The #1 Cause of Bloating and How to Overcome It
September 12th, 2018
Does your stomach swell up so much after eating a meal that you struggle to button your pants? Or maybe you wake up with a flat tummy, only to look 6 months pregnant by the end of the day! If you struggle with bloating and gas on a regular basis, you know how uncomfortable, embarrassing, and even painful bloating can be. It can interfere with your social life and self esteem, and could be bad news for your health in general if not properly addressed.
The truth is, any amount of bloating is a sign of inflammation in your gut. In my practice, I’ve found that the number one cause of bloating is a gut infection known as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). By overcoming SIBO, you can say goodbye to bloating and start feeling your best again!
What is SIBO?
Your gut is home to trillions of microorganisms that play a role in your digestive functioning, immune health, and even your mood! Most of the bacteria in your digestive tract are located in your colon and large intestine, with fewer numbers living in your small intestine. When something causes an imbalance in your gut (known as dysbiosis), the bacteria in your colon and large intestine can overgrow into your small intestine, which can wreak all sorts of digestive havoc, and soon turn into a whole-body issue.
10 Signs You Have SIBO
1. Gas, bloating, and diarrhea
2. Abdominal pain or cramping
3. Constipation (much less common than diarrhea)
4. Diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
5. Food intolerances such as gluten, casein, lactose, fructose, and particularly histamine intolerance
6. Chronic illnesses such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, neuromuscular disorders and autoimmune diseases
7. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies, including vitamins A, B12, D, and E
8. Fat malabsorption (signified by pale, bulky, and malodorous stools)
9. Rosacea and other skin rashes
10. Leaky gut
Causes of SIBO
The main causes of SIBO include:
- Diets high in sugar, alcohol, and carbohydrates (which feed the bacteria)
- Hypothyroidism, which can slow your metabolism and cause a buildup of bacteria in your small intestine
- Low stomach acid, which leads to undigested food that feeds the bacteria
- Certain medications that disrupt your microbiome, including antibiotics, birth control, acid-blocking drugs, and steroids
- Stress, which messes with your digestion and causes dysbiosis
- Physical obstructions in the gut that can lead to an abnormal buildup of bacteria, such as diverticuli or scarring from surgeries or Crohn’s disease
- Dysmotility caused by diabetes, scleroderma, or neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s, ALS, or multiple sclerosis
How Does SIBO Cause Bloating?
The overgrown bacteria in your gut feed off of the undigested food in your small intestine–specifically carbohydrates. This feeding process ferments the carbs you eat and produces hydrogen gas as a byproduct. In turn, that hydrogen can feed single-celled organisms in your small intestine known as archaea, which then produce methane gas as a byproduct. So when you have SIBO you have excess levels or hydrogen, methane, or both in your digestive system.
Carbohydrates feed SIBO → SIBO produces hydrogen → hydrogen feeds archaea → archaea produce methane
The effect of all this excess gas in your gut is exactly what you might imagine: it leads to severe bloating, belching, and flatulence. This can turn something as simple as going out to dinner with a friend into an uncomfortable, stressful event!
The good news is by overcoming SIBO and restoring the microbial balance in your gut, you can eliminate bloating and other frustrating symptoms, and once again enjoy worry-free meals with your friends and family!
How to Treat SIBO and Banish Bloating for Good
Once you’ve determined that it is in fact SIBO causing your bloating and GI distress, I recommend following a 3-step approach to get the bacteria under control and restore your gut’s natural balance. (See this article for information on how to test for SIBO.)
The three steps to treating SIBO are as follows:
Step 1: Starve the Overgrown Bacteria
First, remove the foods that feed the bacteria in your small intestine–namely sugar, alcohol, and carbohydrates. In addition to the usual suspects, such as bread, cookies, cake, and cocktails, you’ll want to eliminate complex carbohydrates including whole grains and legumes. These foods get broken down into sugar in your gut, feeding the bacteria just as regular sugar would.
While starving the overgrown bacteria, you’ll want to eat plenty non-starchy vegetables, leafy greens, lean proteins, and healthy fats, with minimal fruit. Berries are a good low-carb, low-sugar option if you need to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Step 2: Prune the Bacteria
In my practice I have typically used the antibiotics Xifaxan and Neomyacin to attack the bad bacteria, depending on which type of gas is being predominantly produced (hydrogen or methane). Xifaxan is more effective against hydrogen-dominant SIBO, and Neomyacin tends to be more successful with methane-dominant SIBO. These antibiotics work exceptionally well to kill the pathogenic bacteria with the least amount of disruption to your good bacteria.
Thousands of people have also successfully treated SIBO at home. For self-treating, I recommend Microb Clear™, which is a blend of magnesium caprylate, berberine, and extracts from tribulus, sweet wormwood, grapefruit, barberry, bearberry, and black walnut. These ingredients work to kill off the bacteria naturally. While they aren’t specific to pathogenic bacteria and can disrupt your good bacteria, they aren’t as harsh as broad spectrum prescription antibiotics, which completely wipe out good bacteria and bad bacteria alike. Microb Clear™ is a much more natural and gentle approach.
Step 3: Restore Your Good Bacteria
Finally, you’ll want to restore the good bacteria in your gut to support a strong immune system and optimal digestion and nutrient absorption. You have to be careful when treating SIBO though, as taking certain probiotics could just be throwing fuel on the fire. That’s because the species of bacteria involved in SIBO are typically lactobacillus or bifidobacterium, and the majority of probiotic supplements out there contain these same strains. So although these probiotics can be beneficial for those who don’t have SIBO, they can actually feed an overgrowth and delay your progress.
For this reason, while dealing with SIBO I recommend using a soil-based probiotic such as Primal Earth™, which contains spore-forming bacterial strains that won’t colonize the small intestine. Instead, these hardy probiotics have a seed-like structure that protects them from stomach acid, bile salts, and digestive enzymes so they can survive the journey through your stomach and head straight to the colon and large intestine where they can support vibrant health.
Taking back your health–and fitting into your jeans–is only three simple steps away. As you take these steps to clear your body of SIBO, you will come to realize that the bloating you were experiencing is NOT normal, and you can start enjoying meals once again without the fear of gas, cramping, and abdominal distension.