Our small intestine connects our stomach to our large intestine and is about 20 feet long. There are essential bacteria in the small bowel but at a fraction of the level that reside in the large bowel or colon. In addition, the bacteria essential in the small intestine are different than those essential bacteria found in the large intestine and colon. Therefore, it is extremely important to maintain the essential balance of bacteria in both.
What does the Small Intestine do?
Your small intestine has two main functions; it helps to digest the foods you eat and is essential in the absorption of nutrients. It is also the location of a vast network of lymphoid cells that help fight infections and help balance the immune system. But that’s just the beginning of how important your small intestine is to your health. The bacteria found in your small bowel also help protect against any bad bacteria and yeast that you might ingest, and they also produce short chain fatty acids and vitamins like folate and vitamin K. Small intestinal bacteria also help maintain the muscular activity which creates the waves that move food through the gut.
Small Intestinal Bacteria Overgrowth
Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), is an increase in the number of bacteria, and the changes in the types of bacteria present in the small bowel. SIBO is not necessarily caused by an invasion of a single type of bacteria but is generally an overgrowth of many various types of bacteria that are usually found only in the large intestine and colon. However, SIBO can result from time to time, from the abnormal increase of normal bacteria found in the Small Intestine.
When SIBO occurs, it can negatively affect both the structure and function of the small bowel. It may significantly interfere with digestion of food and absorption of nutrients, primarily by damaging the cells lining the small bowel (the mucosa). Additionally, this damage to the small bowel mucosa can lead to leaky gut (when the intestinal barrier becomes permeable, allowing large protein molecules to escape into the bloodstream), which is known to have a number of potential complications including immune reactions that cause food allergies or sensitivities, generalized inflammation, and autoimmune diseases.
These dangerous bacterial overgrowths can lead to nutritional deficiencies, absorbing vitamins and other essential nutrients first, before our own cells have a chance to absorb these essential nutrients. They will also consume many essential amino acids, or proteins we eat, which can lead to even further nutritional deficiencies. In addition, SIBO may also decrease fat absorption through their effect on bile acids, leading to deficiencies in fat soluble vitamins like A and D.
It is not totally clear how many people in America have SIBO. However, some studies suggest that between 10% to 15% of seemingly healthy people have SIBO, while up to 80% of people with irritable bowel syndrome and other chronic digestive problems may be suffering from SIBO. However, what is clear is the main cause of SIBO and other chronic digestive diseases and conditions is the Standard American Diet.
To learn more about what causes, and how to reverse or prevent small intestinal bacteria overgrowth, acid reflux, IBSD and leaky gut syndrome, you are invited to attend the free health, wellness and weight loss classes given every Thursday evening at the Carl Perkins Center at 7 pm. Call (606) 780-2521 for questions.
Editor's Note: For information purposes only. Be sure to check with a physician before any weight loss program is started.