Gut Health and Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth

Did you know that the average small intestine length is 22 feet and over 3-4 times the length of the colon? When food exits the stomach it enters into the small bowel before being emptying as waste into the colon. The role of the small bowel is key to a healthy GI system: it helps absorb nutrients, releases enzymes to help with food breakdown, and promotes overall motility.

In conversation with patients, I find there is so much focus on the stomach or colon. Mostly because these areas of the GI tract have higher risk of cancer, bleeding, or common diseases such as reflux or constipation. However, when we talk about gut health, I think it is important to also recognize the small intestine and how it can impact us. People can experience just as debilitating symptoms including diarrhea, bloating, flatulence, or pain due to imbalances in the small intestine.

This imbalance is directly related to our microbiomes or more simply put: gut bacteria. There are millions of bacteria throughout our GI tract with the majority in the colon, but also a smaller amount in the small intestine. There are certain instances where a change in motility (such as having celiac disease or diabetes) or structural changes after abdominal surgery (gastric bypass) can suddenly increase the amount of bacteria present in the small intestine. For some patients, it may have been something as simple as a recent viral illness, stress, or dietary changes that can result in a change in bacterial flora. The excess bacteria may produce toxins or byproducts that interfere with the absorption of nutrients and we call it small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). 

If you have any symptoms such as diarrhea, bloating, gas, malnutrition, or abdominal fullness, it may be worthwhile to consider a non-invasive breath test that can be done in our office. It will help confirm or also rule out that SIBO is not the driving force of your symptoms and can be treated with a simple course of antibiotics. Here at Gastro Office we strive to work with our patients to improve overall gut health and who knows…it may start with your small intestine! 

Rohan Modi, MD Rohan Modi, MD, Gastroenterologist. Joins the team of expert providers at Gastro Office, serving patients throughout Hilliard, Ohio. He provides expert care in the field of gastroenterology and is dedicated to improving his patients' digestive tract health that includes but is not limited to the esophagus, stomach, small/large intestines, gallbladder, and liver.

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