Are you constantly “catching up” on sleep, and running on steam day after day? Do you find yourself passing up on family events or lunch with a friend because it’s all you can do to just stay awake? Considering the on-the-go nature of our modern lives, it’s normal to feel tired every now and then, or to opt to stay in for a relaxing evening at home. However, persistent, chronic fatigue is NOT normal and is often a sign of an underlying health issue. In fact, in my practice I found that this kind of ongoing fatigue is linked to a gut infection known as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
This kind of bacterial overgrowth requires a particular probiotic to help you maintain a healthy balance of microflora in your gut. In addition to supplementing with the right probiotics, it’s important to understand what SIBO is and how to recognize it.
What is SIBO?
Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is a gut infection that can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
- Diets high in sugar and carbohydrates
- Low stomach acid
- Medications such as antibiotics, NSAIDs, and acid-blockers
- Scarring from surgeries or Crohn’s disease
- Dysmotility caused by diabetes, scleroderma, or neurological conditions
Typically, a combination of these factors may produce an abnormal buildup of bacteria in your small intestine. This can lead to all sorts of gastrointestinal distress and quickly become a whole-body issue. That’s because your gut is the gateway to health. It controls everything from your immune system to your mood.
10 Ways SIBO Wreaks Havoc on Your Body
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, diabetes, neuromuscular disorders, and autoimmune diseases
8. Fat malabsorption (signified by pale, bulky, and malodorous stools)
9. Rosacea and other skin rashes
10. Leaky gut
Unsurprisingly, an imbalanced microbiome also plays a huge role in your energy levels. Let’s take a look at the connection between a gut infection such as SIBO and chronic fatigue.
SIBO and Chronic Fatigue: The B12 Connection
One of the main hallmarks of SIBO is nutrient malabsorption. In particular, patients with SIBO typically contend with B12 deficiency. Normally, most of your gut bacteria live in your large intestine and colon, with only small amounts located in your small intestine. When you have SIBO, excess bacteria build up in your small intestine and bind to B12, preventing its absorption.1
Vitamin B12 is necessary for DNA synthesis and red blood cell production. Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout your body and help you stay energized. A low red blood cell count resulting from a B12 deficiency can cause feelings of weakness and fatigue.
SIBO leads to other nutrient deficiencies as well, and can even prevent the absorption of amino acids, proteins, and carbohydrates. That’s because when you have SIBO, nutrients from the food you eat never make it into your own cells. They are instead stolen by the bacteria to feed themselves. As I always say, “It’s not what you eat; it’s what you digest and absorb.” If you aren’t absorbing your food it’s no wonder you feel so sluggish and exhausted all the time!
The good news is, by managing your SIBO you can overcome chronic fatigue and reclaim your energy and vitality.
Beat SIBO and Chronic Fatigue in 3 Easy Steps
When you’re tired all the time, it can be a challenge to muster up the energy for self-care. However, this is the time to put yourself first. By eliminating SIBO, you will finally have the energy to live the life you want—and the life you deserve. Fortunately, you can overcome SIBO and chronic fatigue in three easy steps.
- Step 1: Starve the overgrown bacteria by removing the foods that feed it: sugar, alcohol, and carbohydrates. Along with ditching refined carbs you’ll want to avoid so-called “healthy carbs” as well, including beans, grains, and starchy vegetables. Keep fruit to a minimum and opt for low-sugar, low-carb varieties such as blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries.
- Step 2: Prune the bacteria with antibiotics such as Xifaxan or Neomyacin, depending on whether your SIBO is hydrogen-dominant or methane-dominant (see this article for more details on the two types of gas SIBO can produce). For home-treating, I recommend using Microb Clear®, a natural blend of herbal extracts that is more gentle on your gut flora than antibiotics.
- Step 3: Restore your good bacteria using a soil-based probiotic such as Primal Earth® that contains spore-forming bacterial strains. Unlike lacto- or bifido-based probiotics, which can actually fuel SIBO, Primal Earth® probiotics don’t colonize your small intestine. They instead head straight to your large intestine and colon where they support a healthy gut balance.
Recovering from infections takes time and patience depending on how long your gut has been imbalanced. In the meantime, read up on some of the best tips for how to naturally increase your energy levels while working to rid your body of SIBO.