Gut health refers to the balance of microorganisms that live in the digestive tract. Looking after the health of the gut and maintaining the right balance of these microorganisms is vital for physical and mental health, immunity, and longevity.
IBS is an abbreviation for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. IBS is the most common digestive condition for which people seek care. Symptoms may include gas, bloating, abdominal discomfort or pain, problems with elimination such as constipation or diarrhea, and others. IBS is a diagnosis of exclusion—once specific medical conditions are evaluated and no diagnosis is determined, IBS is the usual diagnosis.
Because IBS is a syndrome or a collection of varying symptoms from person to person, there are a number of possible causes for IBS that a naturopathic doctor seeks to understand. SIBO and Leaky Gut are among these.
SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) is more common than doctors previously thought. It is more likely to affect females, older adults, and people with digestive issues, such as IBS. This bacterial overgrowth can happen either when the bad bacteria dominate the good bacteria or when bacteria from one part of the digestive tract travel to the small intestine.
The normal bacteria (flora) of the gut, perform important functions, helping to digest certain vitamins like folic acid and vitamin K, and they protect the intestine from being invaded by disease causing bacteria (Most if not all disease starts in the gut). However, if the normal function of the intestine is compromised, bacterial overgrowth may occur.
Risk factors for SIBO:
- Low stomach acid
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Celiac disease (long-standing)
- Crohn’s disease
- Prior bowel surgery
- Diabetes (type I and type II)
- Multiple courses of antibiotics
- Organ system dysfunction, such as liver cirrhosis, chronic pancreatitis, or renal failure
Leaky Gut is a digestive condition in which bacteria and toxins are able to “leak” through the intestinal wall. The walls of the intestines act as barriers, controlling what enters the bloodstream to be transported to your organs.
Intestinal permeability refers to how easily substances pass through the intestinal wall. When the tight junctions of intestinal walls become loose, the gut becomes more permeable, which may allow bacteria and toxins to pass from the gut into the bloodstream. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as “leaky gut” and causes inflammation in the body.
Factors that are believed to play a role:
- Excessive sugar intake: An unhealthy diet high in sugar, particularly fructose, harms the barrier function of the intestinal wall (8Trusted Source).
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): The long-term use of NSAIDs like ibuprofen can increase intestinal permeability and contribute to leaky gut (10Trusted Source).
- Excessive alcohol intake: Excessive alcohol intake may increase intestinal permeability (10Trusted Source).
- Nutrient deficiencies: Deficiencies in vitamin A, vitamin D and zinc have each been implicated in increased intestinal permeability (8Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source).
- Inflammation: Chronic inflammation throughout the body can contribute to leaky gut syndrome (16Trusted Source).
- Stress: Chronic stress is a contributing factor to multiple gastrointestinal disorders, including leaky gut (17Trusted Source).
- Poor gut health (see SIBO above): There are millions of bacteria in the gut, some beneficial and some harmful. When the balance between the two is disrupted, it can affect the barrier function of the intestinal wall (1Trusted Source).
- Yeast overgrowth: Yeast is naturally present in the gut, but an overgrowth of yeast may contribute to leaky gut (18Trusted Source).