Digestive outcome

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)

The small bowel, also known as the small intestine, is part of the digestive system that connects the stomach with the large bowel or colon. The main purpose of the small intestine is to digest and absorb food into the body. The small bowel is divided into three parts: the duodenum (which food from the stomach empties into), the jejunum and the ileum (which empties undigested food into the large intestine or colon).

The entire gastrointestinal tract, including the small intestine, normally contains bacteria. The number of bacteria is greatest in the colon but much lower in the small intestine. Also, the types of bacteria within the small intestine are different to the types of bacteria within the colon. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) refers to a condition in which abnormally large numbers of bacteria are present in the small intestine, while the types of bacteria found in the small intestine are more like the bacteria found in the colon.

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is also known as small bowel bacterial overgrowth syndrome (SBBOS).

What causes small intestinal bacterial overgrowth?

The gastrointestinal tract is a continuous muscular tube which digesting food travels along on its way to the colon. Normally, the coordinated action of the muscles of the stomach and small intestine propels the food from the stomach, through the small intestine and into the colon.

This muscular action also sweeps bacteria out of the small intestine and limits the numbers of bacteria in the small intestine. However, when a condition interferes with the normal activity in the small intestine, this can result in SIBO, by allowing bacteria to stay longer and multiply in the small intestine. The lack of normal muscular activity also may allow bacteria to spread backwards from the colon and into the small intestine.

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