• Dr. Caroline Ricker

Beat The Belly Bloat! Finally, an answer to your worst digestive woes!

Jennifer was 30 when she first started noticing the new symptoms. For years she had felt super healthy and could eat pretty much anything without so much as a gurgle in the tummy. But now, suddenly it seemed like every time she would eat something she would start to blow up like a balloon. Her belly would get tight, she felt gassy and would even feel like burping all the time.

So she did what most people who are a little bit educated on health would do. She cleaned up her diet. She stopped eating out as often, reduced her carbs and diary, added in a lot more fruits and veggies. She even started taking some probiotics to help the digestion.

After about 2 weeks she started to think she had lost her mind. Is this just how 30 is?? The new diet was not only not helping her lose weight and feel less tummy issues, she was feeling WORSE! Say what?

This has happened to more of my patients than I can count, and it’s particularly sad because they are trying so hard to do all the “right” things in order to get their belly health back on track, yet they inevitably feel like their bodies are betraying them.

The people that are dealing with these types of reactions typically have a condition called SIBO. SIBO stands for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, and it’s exactly what it sounds like. Both your small and large intestine are filled with hundreds of varieties of bacteria, viruses and fungi. Many people label these as “good” and “bad” but that isn’t always how it works. What’s really important is balance and location.

If your gut bacteria are in balance, then everything works as it should. The different types of bacteria all play different roles from helping us to break down food, controlling how our immune system responds to a threat, and releasing substances that even effect our brain and central nervous system. The problem is that most of these microbes are meant to be found in our lower intestine AKA the colon. While are meant to have some micro activity in the small intestine, people with SIBO have these bugs growing out of control in their small intestines.

So why was Jennifer feeling worse when she started to change up her diet? While we never want to discourage anyone from eating fruits and veggies, it is important to be careful what we are adding more of when dealing with SIBO. Jennifer was on the right track with the veggies, but she was also doing smoothies and having some fruit with most meals. The bacteria that generally propagate SIBO love sugar! So while she did really well getting rid of the carbohydrates (which turn into sugar) she was killing herself (not literally) with the fruit and causing more feeding than killing of the over grown bacteria.

The same is true with the probiotics that she started taking. Most common probiotics contain Bifidobacterium and/or lactobacillus. That’s because both of these bacteria are really necessary for a healthy microbiome. But taking more of them is only useful if your bacterial system is depleted of them, and in the case of SIBO these two types of bacteria tend to me common culprits of overgrowth. There are types of probiotics that don’t contain these two strains of bacteria which can be much better for someone trying to get rid of SIBO.

So how do I know if my gas and bloating are from SIBO? My doctor says I have IBS.

Top 10 Signs/Symptoms of SIBO

1. Bloating

2. Gas

3. Chronic recurrent diarrhea

4. Abdominal cramping

5. Having already been diagnosed with IBS, IBD or another chronic bowel disorder

6. Autoimmune diseases

7. Fibromyalgia and/or chronic fatigue syndrome

8. Vitamin deficiencies

9. Constipation

10. Leaky gut

If you’re checking off a few of these than there’s a good chance that getting checked for SIBO is a good idea and might help you feel better for good! I highly recommend finding a functional medicine practitioner who can help assess your entire body and find out where the problems are. For SIBO, the best test to have performed is a breath test that measures the amounts of hydrogen and methane in your breath over the hours after you consume sugars that feed the bacteria involved in SIBO, and a good practitioner will recommend this to confirm your symptoms. They will also help to find the right diet protocol, supplements and probiotics to get your gut back where it is supposed to be.

The end of Jennifer’s story is that once we realized that she was dealing with SIBO we were able to help her reduce the fruit, and cut the wine (sorry, I know, but it’s just for a little while!) as well as get her on some supplements to help manage the overgrowth in the small intestine and a probiotic that helped establish the good bacteria in her large intestine where it belongs, bringing much more balance back to her gut instead of feeding the fire. After just a few short weeks she was feeling much more herself and, while she didn’t actually lose any weight, she dropped a pants size just from her belly going back to normal!

Got questions? We’ve got answers! Shoot me a message in the comments or an email and I’d love to see how I can better help you!

Dr. Caroline Ricker has been passionately helping people avoid unnecessary medications and surgeries since 2009. She combines a very logical functional medicine approach to digestive disorders and more using an alternative holistic approach, utilizing standard lab tests, in-office evaluations, nutrition, acupuncture and homeopathy.

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Whole Health & Wellness

10807 Big Bend Road

St. Louis, MO 63122

P: (314) 269-3847