certainly help in preventing the bacteria from growing at an alarming rate.