Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. Sounds like fun, right?
I got a phone call today from the GI department to let me know that they had the results of the breath tests I had done over the past few days. My lactose test came back negative! This is very exciting, because I don’t think I could handle a life without cheese or ice cream! My fructose test also came back negative. More great news.
Then she dropped the hammer. My glucose test came back negative. This indicates a condition known as Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). You gotta love it when conditions have cute little acronyms for their names. Telling someone I have SIIBO sounds much more pleasant than the full name. When she told me the results, I immediately thought back to how I felt on Wednesday after the glucose test. That was the test that left me feeling bloated and gassy and really uncomfortable. I should have known.
I’ve been busy doing research to try to learn more about this condition. Basically, what I’ve learned is that there are millions of bacteria that live in your colon (large intestines) and a whole lot fewer bacteria that live in the small intestines. Like A LOT less. The bacteria in the colon produce gas (carbon dioxide, mostly) when they digest sugars and carbohydrates. The bacteria normally living in the small intestines produce very little gas. When we eat carbohydrates and sugars, they are typically digested and absorbed in the small intestines and never reach the bacteria in the colon.
So, that is basically saying that the bacteria in your gut is supposed to live in the colon and not so much in the small intestines. When I did the lactose and the fructose tests, everything came back normal.
The problem arose when I did the glucose test. Here is basically what happened. Glucose is usually digested before it reaches the colon. If the glucose passes through an area of the the small intestine where overgrowing bacteria is present (SIBO), the bacteria produce gas and that gas is excreted in the breath. Normal individuals excrete no gas in their breath after ingesting glucose because the glucose never reaches the gas-producing bacteria that normally present only in the colon. (Apparently, I’m not normal.) This is a nice way of saying that I have bacteria where I shouldn’t have bacteria.
So, now we need to treat the condition. What do you do when there is an abundance of bad bacteria where you don’t want there to be bacteria? Well…you throw an antibiotic at it, of course! So, for the next 14 days, I will be taking an antibiotic in the hopes of eradicating that nasty colony of bacteria residing in my small intestine and making me miserable.
There is also the job of finding out how these particular bacteria ended up where they don’t belong. But, that is something I will have to talk with my doc about at a later date. For now, I’m going to hope and pray that the antibiotics work (for some people they don’t) and that I can experience a relief of symptoms.
One interesting thing about this medication is that I have to be really careful what I take it with. There are a number of things that, if taken at the same time, can cause the antibiotic to be ineffective. Since the efficacy of this medication is at the top of wish list right now, I will stop taking all other vitamins and minerals for the next 14 days…no calcium or Vitamin C for sure, but I want to be extra careful, so I’m going to put the brakes on my multivitamin as well. I also won’t consume any milk or dairy products within 2 hours of taking my antibiotics.
That is the story from here, for now. I was kinda hoping that this diagnosis would get me out of having to get the colonoscopy and endoscopy, but those GI docs sure to love sticking tubes inside people.
My small-intestine-dwelling bacteria and I wish you a great weekend!